Behind the scenes: The test of the gamelan (conclusion)

Katherine FitzGibbon conducts Lewis & Clark Community Chorale and Venerable Showers of Beauty at L&C's annual Rogers concert, October 2011

Editor’s Note: Our mini-series about how Venerable Showers of Beauty gamelan ensemble raised its game by recklessly taking on an ambitious program of new music for its 31st anniversary concert last month concludes with the story of the performance itself November 11 at Lewis & Clark College’s Evans Auditorium. To catch up: Here’s Part One, and here’s Part Two.

The afternoon of the concert for which we’d been preparing for almost three months arrived. We had scheduled final run throughs with the choir and the just-arrived guest soloists from Seattle, Eugene, Berkeley and Java.  I arrived early to practice that dazzling but dizzying third movement, second-section bonang panerus part that Lou Harrison had composed for his Double Concerto.

As I walked up the steps to the stage where our instruments were arrayed for the evening’s performance, I was worried. The bonang panerus always has one of the fastest parts in gamelan. It’s one reason I like to play it, even though it is no longer my main instrument. Those parts are patterned, and while you have to adjust them to fit a particular piece’s characteristics, once you’ve done it enough times, the patterns work their way into your muscle memory.

Not this time. Harrison had composed a non-traditional part for the instrument, so muscle memory actually worked against me, and with the demands of the other pieces, I hadn’t had a chance to really practice it.

I sat down at the instrument, peered closely at the score (on which Lou had written “bonang panerus quite literally doubles everything!”), and flailed away. But it was too different, too hard, and flew by too fast to read from the score or even to hear the main melody pitches — the signposts gamelan players (especially those of us who play the embellishing instruments) use to make sure we’re in the right place — amid the flurry of notes I was playing.

I was bummed. I knew that, in one sense, it didn’t really matter whether I nailed it or not. It was only a short, five-minute section; none of the other players was relying on my part for orientation, as often happens; the audience wouldn’t know if I messed up; the soloists would be getting all the attention anyway.

But I still wanted to get it right. Not just because I’d known Harrison and wanted to serve a great composer’s music with the quality of performance it deserved. Not just because I wanted to keep my skills growing by mastering these challenging parts. Frankly, I wanted to get it right mostly because it would sound beautiful, and because it would be a lot of fun to play it right! And I didn’t want to disappoint my friends in the group.

Fortunately, the community spirit that animates amateur groups like ours came to my rescue. A couple weeks earlier, I had played that main melody over and over over at an impromptu practice while Matt and another stalwart member, Earl, worked out their especially thorny duet imbal part in Harrison’s concerto. Now, Matt offered to return the favor, generously singing out the “milepost” notes in the main melody that enabled me to lock in my crazy part with it. Deedlebeedlebadumbopdeedledeedlebadumbum “Six!” he shouted.

Badabeedledeedlebumbumbumbumdeedlebeedleba “Three!” We did it a dozen times, with different patterns and numbers each time, then repeated. For maybe half an hour, we just ran that part over and over, at increasing tempos, as I gradually got more and more of my notes right and the part resolved into sharper focus — not just flurries of notes, but enchanting lines and patterns.

Playing the bonang

That finally enabled me to get in the groove, although I was still a long way from truly nailing the part. Just as I could imagine getting close to having it in my hands, it was time for our final rehearsal with our guest musicians. Cellist Diane Chaplin and violinist Fritz Gearhart, both masterful musicians, had their parts down. Mindy played the solo bonang introductory notes — the buka that kicks off most gamelan pieces — and we were off on our first full run through of the piece.

Part 1 — which Harrison had originally devised as  a separate, gamelan-only piece until combining it with another and a newly composed middle section for soloists, then added the cello and violin parts — went fine. Then our professional soloists sounded spectacular in their Part 2 showcase.

Now to Part 3, which contained three sections, with the tricky one for me being the second, or B section. Mindy (on the other bonang) and I locked in nicely in the first section. Then came that tricky second section. Off to the races we zoomed — and I found that the practice with Matt had helped immensely. I still struggled all the way through it, getting maybe half the notes right, but almost all the important ones. I was relieved; a successful, though by no means immaculate, performance was probably in reach. But the soloists wanted to try again — and this time, faster!

