Modern Myths Review - Fulcrum Point New Music Project

Auditorium before the show

Instead of attending one of Barack Obama’s inauguration night balls or parties, we joined friends at the Harris Theater.  We celebrated while enjoying the premieres of choreography, music, dance and song presented by the Fulcrum Point New Music Project as part of its 10th anniversary celebration.  The Modern Myths theme emphasized the connection of music, literature and dance to mythologies around the world.

Harris Theater Lobby

The Fulcrum Point New Music Project was formed by Stephen Burns (trumpet virtuoso and conductor) in 1998 under the auspices of Performing Arts Chicago with an intention of offering new classical music and to highlight contemporary composers who were inspired by popular culture, that included; literature, film, dance, folk, rock, jazz, blues, Latin and world music.  These multi-disciplinary concert performances and educational programs seek to encourage audiences to make cross-cultural connections between new music, art, technology and literature, thereby gaining greater insight into today’s diverse world.

Some regular attendees and supporters of these programs talked about their experiences and shared that most of these programs celebrate modern music only. The bonus for this evening’s performance, they said, was the addition of dance numbers.

Thodos Dance Chicago dancer, Jessica Miller Tomlinson

In the World Premiere of choreographer Melissa Thodos’ Aries set to Karlheinz Stockhausen’s haunting, zodiac-inspired music (2007), Stephen Burns was amazing.  He became part of the energetic dance troupe, playing amongst the dancers, becoming a part of the choreography.  Burns sustained notes on the trumpet for an impressive duration. The stage was filled with dancers that were impressive in their varying sizes and body types, blending their skills, moving at first in a chaotic manner and then coming together into a more organized, repetitive pattern.  This was very modern dance.

The Chicago Premier of Richard Danielpour’s (1991) sensuous song cycle, Sonnets to Orpheus featured guest artist, soprano Mary Mackenzie, accompanied by a ten-piece Fulcrum Point chamber ensemble.  She sang six poems from the early 20th century Sonnets to Orpheus by German language poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926).  The music was haunting and Mary Mackenzie’s voice beautiful.

"Vajrapani, Wielder of the Thunderbolt Scepter"

Following intermission, we were charmed and awed by the Chicago debut of Vajrapani, Wielder of the Thunderbolt Scepter, a solo performance piece by Tantric Buddhist dance master, Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya.  Vajracharya, who currently lives in Portland, founded Dance Mandal: Foundation for the Preservation of the Sacred Arts of Nepal in Kathmandu in 1996. (

Tantric Buddhist Dance Master Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya

The American debut of Delhi-born, London based, composer, Param Vir’s
Hayagriva was inspired by myths from sacred Indian and Tibetan literature concluded the program.  Hayagriva depicts the horse-headed being known in Indian and Tibetan sacred literature and art as an incarnation of Vishnu, associated with knowledge and wisdom.  This piece had its world premiere in Amsterdam in 2005.  This Chicago Premier of Hayagriva captivated the audience.  In this composition, we heard an unusual and pleasing blend of sounds, and at the end, the audience rose to its feet with a long applause.

Dorothie Shah talks with Param Vir

The audience gravitated to the lobby where a reception was waiting. This offered a perfect opportunity for the audience to mingle with performers and learn more about their experiences and goals.  During a conversation with Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya, he explained that his dance is a kind of therapy - it makes bad things of all kinds go away.  We also spoke briefly with one dancer from the Thodos Dance Troup and with composer, Param Vir. Leaving for home, our group felt they had had a mind-expanding experience, unusual and special.

A lovely reception

The 2008-09 season will conclude with the performance of Dada Machinations, a program of music made and inspired by machines on Tuesday, March 3, 2009.

For more information call 312.726.3846 or go
Harris Theater:
Photos:  Leon Keer

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