Silence and light, inspiration, faith, transcendence, spirit, beauty and tragedy: these are the concepts Kansas City Baroque Consortium sought to examine in the second installment of its summer series, “Between Silence & Light.”
The series took its name from the title of John Lobell’s book, inspired by the work and writings of architect Louis Kahn. KCBaroque’s three-part series fuses Baroque repertoire with these abstracted philosophical concepts. The ambitious concert Friday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church included a presentation by Ron Witzke and a new composition by Ian Coleman.
Witzke spoke about the art work and writing of Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura, as inspired by the novel “Silence” by Shūsaku Endō (concerned with persecution of Christians in 17th century Japan), in an insightful 45 minute presentation summarizing their spiritual journeys, struggles of faith and artistic output.
The music, performed on period instruments, played a supporting role with contemplative pieces incorporated into the presentation, as more of a pause for reflection in response to the philosophies and images. They began with the Largo to Antonio Vivaldi’s Chamber Concerto in D Major, the staid pulse laid down on cello by Trilla Ray-Carter (also founder of KCBaroque), long chords in the accompanying voices (Monty Williams and Rob Patterson, violin, and Eric Williams, viola) under a solo violin (William Bauer) on melody with birdsong-like ornaments, Tone quality was thin at the start, eventually coalescing as an ensemble.
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The presentation also included “Rokudan No Shirabe,” a 17th century composition by Yatsuhashi Kengyo for koto, the Japanese zither-like instrument. Dianne Daugherty performed the mesmerizing work, bright strumming altered with bent pitches in a melody and arc of piece unpredictable to Western expectations.
During his talk, Witzke displayed images of Fujimura’s work, though the projections could not possibly capture the nuance of the paintings. Fujimura uses traditional Japanese techniques and materials in his modern, abstract pieces, layers of paint, crushed minerals and gold and silver leaf (often laid out in an imperfect grid) that create mottled depths and hue variations only discernable to in-person examination.
Alessandro Marcello’s Adagio, from Concerto in D minor, also included a steadily rhythmic accompaniment with sudden dissonances from solo violin. After a video segment of Fujimura discussing his philosophy and technique, KCBaroque ended the presentation with the familiar Air from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite in D Major, the final image a close up of a scattered burst of gold dust across a canvas of azurite blue.
The second portion of the program featured a new work by Ian Coleman, the second of three pieces commissioned for the series. “Silence and Light” set text by Louis Kahn for baritone soloist, sung by Ron Witzke with excellent, resonant delivery, and trio on period instruments (Bauer and Carter on violins, and Ray-Carter on cello). Coleman used both sung tones and recitative, the instruments sometimes echoing the vocal line, the accompaniment low and slow, then bursting into fiddle-like motifs, with a well-blended, bronze sheen to the tone quality.
The concert’s closing work was the reminder of Bach’s Orchestral Suite in D Major, the ensemble (joined again by Williams, viola, Ken Mitchell, bass, and Rebecca Bell, harpsichord) noticeable louder, their tone broader, and more at ease when loosed on Gavotte I.
The multi-layered project was a successful, though condensed, examination of artistic philosophies, the urge to create and to know, with silence as a somewhat bewildering conceptual pre-state, transmuted by inspiration, the journey of religious faith akin to the progress of the artist, internal impulse compelled to outward product.
KCBaroque’s final concert of the “Between Silence & Light” series is 7:30 p.m. August 11. St. Paul Episcopal Church. Ticket information www.kcbaroque.org .