The 1891 Fredonia Opera House will present one of its most unique programs ever when renowned glass music expert Dennis James presents Glassical Music on Saturday at 7 p.m.
James says he took up playing the unique glass musical instrument, the glass armonica, to investigate the 18th century belief that playing the instrument would cause a person to become insane. Not yet showing signs of insanity, James will present Glassical Music, an entertaining exploration of the history of glass music that is part history lesson, part one-of-a-kind concert at the Opera House in connection with Fredonia History Days.
Glassical Music is a witty survey of the complete history of glass music focusing on the development of Benjamin Franklin's glass armonica. Original 18th through 20th century compositions specifically composed for glass instruments by such composers as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig von Beethoven, Joseph Schmittbaur and many others are interspersed throughout the 90-minute presentation.
Dennis James, one of the world’s most respected glass music experts, will present a unique program that is part history lesson, part one-of-a-kind concert, titled Glassical Music, at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House. The event is presented in connection with Fredonia History Days.
The image-illustrated presentation is ideal for audiences of all ages and levels of awareness of glass music. An audience-participation segment includes the distribution of water-tuned brandy snifters to the audience who are instructed how to play and then perform spontaneous music together in a harmonic choir.
The New Yorker magazine said James' program is "a not-to-be-missed lecture/demonstration ... Dennis James is not only one of the world's foremost glass armonica virtuosos but also an unusually diverting lecturer."
The program features James' own glass armonica, a recreation of the 18th century musical instrument invented by Franklin. Franklin created his armonica after attending a concert played on musical glasses. He wrote in his diary the he was "charmed by the sweetness of its tones." His mechanized improvements resulted in what is now considered to be the first truly American musical instrument. The armonica quickly became the rage of Europe's music community and was enjoyed in performance throughout the Old World in salons and concert halls for nearly 50 years.
James developed his interest in glass music during the late 1960s upon hearing recordings of the German glass music virtuoso Bruno Hoffmann. In 1983 he organized the first International Glass Music Festival, bringing performers and enthusiasts of glass music from around the world together for the first time. He plays his own modern recreation of the armonica incorporating custom-tuned crystal glass bowls made in Frauenau, Germany. Mounted on a motor-turned spindle and rubbed with his water-moistened fingers, the armonica bowls produce notes and chords of remarkable sonority.
Tickets are $10 general admission and may be purchased in person at the Opera House Box Office or by phone at 679-1891 Tuesday through Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. They also may be purchased online any time at www.fredopera.org.
Glassical Music is made possible, in part, with public funds from NYSCA, a state agency, and the United Arts Appeal of Chautauqua County. Opera House media partners are WDOE-AM and Kix Country 96-FM radio, in Dunkirk.
Chautauqua County's only year-round performing arts center, the 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported not-for-profit organization located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. A complete schedule of events is available at www.fredopera.org.