Sounds of Jazz Age: NAC Orchestra’s Roaring 20s Festival

Naco shelley-3636 dwayne brown
Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra © Dwayne Brown

For five unforgettable nights (Oct-8-17), Music Director, Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra brought the sounds of Jazz Age “Storytelling music” to the stage. Featuring the music of Elgar, Cole Porter, Sibelius, Weill, Gershwin, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Ravel, and even Charlie Chaplin, audiences were exposed to the remarkable sounds of the era.

The early 20th century marked a time of unprecedented change and transformation. With the echoes of the Great War still fresh, nationalism gave way to the beginnings of a global society, and with that change all kinds of boundaries began to dissolve. Composers left their homelands— some by choice, others by exile—and set to work in new locales, absorbing fresh influences and reinventing traditional ones.

The music of the 1920s, in many ways raised more questions than answers. The advent of new technologies provoked significant changes in the direction of music, and caused many artists to question the direction music was taking.

“This music opens doors to a lot of very interesting conversations. What role does nationalism have in the arts, in politics, in identity? And how much are we the product of a very international world?” said Alexander Shelley.

NACO’s Roaring 20’s festival addressed this question by exploring the schism between jazz and concert music. In the opening concert “Transforming Tradition” the lingering influence of romantic tradition was explored through the music of Elgar, Bartok and Sibelius. While the final concert of the festival “What is Classical” featured the music of Ravel and Gershwin and an exploration of the creative clash between intellectualism and pop.

As Alexander Shelley explains “This festival has music which is not only accessible, but it’s also music which is very meaningful. It celebrates a period in our human history of creation that is really quite extraordinary. Few periods of time have encapsulated this more perfectly than the 1920s during which the effects of increasing globalization exposed artists to sounds and cultures that were new and inspirational,” said Alexander Shelley.

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