NWEAMO Festival 2024: Melody, Magic, Song and Strife

San Diego, CA – Esteemed German Vocalist Ljiljana Winkler makes her west coast debut at the NWEAMO Festival 2024, set to take place on January 25, 26, and 27,
offering an eclectic mix of musical performances, musical theater, and community engagement.

Joining NWEAMO will be NYC-based Composers Concordance.
This year’s festival promises an immersive experience, blending genres and cultures.

Melody, Magic, Song and Strife


Day 1: Thursday, January 25, 2024

Event: Ljiljana Winkler Interprets Songs of Joseph Martin Waters

Ljiljana Winkler Bio

 

Venue: Episcopal Cathedral 2728 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Time: 7 PM

 

Highlights: Based in Augsberg, Germany,  active internationally, and known for passionate delivery and dazzling technique, vocalist and band leader Ljiljana Winkler performs songs by Joseph Martin Waters, accompanied by the Swarmius ensemble. The repertoire bridges pop, classical, jazz, and rock, featuring arching melodies and lush harmonies. The ensemble includes flutes, saxophones, cello, piano, drums, and electric bass – a unique blend of a classical orchestra and a rock band.

Performers: Ljiljana Winkler – soprano; Alina Steele & David Ramirez – flutes; Todd Rewoldt & Brian Levy – saxophones; Isadora Flores & Peter Ko – cello; Sergio Bocanegra – synthesizer; Karen Follingstad – piano; Andrew Michel – bass; David Sullivan – Drums; Backing vocal ensemble: Miguel Zazueta (conductor), Karen Garcia, Cerah Rodriguez, Philip Gomez, Israel Rodriguez.

Admission: A $20 suggested donation at all events.


Ljiljana Winkler Sings Songs by Joseph Martin Waters to Open the NWEAMO 2024 Festival

Thursday in the Great Hall of St. Paul’s Cathedral, composer Joseph Martin Waters, also known as Jozefius, opened his annual new music festival, the New West Evolving Arts & Music Organism (NWEAMO), now celebrating its 26th year. Waters devoted the program to 11 of his own songs for voice and instrumental ensemble, an understandable privilege for a musician who has devoted so much to the success of this festival for a quarter of a century.

Among the 17 adept performers, some of the musicians, notably fellow members of the San Diego State University music faculty saxophone virtuoso Todd Rewoldt and pianist Karen Follingstad, have worked with Waters for many years and know his style well, while others were university students and local free lance musicians. Fortunately, these musicians formed a persuasive ensemble that did justice to Waters’ complex, challenging works.

 

Ljiljana Winkler in front of NWEAMO 2024 Poster [photo (c.) Amy Hecht]

Special guest artist for the evening, soprano Ljiljana Winkler from Augsburg, Germany, offered vibrant interpretations of Waters’ songs. Winkler’s pellucid declamation of the text combined with a strong, well-focused dramatic soprano provided the necessary power to balance the composer’s daunting, athletic instrumental components.

“Hope,” the program’s opening song, began deceptively with just a clear solo vocal line. Soon a pair of saxophones as well as the piano with bass and percussion entered to develope into a pulsing jazz combo that immediately tested the soprano’s mettle. After Rewold’s bravura alto saxophone solo in the instrument’s high clarion register, Winkler joined him with equal fire in her highest range.

The text for “Hope”—as well as Waters’ other songs—never unfolds in predictable rhyming quatrains, but rather bounds in a free verse stream of conscious thoughts, which Winkler nevertheless shaped with remarkable cohesion and comprehension.

“Falling” pitted the soprano against the soaring lines of two flutes, adroitly played by Alina Steele and Yana Yan. Winkler was joined by alto Sonya Schumann, who performed double duty executing a demanding piano part along with her song. Waters’ style in “Falling” and much of his music is his own take on the dense textures and harmonic palette of post-modernism tempered by vocal melodies that owe their shape to contemporary popular music.

