Critic's Pick: Celebrating the summer solstice with new music

Music Critic

It began 30 years ago when Charlie Murrow -- a musical environmentalist, sound artist, chanter and tooter, inventor of the heart-beat machine instrument and event organizer extraordinaire -- gathered like-minded Manhattan chanters and tooters to celebrate the summer solstice in Central Park.

That concept then spread to places like Chicago’s Navy Pier, Minneapolis and Copenhagen. In 1989, Murrow shepherded Sun Ra and his Arkestra to Battery Park for a “Harbor” Symphony that included boat horns blasting away on barges.

These days many are getting into the solstice act, and on Friday there will be new music extravaganzas around the country.

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In Southern California, the invigorating Carlsbad Music Festival has moved its annual September Music Walk to June 21. Beginning at 5 p.m. with the Giri Nata Children’s Gamelan at Magee Park, the whole of the seaside village in northern San Diego County will be buzzing. The free lineup of some 30 mini-concerts includes drums from Kenya, the Teeny Tiny Pit Band of toy instruments, a number of UCSD and other San Diego new musickers, as well as DJs to finish off with a party.

Meanwhile, the Julia-Morgan-designed, aptly named Chapel of the Chimes, a cemetery in Oakland, will host an evening full of Bay Area music luminaries -- including Pamela Z and Amy X Neuburg, Dylan Mattingly, Maggi Payne, Paul Dresher, a Nino Rota cover band, and ensembles playing kelp and glass instruments, all organized by the venturesome pianist Sarah Cahill.

And then there is the massive Make Music New York, Murrow’s legacy having spawned the mother of all summer solstice happenings, with 1,000 free concerts in a single day all over the big city. In 22 of them you can bring your own instrument. But the star will be venerable Canadian composer and soundscape artist R. Murray Shafer, who, in the true spirit of Murrow and then some, will be featured in Central Park with dawn and dusk brass music as well as performance of his Credo by 144 lakeside singers.

Celebrating the onset of summer may all too soon become something with which to dumbfound your globally warmed grandchildren, so let the new music joyfully ring while it still can. 


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