Gager concert celebrates experimental music

Posted on March 16, 2015 by Janika Carey

This month’s Janet Lowrey Gager Community concert at Sweet Briar will star flutist and poet Wayla Chambo, percussionist Peter Soroka and pianist and Sweet Briar College orchestra director Joshua Harris, who also composed one of the pieces. The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 22, and is preceded by a lecture featuring the three musicians at 6:30 p.m. Both events will be held in Memorial Chapel.

Concert highlights will include Morton Feldman’s 1978 landmark piece “Why Patterns?” for flute, glockenspiel and piano, Estonian composer Arvo Paert’s “Aliinale,” a solo piece written for the piano in 1976, and the world premiere of “Aubade,” a new work written by Harris for flute, percussion and electronics. Most of the pieces in the concert are built on indeterminate processes, meaning that aspects of the music change with every performance.

Chambo, who is also a poet, commissioned “Aubade” as part of her ongoing Transcript Project, in which composers create new works based on her poetry. So far, the project has featured three pieces, and several more are in the process of being written, Chambo said.

“The compositional approaches are diverse, and the poems may be used structurally or imagistically; [the texts] may be evident in the final work, or they may become an invisible part of the fabric,” she said. “This program will feature two pieces that use the same poem [‘Aubade’] as their seed, with very different results.”

Harris has enjoyed the collaboration with Chambo.

“As a composer, I loved having Wayla’s captivating text as the basis for my inspiration and imagination,” he said. “Wayla and Peter are also superb performers who are comfortable improvising and playing with electronic music, both of which are required in this piece.”

The Gager Community Concert series is made possible by the generous support of Forrest Gager, in memory of his wife Janet, who served as Sweet Briar’s director of public relations. For more information, email Harris at