I groaned. This is an issue any classical orchestra faces when it performs a concerto. The soloist typically dictates tempo and other major decisions, and our soloists were top-notch classical performers. I took a deep breath, lifted my mallets, leaned forward, frowning in concentration. Mindy played the intro, Midiyanto set the quicker tempo on drums, and away we went, faster this time. Predictably, I fell behind, raced to catch up, and wound up getting about half the notes right again. That was actually an accomplishment, given the frenzied tempo, but I knew there was no way I’d be able to play the part properly by the next opportunity — showtime.

I privately despaired. I felt like I’d just finished a sprint. Everyone else sounded fine. But I just knew that there was no way I could play my obbligato part at that pace tonight, and that even if I could, it would be so fast that the notes would smear into an unrecognizable blur.

Amateur groups face these limits (skill, practice time, etc.) often and we sometimes have to compromise. I did have options: I could leave out some of the knottier passages, a couple notes here and there. No one would know. I could have easily just played a traditional Javanese accompaniment pattern, which would have sounded just fine, and no one would have been the wiser. But that would have been cheating — and no fun. Glumly, I prepared to play the final section of that final movement, and more disappointment followed.

After what I was now thinking of as “the insane section,” Harrison’s Double Concerto concluded with a third section, also fast and requiring me to play a traditional, interlocking imbal pattern with the other bonang player, alternating with beautiful sekaran (literally “flowers,” because they’re melodic ornaments that flower out from the basic melody) patterns that, ideally, mesh perfectly with those played by the other bonang player, but twice as fast. I wasn’t worried; I’d played those kinds of parts many times.

But we hadn’t had a chance to practice that part, because I was focused so much on the other pieces in the program and especially the insane section, and because the other bonang player, in this piece, was Mindy, who instead had to lead the group through the rehearsals on drums until Midiyanto arrived the day before the concert. We’re both experienced bonang players, though it’s not the main instrument for either of us, but even though the parts were traditional, they weren’t exactly easy. Mindy played the buka for the third section, and immediately, we (and especially I) struggled to lock in. We had time for only one run-through,  and the bonang parts sounded, frankly, pretty lame. Oy.

I wasn’t used to this kind of struggle — gamelan music had been pretty easy for me for a long time, given adequate practice. But now the consequences of taking on much more ambitious repertoire had arrived. As this last rehearsal concluded, I was in a pretty dismal mood.

I knew we could get through the show, but when you make music for the love of it, just getting through isn’t enough. Gamelan sounds pleasant when it’s passably played, but it’s truly magical, for listeners and players alike, when everyone really locks in together. Would we be able to do that at the concert in a few hours?

Big Night

That day of the concert and last rehearsal, I faced another challenge: I was sick, with a cold and sore throat that turned into severe laryngitis. We had three rehearsals in the nights leading up to the concert, and despite almost constant tea drinking and cough drop sucking, I couldn’t talk at all, just whisper. At the final rehearsal the afternoon of the show, I tried singing the opening high notes of Subakastawa, the luminous song I’d longed to sing with a pesindhen for a decade, and literally no sound emerged.

So I switched over to the gambang, my main instrument, a wooden xylophone that plays long streams of fast notes that are ideal for those soft, extended pieces. Our three or four other chorus singers would be fine without me, especially since both Midiyanto (a superb singer with a voice that will break your heart even if you can’t understand a word he’s singing in Javanese) and Peni would be carrying the vocal load.

Playing the gambang

But I also had to prepare and deliver all the stage announcements, and we had a lot of in-concert stage transition and instrument moving that I needed to cover with explanations and there were a multitude of thank yous due our many guests. We also wanted to dedicate the concert to Loraine Fenwick, who’d donated the instruments to the college back in 1980. She died earlier this year, not long after being honored at our 30th anniversary concert, where we’d gotten to meet her for the first time. I didn’t know until showtime whether I’d be able to talk at all, even with a mike.

