Pasadena has long been home to plenty of great classical music, thanks to the dual presence of both the Pasadena Symphony and POPS and the CalPhil Orchestra. But since 2011, acclaimed conductor Rachael Worby has been shaking things up on the scene via her “counter-conventional” orchestra MUSE/IQUE, combining a traditional array of musicians with singers, dancers and other artists to create shows that bring unique themes to life.
Worby might be presenting her most original show yet this Sunday, when she heads the latest show in MUSE/IQUE’s series of “Uncorked” shows that are performed in unusual settings. Staged on the South Lawn of Huntington Hospital, “HUMAN/INSTRUMENT” will feature the a capella group Arora, “body percussion wonders” Molodi and “noise-making experimenter” Tracy LJ Robertson, who performs vocals and “vocal percussion” across all genres of music.
Add in choreographer Jackie Kopcsak, who specializes in classical ballet and contemporary repertoire; “seasoned boy soprano” Brandon Takahashi; award-winning whistler, aerialist, acrobat, circus performer and mad inventor Eric Gradman; and David Kremers, a conceptual artist in biology who transforms MRI data into Impressionist-style paintings, and you’ve got a show that needs to be seen (and heard) to be believed.
Better yet, all who attend can even receive a free health screening by taking part in a health fair from 5 to 7 p,m. prior to the show.
“We are with ourselves all day, and sometimes I think we may forget what incredible works of art and science we are,” says Worby. “Human beings are magical machines capable of transcendent creation through voice and movement. When we started to think this way, we began to imagine a performance that would include more than just singing. We imagined body percussion, dance, movement, whistling and beatboxing and all manner of body-related performing arts. And, of course, what better place to celebrate the splendor of humanity than at our beloved Huntington Hospital.”
Worby was inspired partly by a past MUSE/IQUE event that focused on a capella performers and left audiences feeling “uniquely uplifted and empowered.” Adding in the idea of performing at Huntington Hospital, she and her team conceived the show around the idea of the human body as “an instrument of wonder.”
For the New York native who served as music director of the Pasadena POPS from 2000 to 2010, following an illustrious career as both the conductor of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra in West Virginia and as First Lady of that state, MUSE/IQUE has been a refreshing change of pace. She considers the “Uncorked” series, which has seen the orchestra play at such unusual spots as the Pasadena Ice Skating Center, as bringing music off the stage and directly into attendees’ lives.
“Our event locations are more than just backdrops — they are community touchpoints that matter in our daily lives,” says Worby. “By bringing music, huge ideas, imagination, and jaw-dropping performances to these locations, we are hopefully giving our audiences a sense of empowerment and beauty and love for themselves that they may not have found in more traditional performance settings.”
Sunday’s show precedes a big move for the orchestra, as MUSE/IQUE plans to relocate from its longtime home at Caltech’s Great Lawn to the grounds of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. The theme of the summer series is “STATES/UNITED,” in which she hopes to create a “musical map of America.”
In keeping with past seasons’ tradition of presenting music from a broad array of musical genres, the “STATES/UNITED” series will include the streetwise sound of Harlem jazz, the music of Leonard Bernstein, coast to coast rock and soul, songs inspired by the American Midwest, the glittering magic of Las Vegas, the transformative hits of Route 66 and the uniquely inclusive sound of Los Angeles.
“We are inspired by the fact that [legendary composer and conductor] Leonard Bernstein turns 100 this year, the Huntington turns 100 next year, and when you look back at the last century, there is tremendously wide ranges of music and moments that we consider uniquely American,” says Worby. “We are so incredibly diverse, and yet we are more united than we realize, and this seemed like the perfect time to celebrate that fact with America’s best music.”
MUSE/IQUE performs “HUMAN/INSTRUMENT” at 7 p.m. Sunday at the South Lawn of Huntington Hospital, 100 West California Blvd., Pasadena. Tickets are $50. Call (626) 539-7085 or visit muse-ique.com.