Philadelphia composer Chris Rogerson will be at E.J. Thomas Hall for Tuesday Musical's season finale when his new String Quartet No. 4 takes the place of composer Andrew Norman's commission for Escher String Quartet. Norman's work wasn't finished in time for its scheduled world premiere Thursday in Akron.

"This is not expected but I'm thrilled. This series is a great series,'' Rogerson said of Tuesday Musical. "I haven't gotten a chance to be a part of it yet but I'm really happy to now."

Tuesday Musical was the lead commissioner for Guggenheim Fellowship winner Norman's yet-to-be-finished piece, his first string quartet, titled "Escher." When Norman's composition wasn't done by Tuesday Musical's Friday deadline, Escher String Quartet, the Akron organization's quartet in residence, turned to Rogerson to reprise his new work that they premiered March 10 in Tucson, Arizona.

Rogerson, who is close friends with Escher cellist Brook Speltz and studied with him and violinist Danbi Um at Curtis Institute of Music, lives just a few blocks away from Speltz in Philadelphia.

"It's special to me to work with this quartet,'' Rogerson, 30, said by phone Tuesday.

"Of course, the hope is that the piece has a great life beyond its premiere but you just never know,'' the composer said. "It's obviously a luxury to have it played again so soon.''

Rogerson's two-movement piece starts out with an imposing, intense "Fugue," followed by a contrasting "Meditation,'' whose inspiration comes from an epic trek he took last summer in the mountainous Wakhan region of Afghanistan.

He visited the isolated Kyrgyz people as part of a two-month trip that started in Pakistan and included China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. It took a week of trekking to reach the ethnic minority Kyrgyz people in the mountainous region nicknamed the "Roof of the World."

"They're one of the last truly nomadic people in the world. ... It was so isolated, it just felt like very timeless,'' Rogerson said.

He has worked to create that sense of timelessness and spaciousness in the second movement of his String Quartet No. 4, which was commissioned by Arizona Friends of Chamber Music. Rogerson took the trip to Afghanistan after he finished one commission and before he started Escher's.

"Writing a piece can be, for me at least, very stressful. You're not sleeping, you're thinking about it constantly,'' said Rogerson, who said he "resets" himself between projects by traveling to areas that are so completely different, he can't think about music at all when he's there.

Rogerson's 30-minute String Quartet No. 4, the longest work he has written, is "monumental" for a modern string quartet, Escher violinist Adam Barnett-Hart said this week. Rogerson will give a pre-performance talk at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with the musicians and James Wilding, a University of Akron School of Music faculty member. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. See www.tuesdaymusical.org or call 330-761-3460.

 

Troupe in Akron

GroundWorks DanceTheater, which just came back from an exciting weekend of performances in New York at Gibney Dance's POP series, will perform most of that program at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at E.J. Thomas Hall. Featured works that the Cleveland company performed in New York and last week at the Cleveland Museum of Art will be the new dance "The Witness" by contemporary dance giant and Cleveland native Dianne McIntyre, and "LUNA" by artistic director David Shimotakahara.

Also, special to the Akron program, will be a reprise of Lynne Taylor-Corbett's 2011 "Hindsight," a tribute to Akron native and rock legend Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.

Continuing GroundWorks' 20th anniversary season, Shimotakahara was pleased to report that the company received a standing ovation at a full house at the Gibney Center Saturday. The troupe, which last performed in New York 10 years ago, also performed on Friday. GroundWorks has had a longstanding relationship with Gibney Dance, led by Northeast Ohio natives Gina Gibney and senior company director Amy Miller, GroundWorks' former associate artistic director.

McIntyre's "The Witness" as well as her previous dance for GroundWorks in 2009, "Just Yesterday,'' deals with narratives in ways that wrestle with the day-to-day. She said the GroundWorks dancers incorporate acting and emotion in her latest work.

"She really pulls that out of the dancers,'' Shimotakahara said of this theatricality. "Not in an abstract way. In a very direct and emotional way."

Cost is $30, $10 for students under 18 or free for UA students. Call 330-972-7570 or see www.uakron.edu/ej.
 

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.