By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor
BIG SKY – Over the last five years, wild Up—a highly unconventional classical music ensemble—has collaborated with orchestras, rock bands and cultural institutions around the world. On Saturday, Feb. 3, the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center will join those ranks.
Formed in 2010, the group’s early concerts at Los Angeles art studios and rock clubs generated a loyal fan base and, eventually an invitation to become University of California, Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum’s first ensemble in residence. After wild Up loged dozens of concerts in the Hammer’s halls, courtyards and galleries, the L.A. Times proclaimed the group “Best Classical Music of 2012.”
John Zirkle, WMPAC’s executive and artistic director, saw wild Up in LA a few years ago, and was impressed by their performance—and that they were represented by the same agency as the world-renowned Kronos Quartet, a group that left a lasting impression with WMPAC audiences in February 2016.
“What you see on stage looks like a classic chamber orchestra, but what [wild Up] is doing and how they present music and bring the audience in is totally unique,” Zirkle said. “There are elements of fun—they are really engaging from the get-go—as opposed to the seriousness with which classical music is usually associated.”
Zirkle added that even the way the ensemble presents itself serves to dispel the genre’s stigma of stuffiness. “These [musicians] are not the coat-and-tie type,” Zirkle said, describing them as “grungy and raucous.”
But, for Zirkle, the most compelling element of wild Up is the group’s philosophy that audiences should “literally get on top of the music.”
“They invite the audience to sit among them, so there isn’t this barrier,” Zirkle said. While he didn’t divulge the specifics of what would likely be “adventurous staging,” he did say that attendees shouldn’t expect a “traditional sit-down, listen to the music, and go home” kind of performance.
This dynamic and flexible band of musicians, led by artistic director and conductor Christopher Rountree, is committed to giving visceral, thought-provoking and mind-bending performances, unified by the belief that no music is off limits, and that a concert space should be as moving as the music heard in it.
A cultural reflection of emerging generations, lines are blurred, rules are broken, and concerts can become more of a “happening” than simply a performance. In a single engagement, the audience may experience the works of Erick Satie, Ted Hearne, John Lennon, Alexander Scriabin, Chris Cerrone, Velvet Underground, Steve Reich, Andrew McIntosh, Jen Hill and Nina C. Young, to name a few.
For wild Up’s Big Sky performance, the ensemble will take the audience on an exploratory tour of the music of ancient India, contemporary California and post-war New York that celebrates innovation while honoring the contributions of humanity’s cultural ancestors.
“As the name of the group suggests, it’s [going to be] wild,” Zirkle said, adding that he encourages even the most fervent of classical music detractors to attend and let their minds be blown.
wild Up performs at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. Visit warrenmillerpac.org for tickets and more information.