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Young Virtuosos
Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive

There is a certain bravado in presenting an event as the “first annual …,” but when Del Mar native Jordan Kuspa announced his “vision to create a world-class destination for composers to share new music with the public and with each other,” he was serious. And it turned out glorious.

Jordan Kuspa with the Hausmann Quartet of SDSU.
at Saint Peters.
Photo Julie Maxey-Allison.
Click to enlarge.

From August 5-10, five young composers in their early thirties, originally from Gran Canaria, West Virginia, Iran, Korea, and Nebraska, came together in Del Mar, invited by our own contemporary composer Jordan Kuspa, to take part in a symposium: a series of discussions and public forums, open rehearsals, and a concluding concert. The Parish Hall of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church provided an attractive venue through the week.

In the open rehearsals we could witness the Hausmann Quartet of SDSU working to gain mastery of an astonishing array of music, new to them and new to everyone, some of it innovative and challenging.

In the concert, Nate May (West Virginia) presented two distinctly different pieces, “Phenotype” perhaps the most challenging to play and to take in, and the opening number, “For Alice,” more accessible and very appealing. In the first forum he spoke of his wanting to avoid appropriating his native Appalachian music. It was more the people and culture he seeks to reflect. But one could hear a bit of their music coming through in “For Alice.” He has composed an oratorio based on interviews with Appalachian migrants. He’s working on his doctorate at Yale.

“Lux Bacteria” involved the composer Elisabet Curbelo Gonzalez (Gran Canaria) playing “live electronics” as a sort of basso continuo to an ensemble including the double bass, to convey the visual experience of bioluminescent micro-organisms. She has a Ph.D. in Music Composition from UCSD where she worked under Del Mar’s Roger Reynolds.

Rachel Lanik Whelan (Nebraska) excels in choral music and offered an adaptation of a work by Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th Century Benedictine abbess, religious mystic, pioneer of natural history and much else. Rachel also contributed the starkly contrasting final piece of the concert, “Two Train Scenes,” which was raucously colloquial, with exciting rhythmic innovation. It had some affinity to Nate May’s “For Alice.” She is working on her Ph.D at the University of North Texas in Denton.

Minho Yoon (Korea) now hails from Austin, where he earned Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Texas. His “Summer Rain Sketch” was inspired by showers experienced there. Many of his compositions reflect aspects of nature.

Mani Mirzaee (Iran) left Iran at the age of 14. His music draws on Eastern and Western traditions with their different modalities and timbres. Recent compositions involved drawing new sounds from Western string instruments using santoor mallets.

The finale came from the organizer Jordan Kuspa, the second movement “Star Sapphire” from his String Quartet No. 3. Jordan must be appreciated for his creativity as a composer and as a cultural entrepreneur. And community thanks go to the Del Mar Foundation and private citizens for their financial support and to Betty Wheeler for her organizational flair.

Sandpiper editor Bud Emerson was at the concert and had this to say, “It was a wildly appreciative audience, a very moving experience, lots of hometown pride that our little community could be the setting for these young, talented musical innovators to show off their extraordinary work.” Let’s bring Jordan’s Symposium back another “annual.”



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