From New York to Huge Sur, the delivery of a live performance – Monterey Herald
BIG SUR – John Wineglass didn’t want to take his violin into the woods.
The three-time Emmy Prize winner from New York not only found the request strange, he also considered it absolutely reckless to take his valuable instrument with him on a hike to the Mittledorfer nature reserve in Big Sur. In the end he agreed and walked with his violin into the grove of old redwood trees.
That decision changed his life.
“I was straight from the concrete city back then,” he recalls. “You know, brick and mortar, bad attitude, dressed in black and gray all the time.”
The big-city artist was invited by people from the Big Sur Land Trust to picnic in the woods to see the natural landscape of the region.
One of his hosts asked him to bring his violin.
“What ?! Bring my violin?” He thought. “Why should I do that? We’re going on a hike and I’d have to take her with me!” But as a gesture to his hosts, he brought the instrument with him and didn’t expect to play it.
The Mittledorf property has one of the largest sequoias in Monterey County. Wineglass was amazed at this huge tree with the great natural protection in the trunk.
“It was like a bedroom!” he says. “I had never seen anything like it. I got out my violin and played in the redwood sanctuary at the back of this property. The reverberation of the instrument with nature, the smell, the people I was with, everything was magical. It was like turning on a light switch that would change the course of my life. “
The creation of the Wine Glass Concerto for Violin and Orchestra is documented by local filmmaker Doug Mueller, who captures the artists at work, certainly some recordings that were shot in Glen Deven and Big Sur. It is an 18-minute work that will be premiered by the Monterey Symphony, where Wineglass recently accepted the organization’s new position as composer in residence.
Composer John Wineglass. (contributed)
Nicola Reilly, executive director of the Monterey Symphony, says the wineglass concert is part of a series they hope to present the concert in the 21-22 season, but the date has not yet been set. “We want John to document this moment musically, and we want to do a lot to support that.”
Wineglass has also worked with Monterey Symphony concertmaster Christina Mok on an assignment called “Alone” which will be performed and recorded on January 29 in a location yet to be determined.
“I decided on the solo violin and electronics,” says Wineglass about this score. “So this will be fun. I am fascinated by her talent
From the east coast to the left coast
Wineglass had spent decades in New York, Los Angeles, and his hometown of Washington DC and had worked in high-tech television, film, multimedia, and concert halls throughout his successful composing career. His award-winning music was composed in urban settings and his lifestyle was tailored to the fast-paced industries that commissioned his scores.
Then he and his family came to the Monterey Peninsula 15 years ago. He says his wife didn’t want to stay in New York City for another day. Wine glass also wanted a change.
“I’m a New Yorker at heart, but I just wanted something different,” he says. He also saw the benefit to his family of a perhaps slower, more spacious lifestyle with new opportunities. “You walk around town here, and it’s not the LA thing that you’re constantly traveling in. And eight lanes on the 405 and nobody’s moving. “
Some of his colleagues in the music and film industries are based on the Monterey Peninsula, and the region itself attracts talented musicians and artists of many genres. The Monterey Peninsula seemed ideal for the Wineglass clan as their Los Angeles work was just a short flight away.
But in Big Sur Wineglass discovered the power of music as a collaboration with nature. “I realized that musicians had been making music outdoors for thousands of years. There were no concert halls. When you play outdoors, nature participates and inspires with its own symphony. “
He found something else too. “Big Sur is a place of reckoning,” he says. “It forces you to make peace with yourself.”
Back in Big Sur
Wineglass, transformed by this first experience under the roof of the Mittledorfer Redwoods, asked his hosts about the other properties of the Land Trust. He learned about the Glen Deven Ranch and its artist-in-residence program, developed by Lana Weeks, the late art administrator and publicist, to bring artists into direct contact with the inspiring power of nature.
Located in the Palo Colorado area off Highway 1, the ranch is 860 acres of forest, grassland, riverine, and wildlife that Dr. Landy Mudd and his wife gave Virginia to the Land Trust in 2001. They envisioned an educational venue for nature conservation, land management and artistic inspiration. Virginia Seeley had a longstanding association with the Carmel Bach Festival and hosted gatherings for festival artists on the ranch.