Before the concert, we enjoyed a Javanese meal prepared by one of our Indonesian members. It was a great chance to chat with Peni and our other guests and just bask in the friendship of our group. In jeans and a sweater, the diminutive 28-year-old singer/composer seemed like just another charming Indonesian college student. We were all stunned when she emerged onstage a couple hours later, in full costume and full voice — she’d transformed from a sweet young guest into a star. I don’t think any of us really had any idea just how powerful her performance would turn out to be.

Shortly after 8 pm, the twenty members of Venerable Showers of Beauty gamelan and our guests strode onto the stage at Evans Auditorium, sat down at our instruments, and waited for Mindy to play the buka for the opening piece, a fast-paced traditional number that Midiyanto had taught us. We opened with the traditional set, starting with the fast-paced instrumental with which Midiyanto had begun our first practices weeks earlier. Then we welcomed to the stage the students from L&C’s beginning gamelan class onstage to play a yearning traditional piece, and I got to hear Peni’s voice in full flower while trying to croak out a few notes with the other singers. Fortunately, my own voice proved (barely) adequate for the between-song announcements.

Then came the big traditional medley. Setting aside my disappointment at not being able to sing it with her, I focused on listening to Peni and the rest of the group while playing a gambang part I knew pretty well.

The author and Peni Candrarini/Photo:Karen Brunke

It was a revelation. In these performances, we’re often so fixated on our own parts that we don’t get the chance to really revel in the glory of the multifaceted sound we’re making. This time, I could feel it all. The medley began with a haunting duet with Peni and one of our Seattle guests, Jesse, masterfully playing the plaintive two-string rehab fiddle, then slipped into another soft chamber piece with just our guests (including Midiyanto), then morphed into the sprawling, ethereal Gambirsawit (with a startling, explosive, fast interlude that electrified the audience), finally flowing into Subakastawa, the piece I’d wanted so ardently to sing.

But if I had, my ears would have been filled with only my own voice and the main melody instrument from which I took my cues for pitch and placement. Playing the soft gambang instead, I could listen to every one of the many melodic lines we were weaving together, and imbibe the richness of Peni’s penetrating sindhen singing, along with our rich chorus (led by Midiyanto), the multiple melodic lines generated by a dozen other instruments, the deep reverb of the pure-overtone gongs — what Harrison called ‘the sound of honeyed thunder” — everything. It was almost overwhelming.

Because I was sitting in front, I could also watch the audience members, several of whom glowed with eyes closed and rapturous smiles. As the last phrase of Subakastawa glided to the closing gong, tears sprang into my eyes in response to all that beauty permeating Evans Auditorium.

Preoccupied by the new, tough works we’d been rehearsing, these were the pieces we’d thought about least in the last few weeks, and we had no idea what Peni’s part would sound like and no chance to even think about it. Even singing while sitting down (like the rest of us, as is traditional in gamelan), Peni was the surprise hit of the show.

We finished the first hour with another medley of new-to-us traditional pieces. Augmented by our guests, the group produced a big, rich sound teeming with glorious melodies. Challenge #1: successfully surmounted.

East Meets West

I couldn’t bask in satisfaction too long, because the second half opened with Challenge #2: the Harrison Double Concerto that I’d struggled with so much in rehearsal. I was determined to try to play Lou’s brilliantly elaborate obbligato line no matter what. The easier first movement sounded great, with Fritz and Diane’s strings lucidly resounding, borne by Lou’s incomparable melodies. The thrilling second movement, a high-intensity stampede featuring Northwest New Music’s masterful percussionist Florian Conzetti on drum, dueling with Fritz and Diane and punctuated by occasional gong, was a riot, earning whoops of applause from the audience.

Then came that big, tough final movement. Gulp.

My tension dissolved when Midiyanto, leading the group on drums with a delicacy and precision of tempo evolution that I’ve never heard in any other music, set a lively tempo that was nevertheless slightly slower than the soloists asked for in rehearsal. That allowed me (and other members) to settle into the groove on the wild part, and although I still probably hit only 70% of the notes, I was able to get the important ones.

In the final section, Mindy (despite all the other burdens she was carrying for this concert) and I locked in like the veterans we are, and the cello and violin brought the piece to a delicious climax. I was so focused on my part that I can’t really evaluate the performance, but the audience seemed to like it, we held together, and I look forward to playing it again — with more practice, and more leisure to hear the whole thing in performance — at Northwest New Music’s concert this spring. For me it was more a relief than a thrill, but we’d met the second challenge.

