The crowd took in a collective breath as the first notes of “Those Quiet Evenings” by Albert Behar rang out. Characterized by rich melody paired with impassioned vocals, Thornton Edge’s first concert of the year, which took place on Wednesday, struck a chord with its audience. Listeners lowered their heads with the somber, late-night meditation, heard the sprightly chirps of birds taking flight and laughed along with the quirky self-reflection piece about anger in this performance that celebrated love, loss and the extraordinary.
Described as “a snapshot of the third millennium” by director Donald Crockett, Thornton Edge was founded in 1976 by Robert Wojciak. Since 1984, the ensemble has been led by Crockett, professor and chair of composition and assistant dean of faculty at the Thornton School of Music. Under his leadership, the group, formerly known as the Contemporary Music Ensemble, specializes in new, classical concert music. Its primary focus is on compositions within the past 20 years and world premieres featuring student works.
They have been a part of Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella and New Music LA, an innovative series that focuses on contemporary music. In addition to numerous projects, their extensive repertoire includes concerts at the Paris and Lyon Conservatories, the Berlin 250 Jahre Festival, the 2014 Carlsbad Music Festival and soloists with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. They were also awarded the Outstanding Ensemble Award by LA Weekly in 2004. Additionally, the group has been conducted and coached by many esteemed leaders in the realm of music and occasionally brings in both faculty and guest performers.
Crockett said all Thornton Edge alumni are professional musicians and industry leaders in Los Angeles, the United States and abroad. Their broad collection of works showcases their talents as instrumentalists and alludes to the process of present-day music performance with the quirks, stylization and refinement that goes into perfecting the craft.
“The repertoire is very colorful and exciting, including Thornton student and faculty works, and the performers are excellent,” Crockett said. “I am honored to have this opportunity to work with these wonderful students over the years. I am very proud of all of them.”
The ensemble performs four concerts throughout the academic year at Newman Recital Hall. Their first performance featured compositions from renowned composers, most notably Thornton Masters of Composition student Tamzin Elliott’s songs “Carpet of Flowers” and “For the First Time Today.” Tamzin’s two works contained traces of indie pop, eclectic sounds and traditional classical music set to introspective lyrics that created an experience that resonated with contemporary listeners. The instruments seemed to paint a picture that gave the audience a rich understanding of the music in a way that probed the depths of human existence with works such as “Death Speaks” by David Lang and “Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say” by Kate Soper. At the conclusion of the last song, the performers were met with heavy applause and shouts of “Bravo!” could be heard throughout the room. With haunting lyrics, dynamic harmonies and expressive movements, the power of music and spirited joy rocked the audience — a tribute to the turbulence of life’s ups and downs.