It's always great to see people you know making exciting work. The wild Up show last Saturday at the Armory night is a good example. The show had a theme of ornithology. There were pieces by Messiaen, Ferneyhough, Mark Menzies, and Chris Kallmyer. There also were arrangements of music by Haydn, Charlie Parker, and Andrew Bird. The Menzies and Kallmyer were premieres, while the arrangements were made by members of the ensemble.
There were real standout performances by clarinetist Brian Walsh and pianist Richard Valittuto, who blasted through Ferneyhough's La Chute d'Icare and Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques respectively. The Ferneyhough sounded appropriately hairy, while the Messiaen was appropriately raucous and/or sensitive in the right ways and places.
My favorite arrangements were by Archie Carey and Richard Valitutto. Carey stretched out the first few bars of Charlie Parker's Bird of Paradise into a nice spectral sounding orchestral piece. Valitutto's arrangement of an Andrew Bird song filtered it through Messiaen's gestural and harmonic tenacity, occasionally reverting back to the plain harmonic language of the singer/songwriter/whistler. Conductor Christopher Rountree's arrangements of "Hayden" and Parker bookended the evening, brimming with personality. The arrangements by Mike Shapiro were more straight ahead, you might say indie pops.
Kallmyer's piece involved field recordings of birds, over which the ensemble played intriguing post-ambient textures. Menzies' Double Tui (named after a bird from New Zealand) used the same instrumentation as Oiseaux Exotiques, augmented by rain sticks, boom boxes, and some theatricality involving players walking on and off stage. There was a lot of interesting attention paid to sonic detail.
Overall it was a very fun concert, though the seating arrangement at the Armory left something to be desired. Looking forward to hearing more.