Listening to music can conjure up all sorts of sensations. It can lift our spirits – but also induce a sense of melancholy. English playwright William Congreve noted, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.” That’s quite an observation, and one with which Lucas Richman would, no doubt, concur.
Richman, 54, is an American composer and conductor who will soon be returning to these shores to oversee five concerts by the Israel Camerata Jerusalem. All told, the ensemble, Richman, British pianist Mark Bebbington and Israeli soprano Keren Hadar will put on five performances around the country, January 18 to 22, taking in three outings at the Tel Aviv Museum (January 18 and January 19), one at the Ness Ziona Pais Art Center (January 21) and closing at the Jerusalem Theater on January 22.
The works that Richman performs and writes elicit visual images, along with the emotional stuff. A fair slice his acclaim – and his income – to date has come from contributing to movie soundtracks, including having a hand in bringing Calling All Dawns to sensational and award-winning fruition. The said project is a classical crossover album spearheaded by American composer Christopher Tin, released in 2009. In 2001, Richman was among several participants in the venture to receive the Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album, for his conducting of the work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Richman says it is certainly a feather in his professional cap, but also took him by surprise. “I didn’t even know I qualified for the award,” he laughs. The gilded gramophone trophy has pride of place at his home in Bangor, Maine. “It’s sitting on my piano,” he says proudly.”
Calling All Dawns is a stirring creation that incorporates material from a wide range of cultures and languages, including Swahili, Japanese, Latin, Sanskrit, French, Maori and even Hebrew. With that backdrop, it is hardly surprising to see Richman take on the forthcoming La Scala di Seta program here.
The title of the concert was taken from the Rossini overture that features in the five-piece lineup. The full concert spread takes in Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture – aka Fingal’s Cave – and his Piano Concerto no. 1 in G minor, the eponymous Rossini work, Haydn’s Symphony no. 53 and an intriguing array of cultural references in Folk Songs for soprano and orchestra by 20th century Italian composer Luciano Berio.
Richman is suitably enthused with the bill, even if he was involved in the selection process.
“I cannot take credit for the programming,” he says. “It was being planned as I was being engaged.”
The conductor appreciates the eclectic nature of the offering.
“It is a wonderful program. I love the inclusion of the Berio folk songs, and I am very much looking forward to collaborating with Keren Hadar.”
Over the years, the Israeli soprano has sunk her considerable vocal chords into all kinds of material and she will, no doubt, enjoy the expansive hinterland of sounds and cultural sentiments referenced by the Italian composer. Berio is chiefly known for his experimental project, which also taken in electronic music, but Folk Songs cycle is a very different venture that feeds off of root material from Armenia, France, Azerbaijan, Italy and Scotland.
Richman notes that thematic stretch allows generous room for maneuver and resonates elsewhere in the concert repertoire, too.
“Within the collection of folk songs themselves, there are multicultural and very diverse elements. They are a wonderful reflection, for instance, on the Hebrides Overture, which finds its way all the way into Scotland, to the American folk songs and all kinds of things.”
Richman’s previous experience on Calling All Dawns ties in neatly with the current multi-pronged venture.
“That was a real joy,” he says about the Grammy-winning project. “That came about because, for the past 21 years, I have taught a conducting workshop in Los Angeles.”
That brought Richman into contact with many of the score writers working in Tinseltown and its environs.
“I have worked with over 160 of the active TV and film composers in Los Angeles. One year Christopher Tin came to the workshop and, later on, invited me to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for that recording [of Calling All Dawns]. It was a wonderful collaboration.”
Richman was no stranger to thespian-related endeavors. Both of his parents are actors, and his now 91-year-old father, Peter Mark Richman began his film career in William Wyler’s 1956 movie Friendly Persuasion, which starred Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire and Anthony Perkins, and went on to appear in dozens of big-screen projects and more than 130 TV series. So, the composer had a good idea of the format he was addressing when he got down to conduct the score of, for example, 1997 comedy-drama As Good As It Gets, which brought Jack Nicholson an Oscar, and scoring and conducting the soundtrack for 2013 psychological thriller Behind the Candelabra.
This will not be Richman’s first working trip over here, and he also has a paternal link to the Israeli entertainment industry.
“My father has six decades of acting under his belt, on stage, film and TV,” he notes.
It seems Richman Sr. has also put in a few stints behind the scenes.
“He had a play performed by the Beit Lessin Theater,” his son explains. “It was about five years ago [July 2013]. In Israel, they called it A Medal for Harry. Originally it was called Medal for Murrya, but that didn’t translate that well into Hebrew, so they changed the name.”
The Israeli production starred Beit Lessin stalwart Miriam Zohar and fellow octogenarian Ilan Dar. “A Medal for Harry was taken on tour, all over Israel for two years,” Richman adds. “It’s a wonderful comedy about folks in an old age home.”
While Richman is more than happy to sit behind his computer and/or pages of sheet music, it is getting the fruits of labors out there to the public that appeals to him the most.
“The incredible thing about music is that it can live, and every experience is different. Of course, there’s nothing like hearing music live.” The excitement and satisfaction ante is pushed up several notches when you get to share the ride with a large number of like-minded proponents.
“That’s what I love about working with orchestras – that the performance is as much for the musicians as it is for the audience. We [musicians] got into music because of the extraordinary mechanism afforded to us through which to express heightened emotion. There is a famous theater director who said, “What a character can no longer speak, the character sings.’ Music afford us the opportunity to express ourselves in a heightened fashion that no other language can provide.”
Audiences in Tel Aviv, Ness Ziona and Jerusalem can look forward to quite an emotional and cultural experience when Richman gets here.For tickets and more information: 1-700-55-2000 and jcamerata.com
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