Harrison, who died in 2003, belonged to a group of West Coast composers, who – unlike other Americans of their generation – looked to the East for influence, renouncing the conventions of the European tradition. Among the worldwide celebrations of this maverick composer’s centenary, Sarah Cahill’s current tour stands out. Presented by Accidental Music Festival, Cahill’s "Lou Harrison and His Circle" program takes place at the Timucua White House this Thursday. It will be Cahill’s first time ever performing in Orlando.
“Because he didn’t follow the European model, I think he’s misunderstood,” says Cahill from her San Francisco Bay area home (not far from Aptos, where Harrison lived). “Music directors usually look for a particular thing in music, like a rigorous structure and certain kinds of harmonic development, and that wasn’t what Lou Harrison was interested in.”
Meneses characterizes Harrison as a "poet, painter, calligrapher, and a devout follower of non-Western music and culture … an icon of his generation: a full-fledged personality behind a sweet grandfatherly face."
“It’s meaningful for me to be playing his music now because so many of us think about how we can be activists these days and work for causes we believe in,” says Cahill. “Lou Harrison did that his entire life.”
"Lou Harrison and His Circle," which Cahill sees as a story of Harrison’s life and friendships, is also “a story of adversity.” The program highlights not only Harrison the composer, but Harrison the man. As well as Harrison's music, there will be selections by Cowell and by John Cage, both friends of Harrison's.
"Harrison, who died of a heart attack, aged 85, on his way to a festival of his music, is getting the attention he deserves with this thoughtful retrospective," says Meneses. "This will be a first for Orlando."