Charlotte Symphony's Al Fresco Doubles its Originality with "All-Lamb Jam"Jul 8, 2020
By Perry Tannenbaum
Charlotte Symphony's new Al Fresco series had already reached an admirable level of originality in its first four installments. Although they had launched many inventive series in the past, chamber music had been off-limits programming before the current pandemic, and we can only attribute the birth of an online-only series to the necessities of our current plight. But thanks to two multi-talented CSO musicians, principal cellist Alan Black and French hornist Bob Rydel, weekly Al Fresco webcasts have been judiciously programmed and masterfully played and have risen to admirable distinction with Black's insightful interviews and Rydel's remarkable audio engineering in an outdoor setting and his immaculate video editing. The original touches enhancing all this artistry and virtuosity have been centered in Black's emphasis on the musicians' point-of-view in interviewing his guests and in the creative editing of each episode. Unlike a concert in real time, a prerecorded concert can dispense with scenery changes as we shift from one set of players to another or from interview mode to performance. Beyond that, Black and Rydel have occasionally flipped the chronology of interviews and performances in their episodes. That innovation allows Black to discuss performances we're about to see and hear with his fellow musicians as in the previous "Viennese Serenades" concert, wherein Black and two CSO violinists discussed what it was like to play a swift Haydn divertimento while wearing masks.
The latest Al Fresco concert, "All-Lamb Jam," added new layers of originality, an entire program of new compositions by CSO cellist Jeremy Lamb and interviews with the composer that took us through how this music came to be written. After a brief welcome to us and an intro to Lamb, a member of CSO's cello corps for three-and-a-half years, Black plunged right into the unique titles of the three-part Lamb Jam Set. As it turns out, they had a lot to do with the musicians for whom Lamb wrote the piece, cellist Sarah Markle and bassist Taddes Korris, with whom he bonded shortly after joining the Charlotte Symphony. A prime motive for writing all the pieces on the program turned out to be the scarcity of music previously written for two cellos and a bass. Both Markle and Korris, Lamb soon found out, were vegans, so "The Hempeh Tempeh Jam" was an outgrowth of Lamb's learning curve as he struggled to remember the difference between the two soy products. The entire Lamb Jam was itself an outgrowth, the composer revealed, of a melody that hit him during work on A Ride on Oumuamua, the more ambitious piece that would conclude the concert.