 

At the Cathedral Concert: Ljiljana Winkler at mike; musicians l. to r.– Isadora Flores, Peter Ko, Andrew Michael & David Sullivan [photo (c.) Andrew Huse]

In “Once Upon a Kiss,” Waters adds a five-voice chorus to dueling strings, played with zeal by cellists Isadora Flores and Peter Ko, to create a rapturous, even ecstatic fantasy. Members of the persuasive vocal ensemble included Philip Gomez, Karen Garcia, and Miguel Zazueta—singers who played major roles in the premiere last year of Waters’ opera El Colibrí Mágico at Opera Tijuana—as well as Cerah Rodriguez and Israel Rodriguez.

 

I was impressed by “Sand,” a stirring vocal and instrumental toccata that opened with Rewoldt’s flashy alto saxophone solo but is propelled by brilliant piano figurations powerfully articulated by Karen Follingstad. In “Ride Ride Ride,” Waters drew together the entire instrumental ensemble, choir, and soprano for this ballad driven by a steady rock beat and sensibility. Waters’ “Train” also lands musically firmly in the rock camp, although the innuendos of its sarcastic text seem to be at odds with its unpretentious beat.

Quiet introspection is not exactly Waters’ calling card, but he comes closest this state in his ballad “Things,” his musing on mortality that concludes with the affirmation “When I die, my music flies away.” Ljiljana Winkler offered probing interpretive depth to the vocal line, and Sergio Bocanegra’s use of the Theremin voice on the digital keyboard definitely added an otherworldly edge to this song.

“Shouldn’t” appears as a funky song with a social conscience, aptly underscored with a bluesy saxophone line and capped with a soulful vocal cadenza for the soprano.

The insistent music of “Again” reminded me of a despairing opera cabaletta, but perhaps this was actually Waters’ version of a victory lap. The song ends with the hopeful phrase, “Dancing thru the darkness to the gates of light.” Now that is a hopeful thought to ponder!

This concert was presented by the NWEAMO Festival 2024 on Thursday, January 25. 2024, in the Great Hall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, San Diego. 


Posted in the San Diego Story and shared with permission.
Original story here:

Ljiljana Winkler sings “A Solstice Song”, The DROM, NYC

“Things”
The SWARMIUS Ensemble featuring Ljiljiana live at NWEAMO, Jan. 25, 2024 venue:
St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral (Great Room), San Diego, CA
Music and Lyrics by Jozefius aka Joseph Martin Waters
A heartfelt thanks to each of you amazing musicians for pouring yourself
so generously into my difficult and strange music.
Jozefius

Melody, Magic, Song and Strife

Day 2: Friday, January 26, 2024

Event: Exclusive public viewing of “The Magic Hummingbird – El Colibrí Mágico”
Venue: Digital Gym Cinema, 1100 Market St., San Diego, CA 92101
Time: 7 PM

Synopsis: A modern retelling of Saint Francis set on the San Diego/Tijuana border. The story follows three San Diego rockers transformed by plant spirits, joining Central American refugees on a magical journey. The music, inspired by Gershwin and Bernstein, echoes the fantastical elements akin to Harry Potter.

Admission: A $20 suggested donation at all events.

Joseph Martin Waters’ Vivid Contemporary Rock Opera Debuts at Tijuana’s Centro Estatal de las Artes

Joseph Matin Waters’ opera El colibrí mágico (The Magic Hummingbird) made its impressive staged premiere this weekend at Tijuana’s Centro Estatal de las Artes Foro Experimental. For an opera with a story that takes place on the border, crossing the International Border to experience this work seemed an appropriate prelude.

 

César Aguilar as Francisco [photo (c.) Amy Hecht]

This opera’s arrival on the stage has been an uncertain six-year journey. In the spring of 2017 in San Diego State University’s Smith Recital Hall, I saw a few semi-staged scenes from the opera’s first incarnation, St. Francis de los Barrios. By the spring of 2019, Waters had changed the opera’s title to El colibrí mágico, but he kept shards of its original plot as well as its central character Francisco, Waters’ 21st-century version of the visionary St. Francis. In the fall of 2019 Waters gave a semi-staged production of the first act of this new version of the opera at the Smith Recital Hall.

 

We heard more songs and ensembles from El colibrí mágico presented in a club near the San Diego State campus in May of 2022, and the following month the entire opera was premiered in concert in New York City, a performance I was not able to experience.

