Thursday, March 29, 2018

Rick Robinson: "Symphony Swings into Action" 7:30 PM Sunday, April 8, Birmingham Temple on 12 Mile Rd. near Detroit


Photo by David Burnett

Draylen Mason makes 1st down

Kevlar Afrika with Simfonica

Rick Robinson

March 29, 2018

Rick Robinson writes:

Dear Friends,       

My bi-monthly newsletter seems to be turning into quarterly. Given the increasing pace of information today, perhaps that's not such a bad thing. CutTime® in 2018 is off to a slow but promising start.

Simfonica played two great concerts at the Fox Run senior community and the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church. Even older, traditional audiences seem to enjoy being invited to join the music-making on soft toy percussion from time to time. Our drummer Mike List cued them in with a yellow banana shaker (pic at top). We received a fairly good video of the former performance, which I'll cut and make available on YouTube. And we further surprised the church audience with a taste of our new partnership with The Urban Requiem Project I mentioned in our last newsletter. Kevlar Afrika waxed poetically over my Serenade and each hand washed the other: the poetry gained urgency and arc, while the music gained relevance and a modern authenticity. I'll write a bit more about where this is going next.

The postcard design by the church music director Jim Biery was so good, I asked him to create a promotional card we can use to book more gigs. Explaining the differences between the two ensembles, it is linked here for you to see, share and help us adapt classical and symphonic music near you.

I always enjoy subbing bass into local orchestras. Once again I played in the Sphinx Competition orchestra; this time as assistant to Philadelphia Orchestra Associate Principal Joseph Conyers

The last time he and I played together decades ago, he was subbing into DSO from Grand Rapids Symphony. Ann Arbor Symphony has me out regularly, and Detroit had me for the annual Classical Roots concerts and some educational services. I was particularly pleased to meet incoming DSO bassist Nick Myers, a fellow Interlochen Arts Academy grad and Michigan native.

In fact Nick was able to hear Simfonica perform for a meeting of Interlochen alumni at the Detroit Metro Airport Westin, and was impressed enough to take a publication catalog to Juilliard where he is soon graduating. I'd like to begin recruiting bass players like him and begin stepping out, to let a younger generation take ownership of CutTime ensembles.

Last week I played in the Detroit Film Theatre pit orchestra Richard Einhorn's incredible score for the emotional silent French film The Passion of Joan of Arc. And this week I'm playing Easter mass at Assumption Grotto Catholic Church in Detroit, where Father Peronne regularly leads musical masses, this time by Gounod and Mozart.

CutTime has magical concerts coming up in April near Detroit and Cleveland. April 8 (Su) 7:30 is the CutTime Players program at Birmingham Temple on 12 Mile, called Symphony Swings into Action. We'll highlight the intersections of jazz, folk, humor and classical with Bach, Smetana, Vivaldi, Robinson and Claude Bolling! And April 19 (Th) 7:30 I bring the Detroit crew of CutTime Simfonica to the Rocky River Senior Center auditorium for Now Time Like the Present. They've enjoyed Players twice now and can't get enough of our New Classical spirit. MOT Concertmaster Eliot Heaton (top pic) will be featured in both programs.

At both of these events, I'm going to interrupt the fun to dedicate a work to the great spirit of Draylen Mason (above), a spirited 17-yo bassist who was killed by one of the Austin, Texas bombs. This promising young man was a beacon of light in his community, soloed well in his school orchestra, participated in others and accepted to study at Indiana University. He was a great American who exemplified what this country stands for. His flame was extinguish, but we will help it live again that it can spread through tribute programs of music, photos, videos of him and friends who knew him, poetry, a new composition and perhaps even a song. We will announce a tribute program in Detroit soon.

This seems to be a new direction CutTime is taking ever since our DIA program marking the Detroit '67 uprising last year. The poet Virgil Taylor, in attendance, contacted me to talk about collaborating in The Urban Requiem Project (, which celebrates and mourns the life and death of industrial Detroit with  poetry, classical and soul music, and projected photos of Detroit's 20th-Century factories and families, often all at the same time. The effect is quite powerful. And we are applying for grants to grow, refine and perform our work on scales both large and tiny; eventually creating a large symphonic work that could resonate in all the rustbelt cities, and possibly starting this summer in my hometown of Highland Park, MI; the ironic City of Trees. Given the assaults on democracy, inclusion and fairness in America, the time is right for art to bring humanity back together.

So, the immediate future looks dark, and in need of dark music, the special domain of classical music. But through this darkness we will find a way into the unforeseeable future, resuming the path to universality, equity, tolerance and even some agape.

Meanwhile, come to our concerts, recommend us to concert presenters, and support us both spiritually and financially. Thanks!

- Rick Robinson (Mr. CutTime)

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