The end of the UCLA academic year seemed like a good occasion to check out the Ojai Music Festival. It's been happening for 64 years and I'd never been.
was not what I expected. I had braced myself for a heavily art-directed resort,
full of Republican millionaire hippies. But happily it turned out to be an
small country town, with everything lined up along the main drag. There were
some fancy shops, and a superior restaurant—Suzanne’s Cuisine—but it felt like
a step back into a quieter, slower-paced time.
atmosphere was so relaxed, so different from the usual logistical steeplechase
that is part of the typical evening out, that the Ensemble Modern was halfway
through the Soldier’s Tale Suite before I realized I was at a concert.
There is a campaign currently underway to renovate the Libbey Bowl. I hope they don't renovate it too much. It's so sweet, I can't think of anything nicer. Even the wooden benches were OK. The whole event couldn't have been more civilized--the park full of the local pottery guild selling their wares, tents with food and drink, even a tent for Penguin Books.
idyllic setting got shook up by George Benjamin’s chamber opera Into the Little
Hill. Anu Komsi and Hilary Summers, playing all the parts, presented a parable
about lying politicians based on the Pied Piper story. The music concisely
conveyed the weird fable. Summers acted up a storm.
By accident on Sunday we
came across Bart’s Books, “the world’s greatest outdoor bookstore.” Stupefying. And so intimidating that it was impossible to focus.
Also appreciated the unofficial town motto: I'MSOJAI
the 15 dancers on the big white rectangular mat while a multi-channel tape of
John Cage’s Roaratorio boomed from all sides, was, on one hand, a simple
pleasure, like watching the wind blow leaves around, or watching kids in a
playground, or dogs in a dog run.
the music and the movement had snatches of Irishness—jigs, step dances, all
kinds of recreational dances. But where the audio immersed you in an ocean of
everything—baby cries, traffic sounds, bird caws, Cage mumbling unintelligibly
as well as snatches of Irish-sounding music—the movement was more focused.
There were 7 couples. They each came out to dance, to show their steps. Then they
were joined by the others. Couples parted and recombined.
it happened again. Attention shifting from couples, to the group, and back to
couples. And more often than not, one dancer would sit down on a stool on
stage, and watch the others.
wasn’t a story, but there was a lot going on. It was blithe and often funny—a
distracted glance at kids goofing off on the dancefloor—but there were moments
when it suddenly became drama. Melissa Toogood was not as slim and acrobatic
and weightless as the others, but when she moved, you knew something serious had just happened to her, and she was telling you about it.
were these amazing guys—Daniel Madoff, Brandon Collwes, and Rashaun Mitchell,
who moved like bubbles in a fizzy drink, and made hyperspeed step dancing funny
and beautiful, besides a major athletic accomplishment.
about an hour there the hall filled with the squawking of seagulls, and the
dancers picked up their stools and walked off. That’s all. After a final
performance New Years Eve 2010, they’re disbanding.