Although Waters calls his opera a fairy tale for adults, his story is grounded in the harsh political reality of refugees seeking asylum at the border of the United States and Mexico. When Francisco, Carla, and Franklin, exuberant young California rock musicians, travel to Tijuana to perform in a punk club, they encounter refugees stranded at the border. But when they attempt to help them cross, they are attacked by American skinheads commanded by a xenophobic elder call The Preacher. While this sounds like a story line from a noisy television adventure series, Francisco’s ecstatic visions of the beneficent Apollonia, the mystical goddess of music, and the ministrations of Elias, Francisco’s angelic spirit-guide, lift the opera to a more spiritual level.

Over the years, Waters’ score has morphed from an edgy contemporary chamber opera to a full-blown rock opera. Although his score has retained the more compatible timbres of piano, flute and saxophone, the hard edge of drum kit, electric bass and two additional guitars now dominates and drives the score. His ever malleable vocal style still serves the drama well, with arched, soaring lines for Francisco, Apollonia, and Elias, contrasted by more conversational, pop-influenced vocal tunes for Carla and Franklin, not to mention the strident declamations of The Preacher.

 

Standing from left: Miguel Zarzueta & Charles Coleman; kneeling: Giovanni Delgado Ferreira; crow chorus behind chairs [photo (c.) Amy Hecht]

The dramatic command and gleaming vocal quality of Mexican-Canadian countertenor César Aguilar delivered a winning Francisco, and Aguilar persuasively embodied his character’s impassioned mystical awareness. In the role of Elias, which in an earlier version of the opera functioned as Francisco’s love interest, Miguel Zarzueta’s supple, rich tenor provided the perfect complement as Francisco’s angelic mentor.

 

Because Karen Garcia has nurtured the role of Apollonia from the earliest stages of Waters’ opera, her magnetic stage presence and her creamy yet resonant soprano made her every apparition riveting. Tenor Justin Brill and mezzo-soprano Julia Waters as Franklin and Clara brought palpable teen angst and energy to their roles as Francisco’s aspiring musical accomplices, with the bright edge of Julia’s mezzo and her savvy take on popular vocal style successfully anchoring her character.

 

From left: Justin Brill, César Aguilar & Julia Waters [photo (c.) Amy Hecht]

No convincing opera plot is complete without a villain, and Charles Coleman, who appeared in one of Waters’ 2019 previews of the opera, gave the Preacher formidable menace, although more vocal allure from this gruff baritone would not have lessened his dramatic impact. I would have welcomed greater vocal contribution from the promising lyric baritone Giovanni Delgado Ferreira as the shaman Maggot, the undeserving object of the Preacher’s abuse. Philip Gomez, who has performed with San Diego’s Opera Neo and sang the role of Elias in a 2019 preview of Waters’ opera, skillfully employed his assertive countertenor as Flash in this production.

 

 

César Aguilar & Karen Garcia [photo (c.) Amy Hecht]

Seven singers from the Opera de Tijuana, well trained by David Gardea, formed the effective vocal ensemble that served as a kind of Greek chorus that encouraged Francisco and added a touch of magic to his visionary experiences. A quartet of dancers appeared alternately as a flock of menacing crows and a cadre of gentle nymphs of the Plant Spirit realm. Like the obligatory ballet scenes from 19th-century grand opera, these dances directed by Matthew Armstrong added to the excitement of the presentation, even if they did not appear to be crucial to the dramatic narrative.

 

Laura González designed costumes in casual contemporary styles that accented bright colors. Notable was her 1950s era flashy prom dress for Apollonia, although the Preacher’s robe made him appear incongruously like a low budget Methodist Choir Director. The clever crows’ black outfits and masks, however, proved both amusing and convincing. Minverva Jossif’s constantly changing multi-hued lighting design may have been too much of a good thing, but kudos to David Smith’s large and easily perceived supertitles–primarily in Spanish since most of the text was in English, but the supertitles switched to English when the dialogue turned to Spanish.

Musical Director Richard Dueñez Morrison led his disparate musical resources with a steady hand, and, combined with Wilfred Paloma’s taut stage direction, the duo kept the opera’s dramatic pace vigorous. Paloma wisely used the theater’s generous space—essentially a high-ceilinged black box with bleacher seating at one end—by designing performance areas on different levels surrounding the two instrumental pods.

