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A counter-conventional experience with Muse/ique

Conductor Rachael Worby hopes to break barriers between musicians, audiences.

June 22, 2013|By Lynne Heffley | By Lynne Heffley
  • Rachael Worby is part of MUSE/IQUE "Summer of Sound" season at Caltech's outdoor Beckman Mall in Pasadena.
Rachael Worby is part of MUSE/IQUE "Summer of Sound"… (Photo by Ben Gibbs )

Muse/ique, the intriguing, eclectic orchestra founded in 2011 by conductor Rachael Worby, opens its "Summer of Sound" season on Saturday, June 29, at Caltech's picnic-friendly outdoor Beckman Mall in Pasadena with "Lost in the Stars with Patti Austin."

Austin, the Grammy-winner known for her rich, nuanced vocal artistry across multiple genres, will join concertmaster Roger Wilkie and the Muse/ique orchestra in a "musical mash-up" event encompassing works by George and Ira Gershwin, Sam Coslow, Duke Ellington, the Beatles, Paganini, Mikhail Glinka and more.

"There are a couple of other surprises that I don't want to give away," said Worby, the former music director of both the Pasadena Pops Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra of Wheeling, West Virginia, and a frequent guest conductor with major national and international orchestras.

The concert will also feature a tribute to the late icon of cool jazz, Dave Brubeck, the Morton Gould orchestrations of Kurt Weill's "September Song" and "Mack the Knife," and Pasadena-based composer-producer Tena Clark's "Way Up There," commissioned by NASA as a memorial to the crew of the space shuttle Columbia.

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"We're going to have great fun," said Worby. Austin's voice and musicianship "are limitless. When she sings Gershwin's 'Lady Be Good,' it's breathtaking. When she sings Kurt Weill's 'Lost in the Stars,' you're awed, and when she sings the Beatles' 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,' you can't believe it's still Patti Austin. The depth of her musicianship," Worby said, "is unparalleled."

The notion of breaking down barriers between musical genres, between audience and musicians, has shaped what Worby calls Muse/ique's "counter-conventional experience." The format allows for "a tremendous amount of osmosis and communication from the orchestra musicians, and from me, to the audience," she noted, "with the strong expectation that the audience members themselves are fully participating.

"The active engagement, the leaning forward, the active listening rather than the passive hearing, is part of what we're about," she said.

Muse/ique's "Uncorked" events, held during the fall and spring in such unconventional Pasadena venues as the Phoenix Decorating Center and the Castle Press printing company, continue the inviting informality: "You could find yourself sitting on a bleacher or a couch, on a four-foot-high stack of paper, on a turned-over cardboard carton or a folding chair or at a cocktail table," Worby said.

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