As with the Javanese pieces, the performances benefited immensely from Midiyanto’s veteran leadership — like FitzGibbon, he’s a master at assessing just what a group can handle and supplying exactly what it needs to succeed. It was a serious loss for Portland,  and ultimately a gain for Berkeley, when Lewis & Clark wasn’t able to keep him here. We’re lucky that he’s willing to come up and join us and teach occasionally, despite a new child and a busy worldwide schedule of performances.

Then came the grand finale, as the 100 or so members of Lewis and Clark’s Community Chorale trooped onstage for the North American premiere of Missa Gongso. From the opening Kyrie, they sounded much stronger and more confident than in our last rehearsal. After our instrumental interlude, their voices rose behind us, buoying us along. As the piece progressed, every previously shaky section sounded vigorous and clean. Along with Peni’s enchanting performance, the choir’s transformation was the biggest surprise of the night.

It wasn’t a flawless performance (at one point we rushed through a momentary game of  “where’s the beat?”), but it was easily the best we’d played the piece and the best the choir had sung it, the jolting Crucifixus section in which metal instruments imitate the sound of hammers affixing Jesus to the cross, the vocal solos, the tricky fast passages — everything.

The final movement, a near-reprise of the opener, ends with an accompanied swelling chorus that’s genuinely moving, gradually slowing to the final gong. We kept our eyes fixed on FitzGibbon’s confident hands, and she guided the piece through a series of highly contrasting movements to its powerful conclusion. The audience adored it. It’s a powerful new composition, and deserves many more performances. I hope we get to play it again. Challenge #3 — well-done. And so were we.

As the applause rolled in, I struggled to get to my feet — the adrenaline that had kept my illness at bay receded, and I don’t think I could have played another note. Mindy wisely suggested bringing Peni and our Seattle guests (who didn’t play in the last piece) back out for a curtain call, and the robust whoops that accompanied Peni’s return made her light up. I will never forget the experience of making music alongside this incandescent artist, and our other fine guest musicians.

Venerable Showers of Beauty and Lewis & Clark Community Chorale perform the American premiere of Missa Gongso./Photo:Karen Brunke

The Next Level

And I will always remember how conscientiously our group surmounted the challenges we faced. Of course, Mindy and Midiyanto carried the main burdens, but many other group members really excelled, often playing instruments new to them and parts harder than they’d ever tried. As we carried our instruments back down to the music studio, I started to appreciate what we’d accomplished.

For a group of Westerners playing music not from our own tradition, it’s vital to maintain a connection with the source. Maintaining our once-dormant relationship with Midiyanto (by raising our level of performance to his standards) allowed us to explore the music of Java more deeply than we ever had. And performing complex classical Javanese repertoire with Peni and her pesindhen singing gave us a taste of the the music’s most sublime aspects. After the concert, a visibly proud Midiyanto praised our performance in extravagant terms rare for him.

Along with deepening our connection to Javanese tradition, we’d also pushed forward, performing a challenging, compelling 20th century masterpiece by one of America’s greatest composers, alongside accomplished Western instrumental soloists. And we’d premiered a complex new work with choir, learning how to work with a first-rate conductor in thoroughly untraditional music of our own time. It’s too soon to know for sure, but if last year’s experience holds, we will also have dramatically improved our musicianship. For a group of once-a-week amateurs, this was pretty heady stuff.

