Violin-Piano Duo Plays Bolcom

A free concert beginning at 7:30 pm on Friday, October 19 at Montecito Covenant Church will feature one of America’s top composers. The American Double, a violin-piano duo, will play works by William Bolcom, who has received the Pulitzer Prize, three Grammy Awards and the National Medal of Arts.

Yale graduates Phil Ficsor and Constantine Finehouse, who formed American Double in 2001, have embarked on a five-month nationwide tour in conjunction with the release of their CD, “The Bolcom Project.” The CD is the first recording of Bolcom’s complete works for violin and piano, including four world premiere recordings.

Ficsor and Finehouse had the rare privilege of working closely with Bolcom during six coaching sessions, and the Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer will attend some of their concerts and introduce some of the pieces.

Bolcom has strongly endorsed the recordings, calling them “great benchmarks for other performers, but also great performances on their own merits.” He praised American Double as “first-rate musicians in every way, balancing style and taste impeccably.”

Bolcom, professor of music composition at the University of Michigan, is best known for his arrangement of William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and of Experience,” which won three Grammy Awards.

“Because of the eclecticism and the melting-pot quality of American culture,” says Ficsor, “it’s considered to be a quintessentially American piece.”

Ficsor hopes the concerts and the CD will help people outside the classical music world gain an appreciation of Bolcom’s approachable music.

“Bolcom’s works are special because the music is effective,” he says. “While not entirely easy to listen to all the time, the composer seems to have a sense of how far he can push the audience before they start to rebel against the dissonance. Then, he changes the style to something entirely different. In this way he maintains the interest of the listeners and the musicians.

“We know Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart because they’ve been around for three hundred years,” says Ficsor, observing that “Bolcom’s one of five of the most important composers in America right now.”

“Jane Eyre” Onstage

Charlotte Bronte’s classic 1847 novel, “Jane Eyre,” will come to life in an acclaimed adaptation by Polly Teale October 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 8 pm in Westmont’s Porter Theatre. Invited high-school students will get to see special matinee performances October 18, 19, 25 and 26 as part of the first installment of Found in Translation: Great Literature in the Theatre.

“‘Jane Eyre’ is required reading in many high schools and seeing the book interpreted into visually-rich live action helps many students to gain a deeper understanding of the text,” says Mitchell Thomas, chair of the theatre department. Found in Translation: Great Literature in the Theatre is a program pioneered by Thomas to bring high-school students from as far away as Los Angeles to see the production and discuss the novel with Westmont faculty and students. The program also features the college’s production of Anon(ymous), Naomi Iizuka’s adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, in February.

Faculty Recital

Michael Shasberger, Adams professor of music and worship, and Neil Dimaggio will present “Songs for the Amusement of All” Friday, October 12, at 8 pm in Westmont’s Deane Chapel.

Shasberger, baritone, and Dimaggio, piano, will perform three song cycles by 20th- and 21st-century composers, all based on the works of Christian poets.

The program is available for performances in churches, schools, homes or concert settings.