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FREETIME: Oct. 8 GJ Symphony concert asks ‘Parlez-Vous Francais?’

Jeremy Herigstad
Cultural Confidential Contributor
French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925).
Roger Viollet |

GO&DO

WHAT: GJ Symphony concert, “Parlez-Vous Francais?”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tues., Oct. 8

WHERE: GJ High School auditorium, 1400 N. 5th St.

COST: $5-$30

INFO: 970-243-6787, gjsymphony.org

Five years of working for the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra has given this writer a great appreciation and love for classical music. I grew up listening to Three Dog Night, not Tchaikovsky; to The Beatles, not Bach; and to Elvis Presley, not Erik Satie; and upon studying the composers and works of the Grand Junction Symphony’s upcoming “Parlez-Vous Francais?” concert Tuesday, Oct. 8, it was a bit surprising to turn on Satie’s “Gymnopedies No. 1” and hear a song by the 1960s jazz-rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Musical inspiration can happen in many forms and any musician from any genre would be quick to name a dozen or so other musicians who inspired them along the way. Such was the case with Blood, Sweat & Tears during the late 1960s. They were the first “jazz-rock” group, which combined rock, blues, pop music, horn arrangements and jazz improvisation. They recorded many covers of popular artists of their own time including James Taylor, The Rolling Stones and Billie Holiday and they also incorporated the music of Sergei Prokofiev and even won a Grammy for their arrangement of Satie’s “Gymnopedies,” which they titled “Variations on a Theme” by Erik Satie.

The Grand Junction Symphony concert set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Grand Junction High School Auditorium will feature not only Satie’s “Gymnopedies” but also pieces by well-known early 1900s French composers Debussy, Ravel and Faure. The highlight of the evening will feature classical guitarist Javier de los Santos performing a remarkable guitar concerto by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo, who wrote his “Fantasia Para un Gentilhombre” while spending time with a friend in France.



Aside from Rodrigo, the other composers lived and created during a time of great revival in France known as “Belle Epoque” or the “Beautiful Era.” They all enjoyed great success as composers with the exception of Erik Satie, who had a moderate following but never achieved the greatness of his contemporaries. He was a very colorful and eccentric figure in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde but seemed resigned to only skim by with his music.

In fact, Satie’s eccentricities even extended to how he addressed himself. He referred to himself as a “phonometrician” (meaning “someone who measures sounds”) preferring this designation to that of a “musician,” after having been called “a clumsy but subtle technician” in a book on contemporary French composers published in 1911.



He also, apparently, referred to himself as a “gymnopaedist” before even having written a note of his most famous work by the same name. The story goes that Satie visited the Chat Noir cabaret; he was introduced to its director, Rodolphe Salis, who was famous for serving sharp comments. Being coerced to mention his profession, Satie, lacking any recognizable professional occupation, presented himself as a “gymnopaedist,” supposedly in an attempt to outwit the director. Whether the ploy worked with Salis is not known, it did, however, stump this writer as to finding a definition of what a gymnopaedist is or what Satie thought the term meant as it related to him.

His eccentricities and “titles” aside, Satie created a beautiful piece of music and you should make plans to join the Grand Junction Symphony for an evening of “belle musique” on Tuesday. Tickets for the concert are still available and can be purchased online at http://www.gjsymphony.org, by calling 970-243-6787, or visiting the Grand Junction Symphony office at 414 Main St.

WINE & TAPAS

If you are nearing the end of this story and find its conclusion lacking or you would like to learn more about the Belle Epoque, the Grand Junction Symphony Guild is hosting its first Wine & Tapas event of the season. “Champagne, Canapés & Cheesecake” begins at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the First Congregational Church across the street from Grand Junction High School. Tickets are only $25 for delectable appetizers, sparkling wines and gourmet cheesecakes and will also feature Maestro Kirk Gustafson giving a short pre-concert lecture on the evening’s concert selections.


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