VSB music director Mindy Johnston

Yet as inspiring as the concert itself was, I’ve since realized that it was the preparation for it, both musical and psychological, that was really transformational for our group. Had we not embarked on a similar challenge last year for the 30th anniversary concert, we wouldn’t have had the skills and confidence to take on this greater, yet more rewarding adventure. And the exposure to top-flight musicians like Peni Candrarini, Katherine FitzGibbon, Midiyanto, the soloists from Northwest New Music, and our guests from Seattle inspired all of us to accept new challenges, collectively and individually. My struggle with the Harrison concerto was merely one example. Mindy’s  was inspiring and training an amateur group to raise its sights and its game. Our newer members learned to play gamelan in difficult conditions onstage. Our veterans  had to develop new techniques, and take on different instruments and new repertoire under pressure. We all had to work with non-gamelan musicians and non-traditional music. whether it was playing a really hard bonang part (in my case) or leading the group on drums onstage for the first time (as one of our members, Yael, did in one piece) or playing gamelan in public for the first time. Professionals are used to this process; we’re learning it. Despite the extra effort and, admittedly, some stress and anxiety, we all chose not to accept complacency,  to elevate our ambitions, and as a result, we’re all better musicians than we were three months ago, and looking forward to new challenges.

“After this concert,” Mindy asked, “What do we do next? There’s the pressure of keeping up with yourself. Shows like this take a lot of energy and work and money and we don’t have any of those things.” After paying our guests’ travel expenses, we actually lost money on the concert. But we’d gained so much more.

“Mixing an amateur world music group with Western music — that’s foreign territory for people of no Western music background,” Mindy noted. “Our group adapted extremely well and enjoyed that process. Those kinds of experiences bump us up a level of musicianship and exposure that I think is really good for us. We are growing and expanding from a ‘club’ mentality to a group that has tremendous artistic value to add to the cultural life of Portland and to the partnerships we create with our friends and teachers from Java.”

Playing Together

For me, despite my illness and stress, it was one of the most magical nights of my life, and, even after playing music as an amateur for 15 years now, I gained a new appreciation for why so many Oregonians devote so much time and effort to making music and art together.

Participating in making music (not just listening to it passively), challenging ourselves, and working together with friends old and new to create a community of beautiful sound brings an emotional reward like nothing else I’ve known. And for all the hard work and occasional moments of stress, the most important thing is — it was a LOT of fun!

Lou Harrison titled one of his earliest gamelan works (which we’d played in last year’s concert) “Main Bersamasama”/”Playing Together,” and he knew that that simple phrase carried a deeper meaning. Just as the cyclical melodies (some fast and complex, some slow and stately) of gamelan music, produced by  a dozen or two instruments and voices, dance together in interlocking patterns that add up to a beautiful whole, so too do the amateur players of the gamelan orchestra weave our varying skills and experiences together into a cooperative, sometimes joyful tapestry of friendship and music. Ultimately, preparing for a challenging performance enablesus  to do that better and better, and therefore to enjoy it more and more. The pleasure of playing together, and sharing it with others, is really what motivates so many non-professional Oregonians to create music together.

These kinds of devoted amateur performances are the bedrock of Oregon community art, and we look forward to sharing your stories about them here on OAW.  Many professional and amateur performances and artistic creations come with their own little dramas that the audience never really gets to see. Yet they can be just as worth telling as stories of scientific discovery, medical triumph and tragedy, exploration, crime and war — anything that involves people trying to reach beyond where they have before. We’d like this to be the start of an occasional series of such first-person accounts of making art in Oregon.

If you’re an Oregon artist or are acquainted enough with one to suggest another unpaid gig, please consider writing a similar account of an artistic event you’ve participated in recently that might have wider interest. Let OAW’s Barry Johnson know about your idea.

Program Notes

Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan, Mindy Johnston, Director:

Adrienne Varner
Amanda Byron
Amelia Bierly
April Bertelsen
Bonnie Miksch
Brett Campbell
David Tweet
Denise Kranowski
Earl Temp
Eric Allen
Falorna Amaia
Heidi McKenna
Jonathan Fink
Matt Andrews
Mike Echols
Priska Hillis
Teresa Justice
Tzara Vierck
Yael Schweitzer

Guest Musicians:

Diane Chaplin, Portland, Northwest New Music
Florian Conzetti, Portland, Northwest New Music
Fritz Gearhart, Eugene, Northwest New Music
Jarrad Powell, Seattle, Gamelan Pacifica
Jessie Snyder, Seattle, Gamelan Pacifica
Ki Midiyanto, Berkeley
Peni Candra Rini, Solo, Java
Stephanie Helm, Seattle, Gamelan Pacifica
The Lewis & Clark College Community Chorale, directed by Dr. Katherine FitzGibbon

Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with Javanese Gamelan by Lou Harrison

In 1981 Lou Harrison was commissioned by the Mirecourt Trio, but “found that I did not have then a piano trio inside my head,” so instead he suggested a work for violin, cello, and gamelan. The first and last movements are in the two contrasting tuning systems found in Java: pelog, a seven-tone system (though he uses only six here) with small and large steps in the scale, and slendro, a five-tone system in which all the scale steps are roughly equal.

