The Central Florida ensemble World Samba is busy beating a path to the hearts of more than 100 well-heeled, wine-consuming Floridians via percussion-heavy interpretations of bossa nova chestnuts. Almost imperceptibly, the dynamics in the room change when World Samba shifts into the traditional folk standard “Paranaue” – a clarion call for practitioners of the music-infused martial art known as capoeira.
The explosion of energy in the cypress-planked room is a surprise to all in attendance except the members of Capoeira Brazilian Pelourinho, who begin a demonstration to the exhortations of the crowd and musicians. Roundhouse-style kicks fill the short distance between several blurry practitioners yet none connect in a noggin-rearranging – a notion made more compelling as a 9-year-old blond lad joins what now looks like a fight scene from an Andy Capp comic. The martial artists, the musicians and now the audience are all a machine, stoking one another’s ovens in a scene that took place at Orlando’s premier cultural open secret – but to Jean-Marie Glazer, the imperiled boy, it’s just another night at home.
The patrons’ entrance to the Glazer family’s Timucua White House peeks through a tropical canopy onto South Summerlin Avenue, opposite Boone High School. Once or twice a month, the recently built three-story domicile turns into a nonprofit arts center, hosting free concerts and visual arts to anyone in the know. Those insiders have attended 120-plus concerts since 2000; the Glazers started presenting shows in a previous residence in the Hunter’s Creek subdivision. The shows have snowballed into a naturalistic, genial, all-ages cultural speakeasy – an analog of its owners’ personalities.
“In the beginning we were putting up notices in the grocery store and practically begging the neighborhood to come to our concerts,” says Quebec transplant Élaine Corriveau as she laughingly mimics the locals’ furrowed, confused brows: “‘Where are you from?’”
Corriveau’s 1998 migration to Orlando – along with husband Benoit Glazer and their three children, Charles-Édouard, Camille and future capoeira demonstrator Jean-Marie – was motivated by the inception of Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba show at Downtown Disney. Benoit Glazer was teaching the big-band curriculum at McGill University when a Cirque talent scout was drawn by one of the trumpeter/composer’s orchestral arrangements. The professor became La Nouba’s conductor, moving from the august diversity of Quebec’s largest city to the sweltering hinterlands of a largely rootless, tourist-serving expanse. Between the rigid theater show schedules and the gap in the cultural opportunities between Montreal and Orlando, the Hunter’s Creek concerts gained traction.
The first presentation at the house featured La Nouba’s house band performing something other than the nightly show, and subsequent locally and globally sourced shows have featured classical chamber works, world music and jazz. Eventually the Glazer family – multi-instrumentalists all – cemented a ritual of opening each event by playing a short number together.
Glazer accurately assesses both the insider and outsider view of the events as “ad hoc, relaxed.” Guests arrive with kids, light potluck and BYOB additions that amass in the dining room, and a decided lack of pretension. Just beyond the buffet, through French doors, is a scene that defies suburban domestic logic – an 1,100-square-foot, two-balconied concert venue complete with stage, piano, lighting and P.A. The jazz club that Orlando’s faithful have been longing for has been built at the behest of an inspired and inspiring clan – our own Von Trapp family. While some adolescent boys were sketching hot rods in their spiral-bound notebooks, one has to wonder if the ebullient Glazer was penciling the musician’s dream crib made reality in 2007.
7:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007
The Timucua White House
Between turning down the recording levels of the now-20-decibels-above-sound-check samba band and racing out to protect a pair of pricey, ceiling-hanging microphones from martial-arts kicks, Glazer announces the next concert. It’s Sunday, Dec. 16, “a complete 180 to this,” he says, waving his arm at the capoeira mayhem: “Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time.’”
The late Messiaen, a devout Catholic, birdsong devotee and beguiling modernist composer, was a French army prisoner of war after the Nazi invasion in 1940. He composed and then debuted the “Quartet” in the prison camp, with a ramshackle cello and barely functioning piano (sourced by arts-sympathetic German guards) joining a clarinet and violin. The 10th chapter of the apocalyptic Book of Revelation inspired this eight-sectioned masterpiece (Rev. 10:6-7, “There shall be time no longer … the mystery of God shall be finished”), but the title also plays on Messiaen’s unusual use of time and rhythm.
The upcoming concert came to Glazer courtesy of UCF professor Keith Koons’ Master of Arts in Music program. Students from the program have been rehearsing the challenging Messiaen work with Koons’ coaching since September, and presented it at a student recital. Several sections of the composition challenge the performers to interpret Messiaen’s suspension of time, which requires careful reading so as not to misrepresent an ecstatic moment as a funereal one. The degree of difficulty that the piece presents, in addition to the composer’s avant-garde reputation, makes a performance of the work a rare event. Koons welcomed the opportunity for his quartet to perform it again at the White House: “It seems a shame to perform it once and put it away.”[email protected]