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Jan 28, 2008

St. Barth Music Festival 2008

The 24th edition of the music festival was as lively as past years thanks to interesting, high-quality programming. Over 60 musicians and singers participated from January 11 to 23, with concerts in the island’s churches, including for the first time, the Catholic Church in Gustavia, applauded for its good acoustics. Many of these musicians play with the leading orchestras in the US and in European capitals, yet are happy to come when Frances Debroff—co-founder and director of the festival—asks them to Saint Barth. This large “family” gathers on the island for ten days, playing for a nominal fee. The dozen or so volunteers that make up the festival committee work hard to find housing for all the musicians, quite often in private homes with residents who have developed friendships with the musicians they house every year.


The program ranged from Debussy and Beethoven as played by the Miro Quartet, to Puccini’s opera, La Fanciulla del West (which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1910), played by an orchestra of 40 with 11 singers, all under the baton of maestro Steven Mercurio, who usually works with such leading ensembles as the London Philharmonia or the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The Saturday night gig at Zion Garden combined rock band NYCO with Hawaiian slack guitar virtuoso Makana.NYCO

NYCO

The leader of NYCO, Ted Atkatz, left his position as the principal percussionist at the Chicago Symphony to form his own rock band with Dave Bowers on guitar, Kells Nollenberger on bass, and Devin Staples on drums. After a recital by the young violinists from the St Barth Harmony Music School, Makana opened the concert with traditional Hawaiian songs and original compositions. In the Hawaiian language, Makana means “gift,” and this gifted young musician is known as one of the best slack key guitar players, an accomplished student of Bobby Moderow and protégé of Hawaiian slack key master Ray Kane.

 

Makana, who has sung in public since the age of 11, “because he enjoys singing for others,” has performed with such stars as Sting, Santana, Elvis Costello, Chris Isaak, Jack Johnson, and Andreas Vollenweider, as their opening act. And as soon as the concert in Zion Garden was over, he picked up his guitar to play for a small circle of new fans enticed by the poetry of this musician, who expresses himself through his music. Based in Oahu, he also practices meditation and yoga, when not performing slack key guitar at festivals on the various Hawaiian islands, as well as around the world, from Great Britain, Japan, China, and Germany to Canada, Tahiti, Bali, and the US.
Another highlight of the festival was the orchestral concert at the Catholic Church in Lorient, during which the musicians played the premiere of “First Wave,” an original composition by Nicolas Audy-Rowland, a young composer who splits his life between Boston and Saint Barth, where he spent much of his childhood.
The final festival concerts were a piano recital by John Novacek, following by the closing night double header of jazz with two shows by the John Ellis Quintet from New Orleans.

Music fans will be happy to know that the festival is planning to hold two additional concerts later in the season, with the Monty Alexander jazz trio on May 2, and on May 3, a chamber music concert with three festival favorites—Jennifer Frautschi on violon, Eric Ruske on French horn, and Philippe Bush on piano.

Makana Makana

 

Cécile Lucot


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