It’s a good thing that Geff Strik hit it off with Michael Francis, the Florida Orchestra’s music director and principal conductor, when the two were brought together for a lunch meeting following a Coffee Concert at the Mahaffey Theater last fall.
Good because Strik, a French-born painter who’d studied at the French Beaux-Arts Institute, had been asked to create an extra-special canvas for a special TFO presentation of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg’s moody, magnificent “Transfigured Night.”
Strik had already been coached in the complex layers of the piece by TFO librarian Ella Fredrickson, a longtime friend who happens to be a cellist, and a Schoenburg fan. “Ella taught me a lot of things – word by word, keynote by keynote, how this had to be interpreted,” reports Strik, who speaks with a thick French accent.
“But I also cannot be a monkey and paint on the baguette, because I am an artist and nobody can tell me what I have to paint, or where or when.”
Francis liked Strik, Strik liked Francis, and the project grew wings. The end result makes its debut this weekend, at the TFO Masterworks concerts Friday (March 29) at the Straz Center in Tampa, Saturday at the Mahaffey, and Sunday at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall.
There are less than six degrees of separation between Schoenberg, Strik and TFO. The famously rule-breaking composer based “Transfigured Night” on a dark, dreamy poem (“Verklarte Nacht”) by Germany’s Richard Dehmel. Strik used the Dehmel poem, about a troubled pair of lovers meeting in he moonlight, as inspiration for his 10-by-5-foot oil.
Videographer Joey Clay filmed Strik, phase by phase, as he created the painting (more like a series of paintings that transfigure into one another) in his studio; the finished video, 28 minutes in length, will screen behind the TFO musicians as they perform Schoenberg’s “Transfigured Night.”
A small orchestra – the string section, no winds, brass or percussion. On a semi-darkened stage, the way Schoenberg wanted it. Mood music. The words to Dehme’s poem will also appear onscreen.
“I didn’t want to overpower the music, or the poem, because an image speaks louder than any word,” says Strik. “I am very respectful of the work of the orchestra. We didn’t approach this as a video, but as a short movie.”
Strik gives all props to TFO’s Frederickson. “This all started with Ella,” he explains. “If I hadn’t known her for 10 years now, if we didn’t have coffee every morning practically, we would not have this synergy. Without her, nothing would happen. That’s what it is.”
The weekend’s Masterworks concerts also include Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring pianist Benjamin Grosvenor. Tickets and info here.
(Strik, Frederickson, project sponsor Phil Yost and the new CEO of The Florida Orchestra, Mark Cantrell, will discuss “Transfigured Night,” and show Clay’s video, Monday at thestudio@620. The “donations accepted” event begins at 7 p.m.)
And now, this
Over the past week, we’ve gone close-up on several of this weekend’s key events. Click on the link to read all about it:
Continuing this weekend (but still going into April): Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage’s acclaimed drama Crumbs From the Table of Joy at freeFall Theater; it’s a memory play, told through the eyes of a 17 year old African American girl whose recently-widowed father has moved the family from Florida to New York, chasing a religious dream and marrying a white woman. Nottage’s intense, emotional play has been called A Glass Menagerie in the Sun, as it combines elements of the works of Tennessee Williams and Lorraine Hansberry.
The cast, and director Jacqueline L. Thompson conduct talkbacks following every Friday performance, and freeFall Resident Dramaturg Timothy Saunders will give a talk Sunday at 1 p.m.
And Jen Silverman’s rather dark comedy The Roommate is going full speed at American Stage (more on this one in the Catalyst tomorrow).
Also at the Palladium: Tonight (March 28), jazz vocalist Katt Hefner and her combo channel the late, great Nancy Wilson; the traveling Listening Room Festival (Friday) with Birch Pereira and the GinJoints Rissi Palmer, Madison Violet, Five Letter Word, Matthew Fowler and the Prado Sisters and Cece Teneal & Soul Kamotion.