The first movement is based on an earlier gamelan work of Harrison’s, Ladrang Epikuros, “ladrang” indicating the form in which there are 32 beats between each tolling of the gong. Epikuros refers the Greek philosopher whose ideal of the joyful life of friendship and quiet always appealed to Harrison.

The last movement is also adapted from an earlier gamelan composition, in honor of Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and one of several mythological figures Harrison represented in his pieces.

For the second movement, Harrison composed a virtuosic “stampede,” one of his favorite forms, a very fast triple meter dance from the Middle Ages (known then as the “estampie”). This middle movement uses a decidedly un-Javanese eight-tone mode, and the strings are accompanied only by drums and gong. What shines through most in all the movements is Harrison’s gift for expressive melody which makes this piece, in the words of violinist Ken Goldsmith “like playing Tchaikovsky inside Big Ben.” It premiered in 1982, on instruments Harrison and Colvig created, at a 65th birthday concert in his honor at Mills College. It became required listening in Javanese music conservatories.

Lou Harrison

Born in Portland in 1917, Lou Harrison became one of America’s greatest composers. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1930s, he studied with composer Henry Cowell, who encouraged his students to explore non-Western musical cultures. Harrison created the first percussion ensembles there with his lifelong friend and fellow composer John Cage, with whom he staged a series of influential percussion concerts, and composed for dance ensembles. In New York’s fertile Greenwich Village scene in the 1940s, Harrison conducted the premiere of Charles Ives’s Third Symphony, became a freelance music critic for the New York Herald Tribune and composed dance scores for Merce Cunningham, Jean Erdmann, and other major choreographers. Harrison returned to Portland for two summers at Reed College, where he studied calligraphy with Lloyd Reynolds and composed ballet scores for choreographer Bonnie Bird. He later taught at North Carolina’s legendary Black Mountain College before moving to Aptos, California in 1953, where he lived for the rest of his life. There, in the 1950s, Harrison pioneered the use of alternative tuning systems, and in the 1960s made a series of journeys to Asia, where he studied Korean, Chinese, and other Asian music and created some of the first successful syntheses of Western and Asian classical music, becoming a pioneer of the world music movement.

In the 1970s, Harrison studied with and was invited to compose for gamelan by the renowned Javanese composer Pak Cokro.  He and his life partner Bill Colvig built several gamelan sets.  Harrison returned to Portland several times to work with Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan and other Portland music institutions including the Gay Men’s Chorus and Oregon Repertory Singers.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, Harrison received some of the country’s most prestigious arts honors, awards and commissions by major orchestras and dance companies (including several for Mark Morris) and musicians such as Kronos Quartet, Yo Yo Ma and Keith Jarrett. His music appeared on dozens of recordings, and he became widely known as the grand old maverick of American music. He continued to compose magnificent music, including four symphonies, two operas, and many other orchestral, gamelan and chamber works, until his death in 2003.

Harrison, who was a gay rights advocate, poet and painter, also taught at San Jose State, Mills College, Stanford University and Cabrillo College, and co-founded the Cabrillo Festival.

Missa Gongso for choir and gamelan, by Neil Sorrell.

Missa Gongso was composed in 2004-5 and first performed in York Minster in February 2005. It was performed later that year at the University of York and revived in October 2010 for a performance in the chapel of King’s College Cambridge, with Gamelan Sekar Petak (York), the Cambridge Gamelan, The 24 (choir), the Choir of St Catharine’s College and the St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir, conducted by Edward Wickham.  It has recently been recorded on CD by the singers of The 24 with Gamelan Sekar Petak, conducted by Graham Bier.  

