When we think about the Bates Dance Festival, we think about dance. That seems obvious.
On Tuesday, we also should think about music.
Each year, the Lewiston-based festival attracts several supremely talented musicians to the Bates College campus. They mostly perform music to accompany dancers in the classroom. But one night during the festival, the musicians get the stage to themselves.
The Musicians’ Concert, set for Tuesday night at the Franco-American Heritage Center, usually provides one of the festival’s most inspired evenings of performance.
The musicians room together throughout the festival, and jam on the porch of their house after hours.
“The concert is a chance to share some of that with the public, because they can’t sit on the porch and hear it,” said Jesse Manno, a multi-instrumentalist and teacher from Boulder, Colo., where he is director of the University of Colorado dance department and runs a recording studio.
The musicians who come to Maine are multi-talented. Many play several instruments. All improvise, and all take risks.
Tuesday’s concert will blend music from around the world in a variety of styles. In addition to Manno, the evening features multi-instrumentalists Glen Fittin, Albert Mathias, Terrence Karn, Peter Jones, Carl Landa, Michael Wall, Rajesh Bhandari and the Portland-based percussionist Shamou.
This is Manno’s 12th year at the festival. He plays various guitar-like instruments from the Middle East and the Balkans.
“It’s a wonderful place for a musician to be, because dancers thrive on music,” he said. “That goes without saying, although Bates encourages all kinds of experimental stuff, and there are some dancers who do not use any music at all. But in general, it’s a really great place for a musician. We feel really appreciated.”
Festival director Laura Faure rewards the musicians with this concert. For Manno and his colleagues, it’s a rare opportunity to perform anything they want. Further, it’s a chance to mix instruments that do not typically go together, as well as instruments we do not often hear.
Bhandari, for instance, plays the tabla, a percussive instrument from India.
Glen Fittin, a percussionist, said performing at the festival has forced him to expand his musical dialog and become comfortable with other instruments.
“I am primarily a percussionist. But getting into this field, I had to develop keyboard skills, vocal skills and other skills. People who are drawn to working in the moment and who are not afraid of having pressure put on them and create, do well in this field. It is great for people who are very creative and have good skills as collaborators.”
Said Manno, “We’re a bunch of musicians who are good at improvising and good at collaborating. We do a lot of that.”
The concert will include music the musicians have worked out together, some solo pieces and a lot of jamming. For the audience, attending the Musicians’ Concert should feel different from hearing a favorite band.
“It’s like going to hear a few different bands made up of some of the same people doing different things,” Manno said. “We never know what is going to happen until the night before, when we begin to work out what we want to do.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:
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