Ojai is a place where alumni enjoy returning, whether to perform or just enjoy the experience as an audience member. Lisa Kaplan is one such member of the Festival family. As one of the members of the groundbreaking ensemble eighth blackbird, Lisa was first here in 2006 when they made their Festival debut performing Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, and captivated the Ojai audience. It was at this Festival that Thomas W. Morris, artistic director, approached them to return to the Libbey Bowl as the Festival’s 2009 Music Director. After their memorable and fearless stint in this post, Lisa and the “birds” were asked back to open the new Libbey Bowl in 2011 performing Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre with Dawn Upshaw. And Lisa didn’t stay away long – just last year she again soaked in the festival experience, this time as an audience member!
Now we will welcome her back as both a performer and as a supporter to her very good friend, Jeremy Denk. Read her recent Q&A:
OMF: This will be your 5th time back in Ojai to perform but 4th since you came last year to hang out and enjoy the music. How did it feel to be on the other side of the stage as an audience member?
Kap: It was really wonderful to be on the audience side of the Ojai Festival last year. So relaxing! But also a lot to take in in the course of four days. I have been an admirer of Mark Morris for as long as I can remember, and it was truly inspiring to come out to see how he curated the festival. Highlights for me were, the John Luther Adams’ songbirdsongs performed on Meditation Mount at 8am where the sounds of the instrumental bird songs and the actual birds singing their song were completely blurred. Hearing Yulia Van Doren sing Ives and Cowell and Cage, sitting in on toy piano to play In C on a glorious, sunny morning, and Mark’s musical choreography to all of the dance. I was blown away by his piece to Samuel Barber’s “Excursions.” A piano work I’ve never liked but somehow with Mark’s choreography, it absolutely came to life for me. Now when I hear that piece, I can’t help but think of the dancing that goes with it.
OMF: What was your advice to Jeremy Denk once Tom Morris asked him to be Music Director for Ojai?
Kap: I told him that it would be a lot of work, but totally worth it! I encouraged him to do something bold and audacious that he may never have the opportunity to do otherwise. Ojai is a playground for those kinds of projects and has a devoted following that isn’t afraid of new work so it is the perfect opportunity to program something innovative or totally crazy!
OMF: This year we are paying tribute to those who inspire us as musicians, artists, and people as well as recalling an “Aha moment” during your path as an artist. Do you have one that you’d like to share?
Kap: I feel so fortunate to have been mentored and inspired by so many wonderful people over the course of my own career. Here’s a recent “Aha moment.”
Several years ago Jeremy and I were rehearsing Mozart’s exquisite 4-hand Sonata in F major. I was so consumed with wanting everything in my part to be absolutely perfect and as a result everything sounded safe and boring. Then, all of a sudden, I missed several notes in a run. I cursed out loud, and Jeremy looked over while still playing and said, “Great! After the first mistake, then the music can begin.” That’s what Sebök used to tell me. Don’t be so worried! Just play with total abandonment and the music will flow.”
I never played Mozart the same after Jeremy said that to me. I was so much less afraid to perform it and it was far easier to just have fun and make music together. The very best part about playing together with someone like Jeremy who is so talented, is that they up your game too. I always learn something new when I share the stage, (or bench) with him.
You can see Lisa Kaplan at the Sunday, June 15, 11am concert, performing in one of the “Canonade” pieces selected by Jeremy Denk. Buy tickets here >>