Some of Kansas City’s most beloved artists are collaborating for the first time on an original project.
Beau Bledsoe’s Ensemble Iberica and tenor Nathan Granner will provide the music, Jennifer Owen is bringing the choreography, and Owen’s dance company, Owen/Cox Dance, will perform “Danza” Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16, at the Polsky Theatre at Johnson County Community College.
“Danza” will feature mostly new works by Owen, set to Spanish music from the Renaissance to the 20th century, as well as some Turkish music. The program also will include “La Locura,” a work that was created for Owen/Cox dance by choreographer Katarzyna Skarpetowska for last September’s New Dance Partners hosted by the Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College.
“A lot of Spanish Baroque music is just a naturally great fit for dance,” Owen said. “And some of the Turkish pieces also have a wonderful dance quality.”
And when it comes to Spanish music, no one in Kansas City does it better than guitarist Bledsoe and his Ensemble Iberica.
Bledsoe and Owen have been friends since the mid-’90s, when Owen was a member of the Kansas City Ballet, and Bledsoe and Granner were two wandering minstrels playing venues like Le Fou Frog. It has been a joy to watch Owen and Bledsoe create their own successful, world-class ensembles and base them right here in the city they love so much.
“We’ve been friends for a really long time, and when we were in our late 20s, we used to kind of fantasize about the things we’d like to do in the future over dinner parties,” Bledsoe said. “Jennifer is very exacting and very professional. She definitely sets the tone. Everyone’s ready. There’s no goofing off, but it’s still a very good time, and she’s always very gracious. She’s famous for that.”
Granner, the other member of Owen and Bledsoe’s posse, has an opera star voice and flamboyant personality that have made him a Kansas City favorite. But he has been missing in action the past couple of years while he has pursued a master’s degree at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“I’m hoping people will want to hear what he sounds like right now, because Nathan has a lot of fans here,” Bledsoe said. “He learned the whole show in about three days. That’s very impressive, so he’s gotten good at being fast. But his core sound is still there, which is something I was actually kind of worried about, but he still sounds like my friend Nathan Granner. He’s just more refined. That’s the main thing I noticed.”
“La Danza” also will feature a new member of Ensemble Iberica, Amado Espinoza, who plays flutes, percussion and charango, a guitar-like instrument from Bolivia.
“Amado moved here last year, and he’s one of the most interesting musicians in town,” Bledsoe said. “I chose this concert to see how we work together because he’s more of a folkloric musician. He makes a lot of his own instruments, and they’re fantastical. They have dragons all over them. You’re convinced he’s a wizard.”
Owen is adding her own magic with choreography that she has been creating for her company of six dancers. It’s a change for Owen, who previously has worked out the choreography on herself before involving the dancers.
“I’ve come to a point where I just like to choreograph on the dancers in the studio, so that I don’t come into the studio with material already set,” Owen said. “I think the dancers feel more ownership of the material that’s created with them. I feel like things have become a lot more interesting since I’ve started working that way.”
Even though the music is heavy on Latin flavor, Owen said not to expect flamenco or other stereotypical Spanish dance moves.
“I’m trying not to get too stylized Baroque, Spanish or Turkish in any way,” she said. “In fact, I told the dancers that if it starts to look Spanish, please tell me, because I don’t want it to look that way. I want the dance movements to come naturally and be inspired by the music itself, which celebrates relationships and love and break-ups, humor and beauty. All of those wonderful things that music and dance can represent so well.
▪ 8 p.m. Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16. Polsky Theatre, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. $13-$26. 913-469-4445 or JCCC,edu/TheSeries. For more information about Owen/Cox Dance, visit OwenCoxDance.org.
Isabel Leonard and Sharon Isbin
Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin will perform a program of Spanish music Friday, April 15, at the Folly Theater.
The duo, presented by the Harriman-Jewell Series, will perform songs by several composers, including Enrique Granados, Isaac Albéniz and Joaquin Rodrigo.
Leonard, winner of the 2013 Richard Tucker Award, is currently singing the role of Cherubino in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” She will give Kansas City a taste of the opera when she sings “Voi Che Sapete.” It fits with the evening’s Spanish theme, too. “The Marriage of Figaro” does take place in Seville, after all.
Spire Chamber Ensemble
Works by George Frideric Handel and Franz Joseph Haydn will be performed by the Spire Chamber Ensemble Saturday, April 16, at Trinity Lutheran Church and Sunday, April 17, at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral. Ben Spalding will lead the choir and period instrument orchestra in Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass.
Both works pack a punch. Dixit Dominus, written when Handel was in his early 20s, is a spectacular demonstration of full-blown genius. Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass is considered by his biographer, H.C. Robbins Landon, to be Haydn’s “greatest single composition.”
When the work was first performed on Sept. 15, 1798, news was announced that Lord Nelson had defeated Napoleon in the Battle of the Nile. Hence the name for Haydn’s glorious sacred masterpiece.
▪ 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 5601 W. 62nd St., Mission, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 17, at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. $10-$25. SpireChamberEnsemble.org.
Te Deum Chamber Choir: “Peace”
When was the last time you heard the choral music of Arnold Schoenberg and Johannes Brahms together on the same concert?
That’s just the sort of creative programming Te Deum Chamber Choir, conducted by Matthew Christopher Shepard, is known for. The group will perform Schoenberg’s “Friede auf Erden” and Brahms’ German Requiem on Sunday, April 10, at Village Presbyterian Church and Monday, April 11, at Central United Methodist Church.
This may well be the Kansas City premiere of Schoenberg’s “Friede auf Erden” (“Peace on Earth”), an unaccompanied choral work expressing a desire for eternal peace. The Brahms Requiem will be sung in English rather than German because, according to Shepard, Brahms thought the work should be sung in the vernacular of the audience.
Jan Kraybill and Elisa Bickers will provide a four-handed piano accompaniment.
▪ 3 p.m. Sunday, April 10, at Village Presbyterian Church, 6641 Mission Road, Prairie Village, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 11, at Central United Methodist Church, 5144 Oak St. $10. Tickets available at the door. For more information about Te Deum Chamber Choir, visit Te-Deum.org.
Kansas City Symphony: Pixar in Concert
Pixar’s eye-popping films — “Toy Story,” “The Incredibles,” “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.,” among others — will get an aural boost when the Kansas City Symphony provides live musical accompaniment to classic Pixar clips Friday, April 15, through Sunday, April 17, at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Pixar in Concert promises to be total sensory saturation and fun for the whole family. It’s part of the Kansas City Symphony’s Screenland at the Symphony series.
You can reach Patrick Neas at firstname.lastname@example.org.