For the last 13 years, the board of musicians, community members and music enthusiasts at Musica Reginae Productions has provided a place where classical performers can reach new audiences in Queens.
Last weekend, their first annual New Composers’ Forum, gave the stage over to a group of ambitious and experimental composers. They introduced their work, took questions from the audience and sat back while the NYC-based Praxis String Quartet and pianist Dr. Barbara Podgurski performed their creations in the intimate setting of Forest Hills’ Church-in-the-Gardens on Ascan Avenue, quietly tucked a few blocks away from Austin Street.
Podgurski, artistic director for Musica Reginae Productions, moderated the performance and discussion with composers Sunny Knable, Beata Moon, Marjorie Rusche and David Schober.
“We found that when we programmed some of the really modern stuff that some of the audience who’s not expecting that, they get their feathers a little ruffled,” she said of the contemporary form. “At our concert series, we introduce the pieces and that’s often really helpful if you have more modern music.”
As the performance was the program’s pilot, Podgurski said the forum only allows the music to thrive and grow.
“This location is very warm and has a very beautiful piano,” Podgurski said of the late-20th Century instrument. “We plan on doing this here each year until this location gets too small.”
Dan Olson, president of Musica Reginae Productions, is confident the performance enlightened those who have previously discounted the genre, purely based on the era in which it was written.
“One of the challenges is that when people hear new music, they’re thinking of tonal and chromatic, and don’t realize there is a lot of very accessible music today,” Olson said.
His hope is this event, and those to come, will spark some new, youthful interest.
“If we do more and more of this, frankly we’re hoping to see heads that have more hair and darker hair coming out to this,” he said. “It’s not your parent’s Beethoven.”
Pianist and composer Beata Moon introduced her 2005 piece, “Dinner is West,” to start off the night, describing her influences and background for the work to the room of modern music aficionados.
“I love being able to interact and talk with the audience,” Moon said, reflecting over the evening. “There’s so many composers out there, and it’s nice to have this opportunity to share with other composers in Queens and elsewhere, and be able to talk about the work.”
Moon, a Forest Hills resident, explained the importance for composers to be able to discuss their work.
“I really love this kind of setting, and I think in every community it is important for artists to have a platform to express themselves like this,” Moon said. “Sometimes people associate classical music with the past, but really it’s vibrant and exciting.”
Sitting in the audience and in agreement with the necessity for this type of event was Randall Horton; a conductor, arranger, pianist and director who has worked with legendary groups such as the Jackson Five and Marvin Gaye, and was also the conducting and composing assistant to Duke Ellington.
“I think it’s a wonderful project and it’s unique in the sense that it presents truly new music for a small community here away from the business and international flavor of Manhattan,” Horton said. “It’s music just as wonderful as you can hear there in Manhattan, or anywhere else, and obviously we heard that here tonight.”
Horton, a resident of neighboring Briarwood, came out to support his fellow musicians and composers, as well as to hear some of the new sounds.
“Everyone is very cordial, and what I am finding is the people are very friendly to each other,” he recognized. “There is not an attitude of competition, and everybody is mutually supportive.”