La Jolla Music Society and UCSD-TV have forged a unique partnership to share the magic of Summerfest with television and web audiences. We asked executive producer John Menier to tell us a bit more about the history and making of the series.
UCSD-TV: How did UCSD-TV’s partnership with La Jolla Music Society’s Summerfest begin?
JOHN MENIER: The exact details are shrouded in the mists of time, but I first made contact with La Jolla Music Society in 1993. At that time I was interested in one particular event, an appearance by composer Bright Sheng at the Athanaeum Music Library in La Jolla. The resulting program turned out very well, and over the next few years we gradually developed an enduring partnership with the Society.
UCSD-TV: What are some of your favorite moments from past Summerfest seasons?
JM: I’m fascinated by rehearsals, and I love documenting the creative process. As a fan of, and advocate for, new music, it’s been a particular treat to watch such creative talents as Tan Dun, John Adams, Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter refine their work with some of the world’s best musicians, and to share their processes with a wider audience. The opportunity to interview them is a rare privelege as well.
There are many favorite moments. I have fond memories of L’Histoire du Soldat with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, narrator John Rubinstein and choreographer John Malashock; Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera, with violinist Cho-Liang Lin and pipa virtuoso Wu Man; John Adams rehearsing his Shaker Loops; Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra rehearsing their SummerFest concert; and the blending of chamber music and contemporary choreography by Allyson Green, especially for Tan Dun’s Elegy: Snow in June, an exciting and profoundly moving piece which featured UCSD’s own master percussionist, Steven Schick.
UCSD-TV: Shooting a live performance is quite different from shooting a studio interview. What are the primary challenges and what is a typical Summerfest shoot like?
JM: The biggest challenge is reconciling the intricate demands of multi-camera television production with the presenter’s requirements for live performance. We simply don’t have the same control over the concert venue that we take for granted in the studio. It’s really a process of negotiation, with regard to lighting, camera and microphone placement, and audio recording. I work closely with SummerFest’s production staff and stage management to ensure that we get what we need without compromising the performance, or inconveniencing the concert musicians or patrons. Fortunately, over time we’ve earned the Society’s trust, which makes my job much easier, as does the quality of their staff and of our production crew. It’s been a mutually respectful and beneficial partnership.
UCSD-TV: What can the UCSD-TV audience expect from this season’s performances?
JM: As in seasons past, viewers can expect SummerFest’s eclectic blend of established chamber repertoire, overlooked works by renowned composers, and new music commissioned for the festival. And, since I just can’t seem to stay out of rehearsals, you can expect behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with composers and musicians. Beginning this year, viewers may also visit our website for “bonus features” such as extended interviews, pre-concert lectures, etc. It’s all part of our determination to add value to the viewer’s experience by going beyond the concert hall.