BRATTLEBORO — Juno Orchestra enters its third season with an exploration entitled "Family Connections." Along with works appearing from well-known musical households (like Bach and Mozart), Juno also introduces a newly commissioned work by local composer Stan Charkey - "J/J" for cello and string orchestra, which features Stan's son, soloist Jacob Charkey.
"I wanted to write a piece for Jake that connects to his experiences in both the western and Indian traditions. It's called 'J/J' for Jake and Juno. I hope the orchestra likes the piece. I hope the audience likes it, too. It's unlike anything I've ever written," Stan mused.
Stan Charkey taught at Marlboro College for many years. He is a recipient of awards for composition from the Ren e B. Fisher Foundation and Vermont Music Teachers Association as well as fellowships at the Ragdale Arts Foundation and the Kimmel-Harding Center For the Arts. His compositions include commissions for a variety of ensembles and musicians, including the Apple Hill Chamber Players, cellist Paul Cohen, pianists Luis Batlle and Michael Arnowitt, violist Michael Tree and of course his son. In addition, he has written for dance, theater, and television.
Jacob Charkey got his earliest musical training in Brattleboro starting with the violin for a year. "After a year of screeching cacophony, my father mercifully gave me a cello to try," Jake laughed.
Jake studied cello under Zon Eastes, Paul Cohen, Leopold Teraspulsky, and finally with Norman Fischer at the Shepherd School of music at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Seeking to broaden his musical skills and vocabulary after conservatory training, he took an interest in Hindustani music. His studies began in Toronto with the sarangi player, Aruna Narayan, who urged him to adapt Hindustani music to cello rather than learn an Indian instrument. He continued in Los Angeles where he took up intensive training with Jagan Ramamoorthy, a senior disciple of the violin virtuoso Padmabushan Dr. N. Rajam. He completed his MFA at CalArts in Hindustani music. After graduate school Jake moved to Montreal, where he continued to perform Hindustani music, both as a soloist and accompanist for Kathak dance. In 2010 he traveled to India with an arts fellowship from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute to support formal study under Padmabushan Dr. N. Rajam for six years. In India he recorded and performed with many of the most celebrated musicians in Bollywood. His unique sound can be heard on season two of MTV's "Coke Studio," multiple episodes of "MTV Unplugged," and in a number of Bollywood soundtracks.
Since returning to the United States in 2016, Jake has joined the Slipstream Ensemble at Marlboro College, a composer/performer ensemble in residence, and performs with Layale Chaker and Sarafand. He also performs with Adam Rudolph's GO Organic Orchestra and is a frequent collaborator with the Brooklyn Raga Massive. He has been an advocate for new music for solo cello which he programs in recital alongside Hindustani music. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"We are very pleased to work with Stan and Jake on this project," said Juno's music director, Zon Eastes. "This new work blends western and Indian elements in quite a striking way. Part Dvo k, part improvisation, the piece is built on principles of harmonic balance that allow for remarkable flexibility within a unified context. The work is entirely accessible."
The central portion of the piece calls for an extended improvised cadenza inspired by Indian ragas. Stan quipped, "Who knows what Jake will do?"
In addition to the Charkey family connection, Juno's upcoming program includes an instrumental "Sinfonia" by J.S. Bach, this one from Cantata 147.
"In a singularly superhuman, six-year outburst, Johann Sebastian Bach composed and produced a new cantata every Sunday. Every single Sunday," Eastes notes. "And this was just one of a number of duties he had while serving as music director at St. Thomas in Leipzig. On some Sundays, his choir got a break from performance, so Bach would supply an orchestral opening for that Sunday's cantata. Many times, Bach reworked earlier compositions to fit the occasion. Wait till you hear this particular Sinfonia!"
Juno will likewise visit the Mozart family by way of a work from 16-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus, his "Divertimento in F Major," K. 138. There is evidence that young Wolfgang penned three works (Juno performs the third of the set) as his first 'publishable' string quartets, but his exacting father selected the moniker 'Divertimenti' instead.
"Whatever, dad," remarked Eastes, "The three works are brief, delightful, and expressive. The final movement of the F Major is about as clicky as it gets."
Continuing with Juno's exploration of the middle Haydn symphonies (those composed about the same times as the American Revolution), Juno will feature Symphony No. 46 in B Major. "Whenever one talks about the Sturm und Drang symphonies, one returns to words like unexpected, cascading, quirky, bedazzling. Haydn surely had a sturdy set of compositional tools that allowed him remarkable, always recognizable freedom to express his wit, his imagination, and his respect for his discipline," explained Eastes. "Symphony No. 46 is no exception."
The concerts take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, at the Brattleboro Music Center. Tickets range in price from $10 to $40, and can be purchased by calling the BMC, 802-257-4523.
Juno Orchestra is in residence at the Brattleboro Music Center. These concerts are supported in part by grants from the Crosby Gannett and Dunham Mason Funds of the Vermont Community Foundation. For more information, visit www.junoorchestra.org or call 802.380.9550.