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New Music Circle's season finale celebrates Sun Ra

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: New Music Circle concludes its 2012-13 season with a concert Friday, May 10, that celebrates the 99th birthday of Sun Ra. The legendary jazz musician and composer was famed for his cosmic philosophy and avant-garde compositions such as “Space is the Place.”

The concert will also showcase the Trinity Piano Trio, a St. Louis group that includes cellist Tracy Andreotti, violinist Manuela Kaymakanova and pianist Amanda Kirkpatrick. These three musicians have strong roots in traditional classical music – and have deep connections with the contemporary music scene in the area.

“As a Trio, we’ve been together since 2005,” Andreotti said during a recent telephone conversation. “Before that, Amanda and I played in the group Synchronia.” (Synchronia, led by Timothy Vincent Clark, presented contemporary music performances on a regular basis from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s).

“When Amanda and I met Manuela, we decided to form the Trio,” says Andreotti. “We’ve all played the standard classical literature, but we also wanted to focus on playing what we wanted to perform as a group and be in charge of our musical direction.”

That musical direction has taken Trinity Piano Trio from in-depth explorations of well-known classical composers to contemporary forays such as the upcoming tribute to Sun Ra’s music. And that eclectic path definitely suits Andreotti and the other members

“For awhile, we would take one composer and just go crazy with his or her repertoire,” Andreotti says. “We’ve done that with Beethoven and Dvorak, for example. But we also like the challenge of new music as well.”

The challenge of Sun Ra’s music – actually variations on his works written by area composers – should provide a fitting conclusion to the new Music Circle season, reflecting the motto of the 54-year-old organization: “Dedicated to the creation and performance of improvisational and experimental music.”

“This particular concert came about in an interesting way,” Andreotti says. “NMC’s last concert of each season is designed to be a showcase for an area group. They asked us to play, and then Jim Hegarty of NMC came to me and told me he had an idea for the theme of the concert. He wanted to celebrate Sun Ra’s 99th birthday, and thought it would be interesting to ask local composers to write pieces related to Sun Ra’s music.”

The concert will feature original compositions by Eric Hall, Adam Maness, Robert Wykes (a founder of NMC), Serbian Nichifor, Fred Tompkins and Andreotti, as well as several Sun Ra compositions that have been arranged by Hegarty.

“My piece, ‘Finding Space,” was actually written in 2009 as a duo I did with dancer Dawn Karlovsky,” adds Andreotti. “And we’re really looking forward to playing the other pieces as well. It’s going to be a very interesting mix of music!”

For NMC administrator and publicist Jeremy Kannapell, this final concert of the season provides a fitting ending to a memorable season – as well as an opportunity to pass along details about what to expect from the 2013-14 New Music Circle concert season.

“This year has gone by very fast!,” says Kannapell. “Every concert worked out wonderfully in terms of performance, audience, vibe ... everything. I can't think of one concert this year that did not receive a standing ovation.”

Kannapell was also pleased with the variety of venues where NMC events took place this season.

“Having a handful of shows at The 560 Music Center's beautiful ballroom was great,” he states. It was wonderful to hear Kris Davis, Sylvie Courvoisier and Craig Taborn play on such a good piano. And presenting and teaming up with spaces like Luminary, White Flag Projects, the Webster Film Series, CAM and the Kerr Foundation were fantastic as well.”

In terms of the upcoming season, Kannapell offered a few interesting comments on what to expect.

“We are working on next year’s lineup right now,” he concludes. “If all goes accordingly to plan, we can look forward to seeing several artists from Chicago – including a MacArthur Fellow. We’ll also have some more combinations of music and experimental film projections. The full list of season concerts will be out very soon. Stay tuned!”

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. He has written for the St. Louis Beacon since 2009. Terry's other writing credits in St. Louis include: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis American, the Riverfront Times, and St. Louis magazine. Nationally, Terry writes for DownBeat magazine, OxfordAmerican.org and RollingStone.com, among others.