Various Venues — Wednesday-Saturday, June 26-29
This year’s MusicIC festival, which runs June 26-29, constitutes a gesture of gratitude from the Solera Quartet, which has become the annual festival’s primary performer. In recognition of their debut album, Every Moment Present, which was germinated through the MusicIC festival, Friday’s performance will feature the favorites they’ve offered the Iowa City community over the past few years.
The quartet — featuring MusicIC Artistic Director Tricia Park on violin, Miki-Sophia Cloud also on violin, Molly Carr on viola and Andrew Janss on cello — will be joined by pianist Dominic Cheli on select compositions. Presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization, the festival is a celebration of the fusion of literature and music as complementary modes of creativity.
The quartet returns to Iowa City after a sellout debut at Carnegie Hall; a stellar headlining performance at the 2019 Iowa Arts Festival, where they replayed their arrangement of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon; and the release of Every Moment Present, which has garnered critical acclaim. The selection of songs on the album retain their connection to past MusicIC performances — the name of the album is itself an example of a literary/musical hybrid reference, taken from a letter by Mendelssohn to his sister. The concept of a prolonged open connection and attunement to the self, to others and to music is an apt encapsulation of the Quartet’s work as well as MusicIC’s promise.
The festival consists of three evening concerts held at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City and a Saturday 10:30 a.m. performance at the Iowa City Public Library. The program for Wednesday, June 26, “À la Russe,” explores Beethoven’s Op. 59 No. 1 — in which he incorporates Russian folk tunes in honor of his patron, Count Razumovsky — as well as Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No 2. Thursday, June 27, presents “With Our Compliments,” featuring Beethoven’s String Quartet in G Major, Op. 18, No. 2, the Franck Violin Sonata and music by contemporary composer Missy Mazzoli. Pianist Cheli will join the quartet on the pieces by Shostakovich and Franck.
The festival culminates on Friday, June 28, with “Every Moment Present,” a special live concert presentation of all of the music on the Solera Quartet’s new album. This includes work by Caroline Shaw, Janáček and Mendelssohn. The finale, in the Children’s Area of the Iowa City Public Library, will be interspersed with readings from student writers inspired by the music and the festival’s themes.
The strength of MusicIC’s programming comes from Park’s vision: In addition to being internationally renowned as a violinist, Park also pursued an MFA in creative writing from the Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her steadfast commitment to community and education as core values continues to inspire her work with Iowa City despite no longer serving on the faculty at the University of Iowa. In a phone interview a few weeks before the festival, Park said that “it’s been amazing to have an opportunity to come back to Iowa City every summer … it’s been exciting to continue to change and grow.”
In part, the festival contributes to the culture that Park appreciated when she lived here full time: “the writers and readers who are in and about the community.” She says that the festival has also been an invaluable resource for the Solera Quartet — the literature-infused works “are either on the album or are things that we’ve taken with us.”
Overall, as the brilliant rendition of Dark Side demonstrated, Park’s passion is driven by asking, “How do we use all of our narrative tools — musical, literary, visual — to tell stories in the most compelling way possible?”
Answers to this question will continue to unfold in the future. Park mentioned that next year’s MusicIC festival will focus on Beethoven, in conjunction with a worldwide celebration of the 250th anniversary of his birth. Long term, Park hopes to continue to develop what this year’s MusicIC festival already shows: a creative integration of form through interdisciplinary pursuits. This will include, she said, “commissioning new works on both the music and literary side … music from a literary source and literary pieces inspired by music every other year.”
The glimpses of this future that have been presented in years past, with local writers providing literary accompaniment to musical constructions, give every reason to believe that the festival will continue to improve and deepen beyond the incredible riches that it currently provides.