P O W E L L, W y o. - Colorado violinist Gregory Walker brings his unique "Electric Vivaldi" to the Powell stage Saturday, Dec. 2, in a performance with the Northwest Civic Orchestra. The evening begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Nelson Performing Arts Center Auditorium on the Northwest College campus.
Walker, a Boulder-based violinist/composer will perform his own reworking of Vivaldi's beloved "Four Seasons." Concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic, Walker said he "worked the better part of two years" preparing "Electric Vivaldi" for a 2006 recording session with his orchestra. Much of that time was spent "rethinking the music, programming the solos and reworking some of the orchestral accompaniment."
When asked about updating such a classic baroque piece, he says, "I think we're just following the composer's intentions. Vivaldi was always striving for the synthetic in his music," pointing to the composer's fondness for all manner of sound-altering violin mutes.
Walker, who plays a five-string electric violin, collaborates with his wife, Lori, who plays an electric synthesizer, to produce sounds of mosquitoes, a howling wind, chirping birds and other effects that Vivaldi had included in his nature-inspired concertos.
Walker maintains he is helping fulfill Vivaldi's intentions for the music, citing as an example the sonnets the composer attached to the concertos (and presumably penned by him) that describe in detail the sounds of the seasons heard in the scores - down to the clacking teeth of shivering ice-skaters.
Northwest Civic Orchestra conductor Jan Kliewer said the audience will be in for a "remarkable evening" like nothing they've seen performed before in Powell. "Greg has imagined what Vivaldi might have written had he had access to modern tools, even to the point of using light to create the mood of each piece.
"The most noteworthy difference is the addition of a prelude poem before each season, which reaches the audience through a ‘talk box.' Greg mouths the words into a tube in his mouth that ultimately translates them through sounds from his violin, in essence replacing the human voice box."
This technique was popularized by Peter Frampton in the 1970s. It produces a sound similar to that heard more recently on Cher's 1998 best-selling song "Believe."
Kliewer said the evening will begin with a presentation by Walker and his wife, explaining the technology and the way it affects the sound that will ultimately reach the audience. Once the Northwest Civic Orchestra joins them on stage, Lori will play a MIDI keyboard (musical instrument digital interface) in the concerto's continuo part, originally written for harpsichord.
Multi-instrumentalist Lori Walker has been a frequent prizewinner in piano and violin competitions throughout the southwestern United States. After graduating from college, she toured and recorded as a synthesist and bassist with the Los Angeles-based rock band Ninja.
She returned to her classical roots when she became a member of the Boulder Philharmonic violin section while earning a master's degree in piano performance from the University of Colorado. Her women's music program "I am Woman, Hear Me Roar!" was filmed for television. She's performed widely with her husband, premiering a number of his works; recent engagements have included concerts in Great Britain, Cuba and Greece.
Gregory Walker, son of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer George Walker, is recognized as "one of Colorado's most adventuresome musicians." He's been a featured soloist with numerous symphonies, both in the United States and abroad. In America, he's soloed with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Breckenridge Festival Orchestra, Centennial Philharmonic, Westminster Symphony and Yaquina Chamber Orchestra, to name a few.
He also has numerous recordings available on national labels. An associate professor of music at the University of Colorado at Denver, Walker received the An American Academy of Arts and Letters Charles Ives Fellowship in 2000.
Click here for a short preview of the sounds the audience can expect at the Saturday, Dec. 2, concert.
Admission to "Electric Vivaldi" is $7; seniors pay $5; students and children under 12 are admitted free.