A performance of sights and sounds
Classical music has the power to take the listener on a journey.
Nicholas Bardonnay wants that journey to not only be an aural one but, on occasion, a visual one as well.
Bardonnay, the creative director and multimedia artist at Westwater Arts, will join the Akron Symphony Orchestra on Nov. 4 during the National Parks: Sights and Sounds concert to celebrate the centennial of the U.S. National Park Service.
During the performance, Bardonnay will present what he describes as a visual concerto of images of national parks that he live-cues to the music and projects onto a 440-square-foot screen suspended above the orchestra.
“Because I am live-cuing the imagery, it creates a more organic experience than you would see if the orchestra was performing to a film, which has to be super precise,” Bardonnay explained. “During a live performance of my art form, symphonic photochoreography, I follow the conductor much like a musician would, and that brings a collaborative element to the process.”
In addition to images of Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and the Great Smoky Mountains, Bardonnay and the orchestra partnered with the Cuyahoga Valley Photographic Society and Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park to create a choreographed display of images from Ohio’s own Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Local photographers submitted more than 1,600 images and Bardonnay worked from there to develop a new visual concerto to accompany Frederick Delius’ Summer Evening.
“Through the eyes of the photographers I was able to get a sense of the park,” Bardonnay said. “This collaboration is special as it allows the community to co-create the piece and then come out and see it performed. My hat is off to everyone who submitted a photo. I was really impressed with the quality of the photography. I hope that by seeing this work, it will inspire people to go out and spend time in their park, and to come back for more of the symphony’s future programs.”
Bardonnay has created more than a dozen photochoreography pieces since joining Westwater Arts in 2009, working with both domestic and international orchestras. His most recent piece, National Park Suite, which will be part of the Akron Symphony concert, premiered this summer at Wolf Trap with the National Symphony Orchestra.
While the imagery is central to his art form, Bardonnay works to ensure that his photographs enhance, rather that overshadow, the music.
“The music drives both the creation and the performance of the visual pieces,” he said. “The audience loves it because it offers something that photography and classical music are not able to create independent of each other. Several people have even told me they didn’t want to blink during the performance.”
Learn more about Bardonnay’s work at westwaterarts.com.
The Akron Symphony Orchestra presents National Parks: Sights and Sounds on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at E.J. Thomas Hall. Single tickets are $20 to $55. Visit www.akronsymphony.org or call 330-535-8131 for tickets and more information.
The concert is co-sponsored by the Knight Foundation and the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.