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Alarm Will Sound Takes New Music To New Venue: The Pageant

Alarm Will Sound
Alarm Will Sound

Alarm Will Sound, a 20-member ensemble, critically acclaimed for its performances of new music by emerging composers since its debut in 2001, has played all around the world and released six recordings over that time.

Since October 2012, Alarm Will Sound has built a strong presence in St. Louis with an annual concert series. The 2012-13 concerts took place at the Sheldon Concert Hall and the Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

For its second season in St. Louis, the Sheldon is still the primary base for AWS concerts. But this Tuesday, April 1, AWS will perform at a venue that might seem a major stretch: The Pageant.

Gavin Chuck
Credit Alarm Will Sound
Gavin Chuck

In a recent telephone conversation, AWS Managing Director Gavin Chuck and the ensemble’s Artistic Director and Conductor Alan Pierson discussed the background for the decision to perform at what is thought of as a rock venue.

“Three years ago when we started thinking of St. Louis as our second home, we looked at a lot of venues all over the city,” Chuck said. “The Sheldon and the Touhill’s Lee Theater were obvious, and that’s where we’ve performed to date. But the Pageant has always been on my radar.”

Chuck and Pierson said performing at the Pageant can allow the group to connect with music fans that might be less likely to hear Alarm Will Sound at the Sheldon or Touhill.

“One of our goals is to make the boundaries between musical genres more fluid,” Chuck said. “We want to take our music beyond just traditional concert halls, and that’s definitely what we’ll do at the Pageant, which primarily presents rock and pop concerts.”

But will AWS also tailor its April 1 program to appeal to the rock and pop music fans that frequent the Pageant?

Alan Pierson
Credit Alarm Will Sound
Alan Pierson

Pierson and Chuck both believe that the compositions AWS will perform at the Pageant have to connect with the audience. And they look forward to the challenge.

“Part of the appeal of doing a concert in a place like the Pageant is thinking about it in terms of the music we’ll be performing,” Pierson said. “That definitely has to be part of the thinking in coming up with our program.”

According to Chuck, the AWS repertoire includes plenty of music with strong connections between contemporary ensemble music and musical genres that many Pageant fans are likely to have heard -- or might be familiar with.

“We were determined to find the right program, because it’s really important to match the music with the venue – and the genre of music that the audience at a venue like the Pageant would have a connection to,” Chuck said. “With music by Aphex Twin, Steve Reich’s reworking of Radiohead’s music and composer Tyondai Braxton’s past connections with the band Battles, I think we’ve done that.”

Alarm Will Sound’s Pageant concert will feature acoustic interpretations of eight Aphex Twin songs, Reich’s “Radio Rewrite,” Braxton’s “Fly By Wire” – and composer John Orfe’s updating of English renaissance composer John Dowland’s  "Flow My Tears" into a contemporary dance music genre.

Music background

Aphex Twin is the stage name of musician Richard D. James, an English electronic musician and composer who has been releasing his music on various labels (and under various names – AFX, Bradley Strider, Caustic Window and others – since the early 1990s. Alarm Will Sound released a recording of acoustic versions of Aphex Twin compositions, “Acoustica: Alarm Will Sound performs Aphex Twin,” in 2005.

Reich’s work, “Radio Rewrite,” takes as its jumping off point two Radiohead songs: “Jigsaw Falling into Place’ and “Everything in Its Right Place.” Alarm will Sound performed the New York premiere of the complete version of “Radio Rewrite” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in November 2013 and at the Sheldon in March 2013.

Tyondai Braxton is the son of avant-garde jazz legend Anthony Braxton. He co-founded the experimental rock band Battles in 2002 with Ian Williams, John Stanier and David Konopka. The group’s 21st century takes on prog-rock earned critical acclaim in England and the U.S. Braxton left the group in 2010, and his composition “Fly By Wire,” was commissioned by Alarm Will Sound in 2013.

“The combination of music we’ll be performing at the Pageant really speaks to what AWS is all about,“ Chuck said. “It’s a repertoire we’ve nurtured and developed. And it’s a repertoire we’ve played in a wide array of venues.”

“For example,” Pierson said, “We’ve played Aphex Twin compositions at Carnegie Hall, at concert halls in London and Moscow, at festivals in Germany, Poland and Italy as well as across the U.S. and at the Sheldon. … We’re working to reach listeners in search of adventurous music in all types of venues. And we’re particularly interested in making this happen in St. Louis.”

Alarm Will Sound will also return to another home base in Missouri this summer to again serve as resident ensemble at the MIzzou New Music Summer Festival, marking AWS’ fifth consecutive year as part of the event.

The final concert of the 2013-14 St. Louis season will feature AWS once again on the stage of the Sheldon on May 30 – but with a very different set of guest artists. AWS will perform side-by-side with elementary, middle and high school students from the Community Music School at Webster University.

“We started a partnership effort with the Community Music School last October, and the May concert will be the beginning step in working with these young students to eventually crate an Alarm Will Sound Jr.,” Chuck said. “Eventually, we will want these students to play concerts on their own. But for the first one in May, we’ll be performing with them on stage to help make that transition.”

Concert Information

When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 1. Doors at 7 p.m.

Where: The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd, 63112.

How much:  General admission tickets are $20

Advance Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com

Read more:

Alarm Will Sound starts another season here -- and new partnerships

Mizzou International Composers Festival keeps the surprises coming

Alarm Will Sound brings '1969' to the Touhill

Alarm Will Sound signals long-term, local adventure in new classical music

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.

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