In 2015 Wineglass was given a residence at Glen Deven Ranch, where he composed his symphonic masterpiece “Big Sur: The Night Sun”, an impressive homage to the land and peoples of the south coast, which was performed in 2016 with the Monterey Symphony under the baton of Max Bragado Darman.
However, the first composition that came to Wineglass when it arrived at Glen Deven was not “Big Sur: The Night Sun”. It was a violin concerto. As he went deep into the spirit of the country and listened to its elementary music with all his senses, sketches for a concert began to form. With Glen Deven as a base, Wineglass moved up and down the coast, exploring its majestic beauty, wide open to the essence of the land and the coast. Although the violin concerto fell in focus when he was working on the Big Sur commission, he knew he would come back to it.
His ‘Viking Brother’
Step inside the Canadian violinist Edwin Huizinga, whom Wineglass calls his “Viking brother”, and an artist-in-residence artist from Glen Deven. Huizinga is an internationally recognized musician who is familiar with classical, folk, jazz and other genres. His appearances at the Carmel Bach Festival have earned him a loyal following in our community.
“I met him at the Bach Festival,” says Wineglass. “That tall red-haired guy who can play the crap out of the fiddle! We became friends immediately, and when Lana brought us together at the Big Sur Land Trust youth camps, we created some incredible moments with the kids and the outdoors. “
Working with Huizinga as a soloist for the concert was a matter of course for the two friends, who are both fortunate enough to have this opportunity to make music together.
Huizinga explains that making music lives from the two getting to know each other as people and as music artists. “Both John and I are visceral people. We really connect with the reality of a moment, a time, a person. When I hear excerpts from ‘Big Sur: The Night Sun’ I literally feel that John is in Big Sur, I see it. I was there with him. We both have this sense of awe of music and the places we’ve been and the community we support. These ingredients make me very excited to be a part of them. “
“I agree,” says Wineglass. “I’m not a telephone-it-in composer. This speaks on so many levels – the cooperation between the two of us, the connection to land and nature. Cant wait until we can meet in person and play some things including some improvisations which Edwin is brilliant at. “
Both men came from afar 15 years ago, Huizinga from Toronto for the Bach Festival and Wineglass from New York City with his family. Both are towering talents who take inspiration from their Big Sur experiences and consider this region to be the home of their hearts.
Another project for the composer is a co-commissioning of four Californian orchestras, entitled “Alone Together”, which addresses problems we all have during the pandemic. The four are the Monterey Symphony, the Fresno Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. The premiere of this work is expected to take place next year, but the date has not yet been set.
Wineglass is best known for his scores for shows on MSNBC, CNN, NBC, CBS, and ABC, as well as for compositions associated with Matt Lauer, The Brady Bunch, Kathy Lee Gifford, and Farah Fawcett, and others. He has received three (two consecutive) Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding performance in music direction and composition for a drama series, as well as three ASCAP awards for film and television music and seven EMMY nominations.
Huizinga, who has just signed a contract for his first full symphonic commission to premiere with the National Arts Center Orchestra of Canada, is now back in California and is eager to dive into creative musical synergies with Wineglass.
Christmas music during the pandemic
Although the pandemic may keep traditional concert appearances at bay, the virtual world continues to guide us through the long protective months of 2020 and beyond. The Symphony works with Carmel’s Pacific Repertory Theater and the Monterey Museum to bring holiday joy to your home on Christmas Eve. The broadcast will take place on December 24th at 1 p.m. More information is available at montereysymphony.org.
Wineglass says you can check out his “Toy Factory: Little Elves, Fairs, and Snowmen,” performed by the Portland Symphony under the direction of Maestro Eckart Preu.
He says: “It is a virtuoso work for winds, brass and percussion, which gives musical rays of light on the plight of the Christmas elves on the eve of Christmas construction and helps to deliver them before Christmas morning.” It will be streamed throughout December at https://portlandsymphony.org/event/magic-of-christmas-at-home/, among others.