Migration as an art

An art festival at the Mondavi Center will explore the act of migration through art, dance and music.

Worlds of Discovery and Loss, which runs from Wednesday to Feb. 3, will feature performances from the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, the Empyrean Ensemble, the Calder Quartet as well as members of the Department of Theatre & Dance.

This festival was initially conceived as a follow-up to the Madness and Music festival put on by the Department of Music in the fall of 2010.

“We wanted to do something similar, but include a lot more people in the process,” said Phil Daley, the events and publicity manager for the Department of Music, in a phone interview.

The idea was partially inspired by the Campus Community Book Project, which chose The Warmth of Other Suns, a nonfiction account of America’s great migration.

“A lot of the festival stems from the Mondavi Center wanting to support the book project. I like how this festival takes a more expansive view of the book’s topic,” said Dr. Sam Nichols, a lecturer in the Department of Music.

Nichols, along with Dr. Laurie San Martin of the Department of Music, helped to coordinate this festival.

“We have taken a few events that would’ve happened around this time anyway, such as a concert from the Empyrean Ensemble and a Symphony Orchestra performance, and got them to overlap for the festival. In addition, the Mondavi Center got the Calder Quartet to perform as well,” Nichols said in a phone interview.

UC San Diego associate professor Lei Liang, who was born in China, will serve as a composer-in-residence for the festival, with his music being showcased. In addition to Liang, seven young composers from around the world were invited to work with Liang and to have their work performed during the festival.

“For me, this is a fantastic chance to get to know young composers whose work we would otherwise not hear,” Nichols said.

In addition to classical music, the festival will feature other displays of art. An art exhibition curated by Robin Hill of the Art Studio Department will be on display in the lobby of the Mondavi Center during the festival.

Also, the Institute for Exploration in Theatre, Dance and Performance will hold an exhibition that includes “The Migration Project” by Christine Germain, an MFA student.

“My piece is a combination of dance theatre and autobiographical narrative, based on my experiences in migrating to America. It addresses the frustration and killing of passion that the paperwork and bureaucracy of migration has on a relationship,” Germain said.

In addition to Germain’s piece, ITDP is showing extracts from a play by Susan-Jane Harrison and a dance choreographed by Jarrell Iu-Hui Chua and Bobby August, Jr.

Bella Merlin, a professor of acting in the Department of Theatre & Dance, will perform a set of European love songs for the festival.

“‘Alien,’ ‘stranger,’ ‘foreigner,’ ‘immigrant’ are all potent words, and I wanted to combine the potency of those words with the potency of love,” Merlin said. “I thought I would bring a taste of my European-ness to the stage, with a series of torch songs and street ballads from European music-makers including Edith Piaf, Kurt Weill and Marlene Dietrich.”

Daley encourages visitors to attend more than one event.

“People should really try to attend as many parts of the festival as they can, because it’ll really help them understand the concept and they’ll get something rewarding out of it.”

For a full list of the events and for more information, check out the Mondavi Center’s website at mondaviarts.org.

JOHN KESLER can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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