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Wind Sync in Flight to the Moon & Beyond

Music Review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sat Nov 23rd, 2019

From left: Julian Hernandez, Emily Tsai, Kara LaMoure, Anni Hochhalter, Christian Paquette

When a quintet plays in sync, one’s ears are delighted. Friday evening Trinity-Pawling school hosted Wind Sync, five wind players who achieve delicate nuance due to being on the same note at every breath. They have performed at the Met Museum, the Library of Congress, Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, so it was a treat to hear them in the Pawling Concert Series in Gardiner Theater.

The concert was presented as a multi-media event. Screens bracketing the stage showed black and white images, although for those seated on the aisle there was so much glare from the stage lights that it was not pleasant to view either screen. But we came for the music. Wind Sync opened with Jacques Offenbach’s 1875 Suite from a Trip to the Moon, inspired by Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon. Verne’s novel was adopted as an opera for Théâtre de la Gaité. The quintet played the Overture which conveyed excited suspense. The next eight excerpted movements were accompanied by a comic film of the opera with the film featuring fast movement. There was comic interplay tween the music as it aligned with the visuals.

The music was predominately comic with Anni Hochhalter on French horn and Kara LaMoure on bassoon delivering most of the mugging and slapstick. Countering this, Julian Hernandez on clarinet and Emily Tsai on oboe offered more serious and complex duos for middle-brow listeners. It was left to Guest Canadian Flutist Christian Paquette to provide the more cerebral enjoyment for highbrow listeners: as his seemingly breathless flute wove a seamless robe of sound around his four companions as he led or commented on their folly or wisdom. The most famous scene of the opera was the unexpected snow on the moon event. This was the first appearance of faux snow on an operatic stage. Some say that this influenced Piotr Tchaikovsky’s staging of The Nutcracker. The film was goofy, nutty, and charming in its delightfully silly way. Offenbach’s talent resides in satire and extroverted panache snowing on cleverly pleasing wit. Music does not always need to be serious: we can do with a smile or laugh to get through the day or night.

Voyager Golden Record Suite was a mélange of music and word from the launch of Voyager I and II. Each basketball spacecraft contained a vinyl recording of various famous readings, songs from different cultures, and music from various parts of the globe. Wind Sync created its own arrangements of Beethoven, Anthony Holborne, J.S. Bach, Chuck Berry, and others. Their arrangements alternated with readers on the golden vinyl disks. The effect of this collage was disorientating as if a person in the audience was flying through such multiplicity of human utterance that the human condition and project might just be babbling nonsense. The jazzy and witty quintet arrangement of Berry’s “Johnny Be Good” was itself worth the price of a ticket. It was a memorable hoot! After informing us that we are solar system bound due to extreme radiation, Voyager I and II have now left our solar system and are expected to sail on for over 5 billion years, long after the earth has been consumed by the sun (if lunatic humanity is still around).

Wind Sync arranged Claude Debussy’s solo piano piece “Clair de Lune” with spectacular results: sometimes classical, sometimes New Orleans jazzy, it took the audience over the moon. Wind Sync commissioned contemporary composer Mar Mellits (b. 1966) to produce a work for the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing which had been launched in July of 1969.

“Theia,” the mythical object that crashed with earth to produce the moon was arresting. “Sea of Tranquility” painted harmony that let us know the music was serious. “The Buzz” explored the danger of static. “Luna Nova” the wonder of a new world. “Debbie Waltzing on the Moon” was a childhood recollection of a lifelong friend of the composer who died while he was working on this project. “One Small Step” was the dramatic homage to the courage of the astronauts. “Moonwalk” supplied the light comedic melody of when everything is right both on earth and on the moon before the inter-solar mining machines begin their defiling scars.

Houston-based Wind Sync is a group of talented musicians who know how to end on a note together, as well as begin to explore old and new avenues of entertainment. They sing of the moon but play for earth-bound ears with delicate nuance and wit with wonderful, original arrangements.

The next Pawling Concert Series event will be The Atlantic Brass quintet at 7 pm on December 20 with a program of their arrangements of Christmas favorites and Classical works from varied periods.