The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech’s opening week continues on Friday, Nov. 1, with a morning ribbon cutting ceremony and the inaugural performance that evening by the Philip Glass Ensemble, launching the center’s 2013-14 season.
At 10 a.m., Virginia Secretary of Education Laura Fornash will join Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger and Ruth Waalkes, associate provost for the arts and executive director of the Center for the Arts, for a ribbon cutting ceremony in the center’s Grand Lobby. This milestone will honor the donors and the many individuals who volunteered time and expertise to the project’s planning and development. The event is open to the public.
At 8 p.m., the Philip Glass Ensemble will christen the stage of the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Street and Davis Performance Hall. The sold-out performance will feature contemporary music icon Philip Glass’ compelling score performed live by Glass and his ensemble to accompany the film “Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation.” A celebration of the human-scale endeavor, craftsmanship, spirituality, labor, and creativity that defines a culture, the performance was chosen by Waalkes to launch the inaugural season based on not only the extraordinary sensory power of the music and imagery, but also for the timely and compelling international themes and questions it raises.
The Blacksburg Children’s Chorale will join the ensemble on stage for the performance, providing voices that harmonize and blend with the film’s message and imagery. This collaboration exemplifies the center’s mission to create community connections and engagement opportunities related to visiting artists and performers and the content of their work. The chorale began preparing in September, under the direction of founder and artistic director Patrice Yearwood. Established in 2006 and featuring children between the ages of 8 and 18, the children’s chorale is sponsored by the Blacksburg Master Chorale as part of its educational outreach program. The children performing with the Philip Glass Ensemble range in ages from 10 to 16.
Through his operas, symphonies, compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg and Woody Allen to David Bowie, Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times. He has written music for experimental theater and for Academy Award-winning films, such as “The Hours” and Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun.” Glass is the first composer to garner a wide, multigenerational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film, and in popular music, simultaneously.
In 1967, he formed the Philip Glass Ensemble — seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer. The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.”
In the past 25 years, Glass has composed more than 20 operas, large and small; eight symphonies (with others already on the way); two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks; string quartets; and a growing body of work for solo piano and organ.
The ribbon cutting ceremony and the inaugural performance will take place at the Center for the Arts at 190 Alumni Mall and are part of the center’s opening week activities, which include a special opening event for the center’s visual arts galleries on Monday, Oct. 28, and on Sunday, Nov. 3, a community open house filled with family-friendly events and a performance by the conductor-less classical ensemble Sphinx Virtuosi. The opening week is sponsored by Virginia Living Magazine.