ICE Chicago Benefit: Musicians Gone Wild!

Impressions from Row G
by Arlene and Larry Dunn (@ICEfansArleneLD)


The rollicking fun side of ICE was on full display Sunday, April 1 at the 2012 ICE Chicago Benefit. A sardine-packed crowd of young hipsters, lightly salted and peppered with enough gray-hairs to keep it well-seasoned, reveled in the festivities of music, food, and drink at Longman & Eagle in Logan Square. ICE Board member Scott Hunter and his working committee assembled a fascinating array of silent auction items and a program of non-stop amusement. The highlights of the day, of course, were the zany, madcap music performances by ICE stalwarts bassoonist Rebekah Heller, clarinetist Joshua Rubin, King-for-the-Day tenor Peter Tantsis, and the Queen-of-our-Hearts Claire Chase. 

Once everyone got a little Longman-libations-lubricated, Scott Hunter welcomed everyone to the event and yielded the floor to Rebekah Heller. She launched into a sassy bassoon reading of David Lang’s Press Release (originally written for bass clarinet). She noted that the title does not refer to something one’s publicist sends out, but rather to David’s somewhat inaccurate idea of when to “press” and when to “release” the instrument’s keys to play the score’s frantic low-register to high-register jump cuts. Well, it’s more complicated than that. But in any case, Rebekah’s playing raised the party mood to a fevered pitch.

Our next musical amusement was Rebekah’s duet with Peter Tantsis from the opening of György Ligeti’s opera Le Grand Macabre. In this perfect atmosphere, Peter and Rebekah redefined the concept of “drinking song” playing the work’s absurdist humor to the hilt. After a brief respite, Peter, playing his violin, with Clare on her flute, began pied-pipering their way through the crowd whipping the atmosphere into a frenzy. Eventually they made their way to the front and launched into an all out wild beasts of the jungle face-off, trading hoops, hollers, and caws with flute and voice. Peter then introduced himself to us as the time-traveling King George III and launched into a crazed soliloquy from Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King.

Joshua Rubin then took the stage to play Mario Diaz Leon’s The Soul is the Arena. This is a manic tour-de-force for bass clarinet with control pedal for reverb, fuzztone, and other electronic effects. Throw in some cocktail-shaker percussion and low-register mumble chorus of crowd noise and we thought we had the deep-reed 2nd coming of Jimi Hendrix at Monterey Pop. We half-expected Joshua to light his ax on fire at the conclusion. And that clarinet might have been hot enough to spontaneously combust.


To bring the musical program to a close, suddenly mad King George was back, this time ranting and prancing on the bar with his violin. For the final crescendo, he smashed the recalcitrant viol into smithereens, to the delight of the euphoric crowd.

As this exhilarating ICE love-fest came to a close, we realized it was all about one thing for all in attendance . . . WE ♥ ICE and ICE ♥ US.

Arlene (acornarlene [at] gmail [dot] com) and Larry (acornled [at] gmail [dot] com)


Listening/Watching Tips:
• A video excerpt of an ICE performance of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King can be found here.
• More of Peter Tantsis’ work in Le Grand Macabre can be seen in this antic performance as The White Minister from the 2010 semi-staged production by the New York Philharmonic.

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