BEST BETS: NakedEye Ensemble exploring musical limits at Wesley College

The NakedEye Ensemble, of Lancaster, Pa., will perform a free concert at Wesley College’s Bennett Chapel Tuesday at 7 p.m. (Submitted photo)

Already stretching musical boundaries to the brink, the NakedEye Ensemble will take it  one step further at Wesley College next week when it performs a concert drawing on elements of rock.

Known for commissioning and performing original works in contemporary classical music by living composers, NakedEye Ensemble uses a variety of unconventional items, including toy, kitchen and noise-making tools, as well as acoustic and electric instruments to breathe new life into the musical landscape.

Along with a piece by Frank Zappa, Tuesday’s free concert at Bennett Chapel in Dover will consist of works by composers Richard Belcastro, Zack Browning, Randall Woolf and Rusty Banks, along with the world premiere of Aaron Jay Myers’ “Strabismus.”

The pieces by Mr. Browning, Mr. Woolf and Mr. Banks can be found on NakedEye’s upcoming album entitled “Storylines Crossing.”

Mr. Zappa’s work “Sinister Footwear II” is off his 1984 album “Them or Us.”

“The piece comes from his interest in European modern music with polyrythms and atonal passages,” adding that there is also an area in work for saxophone improv and a guitar solo.

The difference between classical and rock is not a marked one, according to Ms. Song.

“There are many crossover artists that run the line between the two. I can think of Bryce Dessner from (the indie rock group) The National for instance,” she said.

Mr. Dessner has made a name for himself as an acclaimed composer. His orchestral, chamber and vocal compositions have been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ensemble Intercontemporain and Metropolitan Museum of Art for the New York Philharmonic.

“There are a lot of electric guitarists who can do both.”

“In our situation, our guitarist and drummer come from rock backgrounds and can do both and have learned the classical language really well actually.”

The NakedEye Ensemble was formed in 2009 while Ms. Song was head of new music studies and then dean at the now-defunct Pennsylvania Academy of Music in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

After two seasons of the group with the school, Ms. Song met other musicians in the Lancaster area with the same musical sensibilities and the group grew to become an eight-person ensemble, starting performances in 2012.

The group has more than 80 works in their collection and some works have received recognition from New York City’s UnCaged Toy Piano Composition Competition and New Music USA.

The goal is to expose audiences to cutting-edge and innovative musical compositions and explore musical expression outside of convention.

“Since we’ve been commissioning, all the pieces have been really great,” said Ms. Song, an acclaimed pianist who has performed and given master classes all over the world.

“When composers ask me what kind of piece I want, I really just give them very practical guidelines. For instance, I tell them if composers want their piece to tour we recommend they write for a smaller instrumentation.

“But I never tell composers to write in a certain style. I’m always curious to see what people will come up with.”

Mr. Myers’ work “Strabismus,” which will be getting its debut in Dover next week, is one such piece.

“It comes from an eye condition that he had as a kid that resulted in a lazy eye,” Ms. Song said.

“The genesis of the piece stems from elements and ideas that come in and out of focus in different ways. It has elements of rock and jazz that none of his other pieces have.

“What’s really exciting is when you learn your individual parts, you have this idea in your head of what the piece will sound like when everything comes together. Well this sounded nothing like what we thought. It sounded so much better.”

One of the hallmarks of NakedEye is its use of interesting utensils and instruments.

For instance, Richard Belcastro’s work “Knock ’em Back,” which will be performed Tuesday, employs a toy piano.

“One of our first commissioned pieces was for piano and cellphones. We premiered a piece by Monica Pearce at Tribeca (in New York) last November for six iPhones and a projector,” she said.

The free 7 p.m. concert at Bennett Chapel, corner of Division and South Bradford streets, is supported by the Kent County Fund for the Arts and Delaware Division of the Arts.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the Wesley community and local community to experience a very unique performance,” said Wesley Assistant Professor of History Stephanie Holyfield.

“We are grateful for the support from Kent County Fund for the Arts and Delaware Division of the Arts.”

Bumper Jacksons tonight

As we told you last week, Bumper Jacksons, honored as the region’s 2015 Artist of the Year and Best Folk Band from 2013 to 2015 at the Washington D.C. Area Music Awards will play Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts tonight.

Playful and creative with their originals and re-imagined roots music, they are known for their rich threads of old America with hints of blues, jazz and bluegrass.

A VIP cocktail lounge will be available from 6 to 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20-$25 and available by calling 302-678-5152, visiting The Schwartz Center website at www.schwartzcenter.com or stopping by the box office at 226 S. State St.

Poetry reading Saturday

Marcia Reed, owner of Gallery 37, 8 S. Walnut St. in downtown Milford, will host a poetry reading on Saturday, at 3 p.m. in celebration of National Poetry Month. The event will be held next door to the gallery, at 10 S. Walnut St., in the auditorium of the Music School of Delaware, which co-hosts the event.

Sherry Chappelle

Poets Meredith Davies Hadaway, of Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and Sherry Chappelle, of Rehoboth Beach, will be the featured readers. They will be followed by special guest Cecilia Ergueta, the 2017 recitation winner of the recent high school Poetry Out Loud competition. Cecilia will represent Delaware at the National Competition in Washington, D.C. later in the month. She is a junior from Wilmington Friends School.

The poetry reading will be held in conjunction with an art opening at the gallery. The artists participating are Claire Shenk Rodgers, a Philadelphia potter; Linda Batchelor, monotype collage artist from Northampton, Mass., and Catherine Green, silk screen artist of Stratham, N.H.

There will be a reception immediately following the reading at Gallery 37.

For information contact Linda Blaskey at linblask@aol.com

First Thursday debuts

The Kent County Theatre Guild will hold its first First Thursday event next week.

Based on the very popular Crowbait Theater Club in Portland, Maine, First Thursday is a monthly theater competition for anyone 21 years and up. ID will be checked at the door.

First Thursday is a monthly meeting of playwrights, actors and theater enthusiasts who gather to try out new short plays before a live audience.

Entrants throw their name in the actor and/or script buckets. Ten minutes is the maximum time limit and a play will be gonged out if your script goes over time.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Ten scripts a night will be performed and scripts will be randomly selected from the script bucket. Actors’ names will be randomly selected out of the actors’ bucket. Writers then have no more than two minutes to talk to their cast and set the stage.

At the end of the night, the audience will be the judge of the best play by acclaim and the First Thursday hosts will judge best actor. Prizes will be awarded.

For more information, contact Victoria Machado at kctginfo@kctg.org.

The guild’s Patchwork Playhouse is at 140 Roosevelt Ave. in Dover.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is Scarlett Johansson in the action-adventure film “Ghost in the Shell 3D” and Alec Baldwin in the animated “The Boss Baby 3D.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Star Wars: Rogue One” and the comedy “Office Christmas Party.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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