Neil Sorrell

Neil Sorrell teaches in the Music Department at the University of York (England) and specializes in Asian music .  He began to study gamelan performance at Wesleyan University (Connecticut) in 1969, making his first trip to Indonesia in 1971.  In the late 1970s he initiated workshops in Javanese gamelan music in the UK, co-founded and directed the English Gamelan Orchestra (1980-83), the first group of British musicians dedicated to the study, composition and performance of music for the Javanese Gamelan, and in 1981 organized the manufacture of Gamelan Sekar Petak, the first complete Javanese Gamelan in a British teaching institution (York).   He is the author of A Guide to the Gamelan (London: Faber and Faber, 1990. 2nd ed. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Society for Asian Music, 2000.) and, with his teacher, the great sarangi player, Pandit Ram Narayan, of Indian Music in Performance: a practical introduction (Manchester University Press, 1980).


The Lewis & Clark Community Chorale is a large symphonic choir consisting of undergraduates, graduate and law students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of Lewis & Clark College. Founded in 2009, this ensemble has already performed major works including Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, as well as music of a wide variety of time periods, styles, and cultures.

Musician Biographies

Diane Chaplin was cellist of the Colorado Quartet (based in New York City) for 21 years and with them had an international career which took her around the globe. The Quartet was the first all-female group to perform the complete quartets of Beethoven in both North America and Europe; their critically acclaimed recordings of these works can be heard on the Parnassus label. Diane moved to Portland in 2009, and in addition to solo and chamber music performances and cello teaching, she is director and conductor of the Oregon Pro Arte Youth Chamber Orchestra and co-director of Chamber Music Camp of Portland. She is cellist and co-director of Northwest New Music, which presents a four-concert series this season in Portland, and she appears often on Cascadia Composers concerts. Diane holds a Master of Music degree from Juilliard, has taught at Yale University, Bard College and Oberlin Conservatory, and has given master classes at major music schools in the US, Canada, Mexico, The Netherlands, Bosnia and Russia.

Florian Conzetti studied at the Konservatorium für Musik in Bern, Switzerland, the Eastman School of Music, and the Peabody Conservatory, where he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree as a student of musicologist John Spitzer and marimbist Robert van Sice.  His dissertation deals with the influence of Balinese gamelan on Western composers at the example of British composer James Wood. Conzetti is co-artistic director of Northwest New Music, a Portland-based contemporary chamber music ensemble, and has appeared at Music@Menlo, the Astoria Music Festival, CalPerformances, Stanford Lively Arts, and other festivals.  He has recorded solo and chamber music works for the Innova, Albany, and Music@Menlo LIVE labels, and is principal timpanist with the Vancouver Symphony, Portland Festival Symphony, and Linfield Chamber Orchestra. Conzetti was formerly on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley and currently teaches for the Portland Youth Philharmonic Association and at Portland State University and Linfield College.

Katherine FitzGibbon, conductor, is Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music at Lewis & Clark College, Artistic Director of Resonance Ensemble (a professional vocal ensemble in Portland specializing in thematic concerts that combine music with other art forms; see, and Head of Faculty of the Berkshire Choral Festival. Dr. FitzGibbon has served as Director of Choral Activities at Clark University, Interim Director of Choirs at Cornell University, and has conducted undergraduate choirs at Harvard University, Boston University, and the University of Michigan. She has directed secondary school choral programs, guest conducted honor choirs, and adjudicated solo and choral competitions. A lyric soprano, Dr. FitzGibbon is a frequent recitalist, oratorio soloist, and ensemble singer. She holds degrees from Princeton University, the University of Michigan, and Boston University.

Fritz Gearhart is Professor of Violin at the University of Oregon School of Music and a member of the Oregon String Quartet. He earned his Master’s Degree and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Donald Weilerstein. Earlier studies at the Hartt School included work with Charles Treger and members of the Emerson Quartet. Gearhart has appeared in major halls around the country including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie, the Kennedy Center, the 92nd Street Y in NYC and Alice Tully Hall. He has been heard frequently on National Public Radio, including live broadcasts on WFMT Chicago, WQXR in New York as well as Public Radio’s nationally syndicated program Performance Today. He was first violinist of the Chester String Quartet in the early 1990s, and has several recordings to his credit including releases on the Albany, Centaur, and Koch Entertainment labels. All of his discs can be found at his website  HYPERLINK “” \t “_blank” which lists these and other recordings as well as compositions and pedagogical materials he has been writing over the last several years.

