Five Questions to Evan Ziporyn

When I heard that Evan Ziporyn had last-minute thrown together an orchestra to play Philip Glass’s David Bowie symphonies as a tribute to the late great, I just had to pick his brain. Luckily, I Care If You Listen was interested in that too…

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TELL ME A BIT ABOUT HOW THIS CONCERT CAME TOGETHER SO QUICKLY. WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF THIS LAST MINUTE ORCHESTRA, AND HOW ARE YOU PREPARING?

It was one of the above-mentioned conversations, with Richard Guerin, who runs Philip Glass’ record label.  He said “I wish someone would program these Symphonies – it’s at least something classical musicians could do.”   I just blurted out, “OK, but I want to conduct” – and then immediately began emailing.  I felt strongly that it should be a benefit for cancer research, that this would give us all a chance to do something positive with these feelings, channel the grief into something of value, even if only on a small scale.

You normally can’t put something like this together in that amount of time, but for me it was about doing something while in the midst of these feelings – the larger gestures can come later.  But to be honest I assumed some kind of roadblock would appear – no hall availability, not being able to get the music in time, or not enough musicians having time or being available.  But between Richard, the MIT Concert Office, and the overwhelmingly positive response from Boston-area musicians, it all fell into place.  I started by contacting the best musicians I know, people I had worked with or simply knew about, they started telling their friends, and pretty soon we had to start turning players away.  So the orchestra is mainly made up of really first-rate free lance musicians, many of the same people you’d hear at a BMOP concert, kick-ass conservatory students (of which Boston has plenty), etc.  It’s all very moving actually – not only because of Bowie or cancer research, but because it feels genuinely collective and empowering – something we are all doing together.

Don’t get me wrong, this is only possible because MIT – a large and supportive institution – is watching my back, in an amazing way.  But everyone got on board – not just the musicians, but also Campus Activities, copy services, the MIT Police, the parking office, you name it…so I’m grateful for that too.

All that aside, just a simple matter of learning two giant scores in a couple of days, scheduling rehearsals, and now playing the music…business as usual!

read the rest over at I Care If You Listen!

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