A prize among 805-generated cultural projects under the pandemic’s oppressive rule, the Marjorie Luke Theater’s “Virtual Concert Series,” beautifully produced onstage and in the empty theater, opened in September with a display of the power of one, being singer-songwriter-instrumentalist known as Mendeleyev. For episode two, the point of focus broadened out into the power of many—and of the power of community–with the adventurous yet soothing mosaic production called “Resonance.”
Neatly folded into a tapestry of just under an hour, the program gamely blends music, spoken word and a snippet of theater (fittingly, given the show’s communal ethos, the “stage manager monologue” from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town). Premiering on October 17, the show has now extended into its open-ended cyber-afterlife, available in the renewable now link. Show/series producer Rod Lathim suggested that the concept seemed “a perfect antidote to the challenging world in which we are living.”
Highlights include Adam Phillips’ worldly Santa Barbara Folk Orchestra Ensemble, playing Chen Yue’s gently mournful folk tune “Trail of Angels,” and cellist Charlotte Choi taking on Paganini’s “Variations on One String,” with pianist Erin Bronski. Further afield into global musical corners, Afro-Cuban rhythmic mojo undulates via the ancient chant “Oduwa,” from Miguelito Leon and Friends, and guitarist Chris Fossek coaxes beauty from a baritone guitar, for the traditional Macedonian piece “Stojane Sine Stojane” (arranged by CalArts-connected guitarist Miroslav Tadic).
Veteran local pianist Gil Rosas officially closes the program with the evergreen grace note that is Debussy’s “Claire de Lune.”
But perhaps the most memorable musical occasion comes with the original song “Quarantune,” by nimble young banjoist Alice Bradley. Before a woodsy projected backdrop, she unveils her sweet lilting tune with a rippling clawhammer-style picking pulse. Suddenly, the simple, supple tune seems to wax anthemic, in our cloudy time of Covid.