Stephanie Helm has performed both Javanese and Balinese gamelan in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.  Originally from Australia, Stephanie lived and worked in Japan for nine years before moving to the U.S. in 1994.  She was awarded a Master of Arts degree in ethnomusicology from Monash University (Australia), for research focused on the activities of gamelan groups in Japan. She also holds a Bachelor of Music from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, where she first started playing gamelan music.  Stephanie lives in Seattle, Washington.

Mindy Johnston, director of the community gamelan ensemble, started studying Javanese gamelan in 1993 with Ki Midiyanto at Lewis & Clark College.  Mindy was awarded the Dharmasiswa scholarship in 1998-99 and 2004-05 to study traditional Javanese music at Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI), the arts university in Solo, Java.  From 2004-2007, she studied and performed gamelan music with some of the most renowned Javanese gamelan musicians alive today.  Mindy has a Bachelor of Music from Lewis & Clark College and a Master’s of Science in Conflict Resolution from Portland State University.  Mindy currently teaches gamelan at Lewis & Clark College and works as a crime victim advocate with Lutheran Community Services NW in Vancouver.

Ki Midiyanto, a fifth-generation puppet master from Wonogiri, Central Java, comes from a distinguished family of puppet masters and performs Solonese-style puppet theater, combining influences from his local region with Mangkunegaran palace traditions from Surakarta, where he studied.  Ki Midiyanto taught gamelan at Lewis & Clark for more than ten years and for the past few years has taught Javanese musical and performance traditions at University of California at Berkeley. He has taught and performed extensively in Java, the U.S., Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.  In addition to directing the UC Berkeley gamelan ensemble, Ki Midiyanto has worked with the Portland ensemble as a visiting director since he left in 2002.

Peni Candra Rini, born in Tulungagung, East Java, the daughter of a master puppeteer, Candra Rini is one of few female contemporary music composers and vocalists in Indonesia who performs sindhen, a female soloist accompanied by a gamelan orchestra. In 2008 she was established as a contemporary composer in a concert titled Bramara, which concluded her post-graduate program at the Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI), Surakarta, Central Java, where she is currently a lecturer. She is strongly committed to preserving the musical traditions of her country and she has collaborated with great artists from within and outside Indonesia such as: Rahayu Supanggah, (the late) I Wayan Sadra, Dwiki Darmawan, Al Suwardi, Albert Chimedza (Zimbabwe), Geisser Mazzola Duo (Switzerland), and most recently with Los Angeles Electric 8 for the World Festival of Sacred Music performing rare selections by Charles T. Griffes, Mantel Hood, and Lou Harrison.  Candra Rini has performed at many prestigious music festivals such as the International Gamelan Festival of Amsterdam (2007), Solo International Ethnic Music (2010) and the Malay Gamelan Festival, Malaysia (2011).  Candra Rini is currently in-residence at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles on a grant from the Asian Cultural Council.

Jarrad Powell’s compositions have been performed and broadcast internationally and include pieces for voice, gamelan, various western and non-western instruments, electro-acoustic music, music for theater, dance and experimental film. His work also includes numerous cross-cultural collaborations, particularly with Indonesian artists, including the innovative theater pieces Visible Religion and Kali. Since the early 1980s, he has directed the group Gamelan Pacifica, one of the most active and adventurous gamelan ensembles in the U.S. He is a professor in the Music Department at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.

Jesse Snyder began studying Javanese gamelan music in 1988, as a music major at Wesleyan University, where he also studied Carnatic and Hindustani vocal music.  Jesse first traveled to Solo, in Central Java, in 1997, and returned in 1999 for a year-long Dharmasiswa scholarship to study gamelan music. During this year he had the privilege to study with many of the leading exponents of the Solonese tradition, including both faculty from Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) (Indonesia College of the Arts) and freelance musicians. Jesse has played in 100+ gamelan performances in the U.S., as well as on several gamelan recordings and is based in Seattle, Washington.

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