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Shaker Loops and Pergolesi make for an interesting yet arresting combination, especially when sung by mold-breaking talent Samuel Mariño.

Camerata Pacifica – May 16, 2023 (Timothy Norris)

Camerata Pacifica wrapped up their 2023 season on May 16th, 2023 with a wonderful concert featuring the music of Adams, Bach and Pergolesi. The concert opened with John Adams’ Shaker Loops; I first heard Shaker Loops during the first year of my undergraduate studies and fell in love with it instantly. My career as a musician began as a percussionist, and Shaker Loops was my introduction to string ensemble music outside of a string quartet, and I hadn’t had the chance to hear it live until now. The septet of three violins, viola, two celli and double bass creates an enormous sound that is rhythmically driving from beginning to end. Immediately the technical and musical abilities of each performer were on display as they played sixteenth notes in rhythmic unison, edging ever so slightly towards a sound that could unravel at any moment – but never does. A gradual system brings us into the slower middle movements which display a beautiful array of harmonics; the faster notes return and we arrive at the final sections of the piece, once again revealing the impressive speed of the ensemble in its entirety. It was an incredible way to open a concert and while it is both the newest and the longest piece on the program it certainly succeeded in setting the stage of what was to come next.

The next two pieces, Cantata, “non sa che sia Dolores” by Johann Sebastian Bach and “Salve Regina in C Minor” by Giovanni Pergolesi used a larger ensemble of twelve musicians. I was eagerly awaiting the conductor’s entrance but was pleasantly surprised when it became clear the ensemble would perform without a conductor. The orchestra’s ability to communicate and listen freely without a conductor was clear right away. There was the sense that an overall stronger cohesion of time and interpretation was present because they didn’t have to use a conductor. Normally, a conductor is used to help guide the orchestra through their own interpretation but when a large ensemble doesn’t have a conductor they need to use their ears and communicate to one another. I believe this results in a more fluid and group oriented interpretation that rises above any individual. This group collective consciousness was on full display with these musicians. 

Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention the extremely captivating performance of the soloist Samuel Mariño. Samuel commanded the audience’s respect and admiration the moment he walked on stage dressed in red pants and fingerless gloves with silver painted nails; the audience was both curious and immediately drawn in. As soon as the male soprano sang his first note, the audience was on the edge of their seats. Mariño had the audience screaming and standing by the end of the performance for an encore – a request he granted, with “Quella fiamma, che il petto m’accende” from Handel’s opera Arminio. The Handel allowed Mariño an extended cadenza in which he showed not only his impressive vocal range, speed, and projection, but also his ability to entertain; he had the audience laughing along when he wiped the sweat from his brow to prepare himself for an incredibly high note out of nowhere. He had them gasping in shock when he mimicked an oboe line (from oboist Nicholas Daniel) that was dauntingly fast and high for an oboe, let alone a vocalist. Samuel is certainly a figure in modern music to keep an eye on. This concert was part of his first tour in the United States and you will certainly want to keep note of his next appearance.

‘Camerata Pacifica’ at The Huntington

Camerata Pacific closes their ’22-’23 season with a performance of John Adams’ Shaker Loops , J.S. Bach’s Non sa che sia dolore, BWV 209 and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s Salve Regina in C Minor, with soprano soloist Samuel Mariño.

7:30pm. Tuesday May 16, 2023