Unitarian Universalist Offers Complex, Evocative Music

Sunday evening, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Jamestown offered a concert of complex and evocative music from throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Warren-based trio Mna Tri performed a program of four works, each designed to create visual images in the listeners. The first three were all quite recent and extremely difficult, technically, with the third work strongly programmatic. The concluding set of three dances by early 20th century composer Scott Joplin were considerably simpler in structure, but all were designed to make their listeners tap their toes.

Mna Tri, whose name means Three Women, in Gaelic, is made up of Ann Mead, flutist; Vicki Hanson, cellist; and Joan Eighmey, pianist.

They opened their program with a three-movement work titled ”The Gardens of Anna Maria Luisa De Medici,” written in 2003 by Welsh-born composer Hilary Tann. Each movement had an epigram in German, which were translated in the extensive program notes which appeared in the printed program. My personal favorite was ”Fools hurry, clever ones wait, wise ones walk in the garden.” The three complex movements all evoked flower-related events from the life of the last surviving member of the principal branch of the famed Medici family, of Florence.

The second work was titled ”Voices of My Homeland,” by Elisenda Febregas, of Barcelona, also written in 2003. Ms. Febregas has done most of her composition for dance companies, and it would be easy to imaging the movements of this suite being danced.

In this case, the composer delighted in creating two human characters in her listeners’ minds, using musical themes, for each character, then have the two interact. The movements were titled ”The Courtship,” ”The Peasant and the Gypsy,” and ”Gigue,” a rapid and complex dance style, which the program notes indicated portrayed the peasant of the second movement seeking to disengage from the gypsy, and to escape.

Following intermission, the trio returned to play their programmatic work, ”The Harp of the Dagda,” a suite commissioned by the trio of composer James Sclater. The ”story” which is painted by the music is of a battle between the people under the sea, and the mythological inhabitants of Ireland. During the battle, the king of the Irish gods, Dagda had his giant oak harp stolen, but because they could not induce the harp to produce any music, the undersea people took it to their banquet hall and hung it on the wall.

The music imagines that Dagda, accompanied by two of his fellow gods, went to the hall and magically summoned the harp, which flew so violently to his hands that it slew some of the enemy warriors. Plucking the instrument’s strings, the god played merry music, which caused the enemy to laugh uncontrollably, and to drop their weapons. He then switched to soothing music, which put everyone in the hall into a deep sleep, while he and his companions took the harp back to their home.

Each of the instrumentalists demonstrated able technique for the demanding music. The trio played beautifully together, never giving the slightest hint of competing for dominance.

The merry dances by Joplin made an apt cherry to top the musical sundae. It was a challenging, yet rewarding evening of music.