by Joyce Kahn
MONTPELIER — Music lovers attended a particularly memorable concert this summer. It both inaugurated the new Main Street pocket park as a performing venue and featured a combination of two instruments that are rarely paired: a saxophone and a classical violin.
A perfect evening and a welcoming audience greeted Patchtax, a musical duo from Boston, who initiated Montpelier’s Main Street Pocket Park as a special outdoor concert venue.
The performance recently featured the Boston-based duo, made up of Montpelier’s own, violist Karen Eve Boltax, and saxophonist Mary Joy Patchett in collaboration with dancer Elizabeth Epsen. Interpreting classical music with a modern flair, Patchtax performed works by Georg Philipp Telemann, Luciano Berio and Béla Bartók, as well as new works by contemporary composers Georges Aperghis and Kevin Laba.
Patchtax performs a wide variety of music that spans from the Renaissance period to brand new works commissioned by the duo. Boltax and Patchett, musicians with graduate degrees in music, combined syllables of their surnames to arrive at their band name, Patchtax. They live in Boston and have been playing together as a duo for three years. Both teach privately and have freelance careers.
These performances are part of a summer tour, where the artists will be experimenting with the shared physical space of music, dance, and audience. During the 10-day tour of Vermont and Montreal, which just took place, and subsequent September dates in New York City, the ensemble will be recording an album to be released in the fall. In Montreal, they gave two public concerts, one in a park, to the delight of mothers and their infants.
During the pocket park performance, these talented musicians threw themselves into the music as they engaged the audience. Patchtax’s inventiveness was evident in many ways. Patchett explained to the audience that not a lot has been written for saxophone and viola. In one of the Bartok pieces, originally written for two violins, they explained that they transcribed the music for their instruments, as they must do for many other works that they play. Part of the charm for the audience was in their moving around the park, situating themselves in a different place for each piece. This venue worked well in achieving an unusual intimacy between musicians and audience.
Interesting musical choices also contributed to the appeal. In the Canonic Sonata by Telemann, the two musicians played the same series of phrases but began at different times. The Aperghis piece entitled Rasch was quite modern and was described as a game of ping pong. In another non-melodic and rather discordant piece, the duo paired music with food and urged the audience to pretend they were biting into a lemon as we listened. In Berio’s Alfredo, dancer Epsen played with Boltax’s hair at a furious pace while the musicians played on. While pleasing to the audience, performing outdoors can be difficult for the musicians because of weather, sound, and distractions. This is definitely not a controlled environment, albeit one in which the performance appeared flawless.
The tour and recording project, funded by Indiegogo, involves filming and recording on location utilizing the expertise of sound engineer Kevin Laba. This is the first of their collaborative projects, and Boltax explained that collaboration is central to their process. They have worked with many composers, dancers, percussionists, brass players, and an electronic musician. They often view themselves as a trio with a rotating third member.
What does the future hold for these dynamic musicians? They hope to continue to develop their repertoire and push the boundaries of where classical music can be performed and for whom.
Patchtax’s parting words: “Montpelier’s a great audience!”
For more information about the duo go to www.patchtax.com.