ComposerCarman Moore and his Sky Music ensemble are an eclectic and extremely skilled group that has at its fingertips all the resources of jazz, classical chamber music and electronic music. Saturday night's concert in St. Mark's Church, sponsored by Music of the Spheres and titled "Flight Into Freedom," sometimes sounded like minimalism in its use of simple, repeated patterns. But it had a pace and a complexity of thematic development that left minimalism far behind, and its jazz spirit was disciplined by a sense of controlled ensemble playing under the composer's direction. It was music solidly in the classical context of the 1980s -- expertly performed -- and a fine example of the color, vitality and communicative resources available to classical composers today.
The concert was dedicated, as Moore said in his program notes, "to the people of South Africa of all races who hear the call of freedom." Two of the compositions, "Variations on a West African Lament" and "Soweto," used African thematic material, and African performance techniques (the minimalist-sounding ostinato patterns; the call-and-response systems familiar in African vocal music) were used freely in improvisations. Slides showing the work of South African artists were projected on a screen during the performance.
Along with four works by Moore, flutist Katherine Hay and percussionists Albert Merz and William Richards performed "Spirituals," a new work by Frances Thompson McKay, also dedicated to the people of South Africa. "Spirituals" is a gently rhapsodic work despite its use of a dozen percussion instruments, and it had the audience quietly singing along "We Shall Overcome" in its central movement -- a moment of hushed magic in the darkened church.