This opera was staged by the Centro Estatal de las Artes (CEART), Opera de Tijuana, and the New West Evolving Arts and Music Organism  at Tijuana’s CEART  Foro Experimental on June 2 & 3, 2023. The performance of June 3 was experienced for this review.

Posted in the San Diego Story and shared with permission.
Original story here:

Melody, Magic, Song and Strife

Day 3: Saturday, January 27, 2024

Event: Composers Concordance Presents CompCord Ensemble @ The NWEAMO Festival featuring Ljiljana Winkler and poet Robert C. Ford.
Venue: Smith Recital Hall, School of Music & Dance, SDSU

 

Composers: Gene Pritsker, Daniel Cooper, Aaron Alter, Debra Kaye, Charles Coleman, Milica Paranosic, and poet Robert C. Ford.
Performers: Ljiljana Winkler – soprano; Beth Holub – viola; Todd Rewoldt – alto saxophone; Gene Pritsker – electric guitar; Lesi Mei and Aaron Alter – piano;  Robert C. Ford – poet / recitation; Roger Aplon – poet / recitation
Highlights: Making their 3rd collaboration with NWEAMO, NYC-based Composers Concordance has curated the closing evening of NWEAMO 2024, showcasing Ms. Winkler.  Joining her onstage will be poet Robert C. Ford and the Comp Cord Ensemble.  The selections explore themes of war, solitude, and community through music and poetry.

Admission: A $20 suggested donation at all events.

Join us for this unique festival that not only showcases diverse musical talents
but also fosters a sense of community and shared experiences through art.
For more information, please contact NWEAMO 619-750-7125.

NWEAMO is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We exist thanks to the efforts of our board members,
community, artists, and generous people like you.

Your donations help us reimburse traveling and lodging expenses for our artists and to cover the costs of production.

There are several ways to help us in our mission.
Use the donation button below to use PayPal, or you may send a check to us at:

NWEAMO
P.O. Box 381
La Mesa, CA  91944

Contact NWEAMO

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About NWEAMO:
Founded in 1998, the New West Evolving Art and Music Organization (NWEAMO) is dedicated to dissolving cultural barriers and building inclusive communities of artists, scientists and children of all ages throughout the world. It embraces all styles of music as well as visual, performance and hybrid arts. The NWEAMO Festival seeks to establish and showcase new modes of performance by focusing on works which play with the creative exploration of today’s emerging ideas, experiments, hunches and dreams. High and low, street and laboratory – everything converges by design at a NWEAMO event.

About Composers Concordance:
Founded in 1984 by Joseph Pehrson and Patrick Hardish, advised by Otto Luening, strives to present contemporary music in innovative ways,
with an emphasis on thematic programming. Directors Gene Pritsker and Dan Cooper co-curate the programs and lead the CompCord Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, String Orchestra, and Big Band. Associate Directors are Milica Paranosic, Peter Jarvis, Debra Kaye, and Seth Boustead.
Composers Concordance has also created a Naxos-distributed record label: Composers Concordance Records, co-directed by Gene Pritsker and Shanan Estreicher. Composers Concordance’s overriding vision is to promote contemporary music, composers, and new works as a rightful and respected part of society.
Good music performed and recorded well, pushing the boundaries of sound and composition.

“The Composers Concordance folks are unpredictable and at times refreshingly irreverent in a reverent sort of way….ingenious fun” – Classical-Modern Music Review.

“Composers Concordance..a veritable New York new music institution of concerts, album production and multiple ensembles under a sweeping, tenacious brand, thriving on the emulsion of contemporary classical, free improv, jazz and rock, overt humor and fearless political statements, all very much in evidence..The ensemble..was masterful throughout.”-John Pietaro, The New York City Jazz Record

Join us for this unique festival that not only showcases diverse musical talents
but also fosters a sense of community and shared experiences through art.
For more information, please contact NWEAMO 619-750-7125.

NWEAMO is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We exist thanks to the efforts of our board members,
community, artists, and generous people like you.

Your donations help us reimburse traveling and lodging expenses for our artists and to cover the costs of production.

There are several ways to help us in our mission.
Use the donation button below to use PayPal, or you may send a check to us at:

NWEAMO
P.O. Box 381
La Mesa, CA  91944

NWEAMO paypal donation QR code