Ari Picker's Symphony No. 1 in C Minor
UNC-Chapel Hill's Hill Hall Auditorium
Saturday, Nov. 1
Project Symphony—the latest creation of Lost in the Trees and ex-Never guitarist Ari Picker—is an intrinsically interdisciplinary idea: As Picker's plan goes, each year, a composer will write a new symphony to be debuted by the Project Symphony Orchestra, a motley but well-rehearsed orchestra pairing professional classical musicians with students in high school and college. Proceeds from ticket sales will be split between a commission for the next year's piece and a donation to a charity that's meant something to that year's composer. The audience, ideally, would also mix the young and the old, the zealous parent and the keen listener, the rock-band fan and the classical aficionado.
Saturday night's Project Symphony debut, then, was mostly a coup. An audience split among the aforementioned demes didn't quite fill Hill Hall Auditorium, but it did greet all of the evening's work with enthusiasm. Its burst of applause elicited a modest blush from Phil Cook, who plays banjo and guitar in local rock band Megafaun, after his poignant take on Duke Ellington's "The Single Petal of a Rose." Picker's Lost in the Trees played next, its small-symphony spin on his solipsistic acoustic indie pop foreshadowing the dynamics and eclecticism of the night's main event, Picker's Symphony No. 1 in C Minor.
Composed in a traditional four-movement mold, beginning with a sonata and ending with a scherzo, Picker's piece was erudite and elegant, its swiveling melodies and liminal exploration at the edge of tension and playfulness adding an implicit cinematic scope. As intended, the best moments came when you could feel the extra-classical influences in Picker's work, whether he was thanking the night's charity, Chatham County Together, for its work in his life, or whether it was the orchestra highlighting the Balearic spree or childlike skitter in the music itself. The night's success was foundational in every way for Project Symphony, one of the most exciting new artistic possibilities to surface in the Triangle this decade.