Arts and Entertainment

STANDING ROOM ONLY: Chamber performs in reverse

It bears repeating: All art is political, only some works are more political than others.

Michael Nutt, musical director of the Saratoga Chamber Players, said he got the idea for the string ensemble’s upcoming performance in Langley from an amusing anecdote about 18-century Austrian composer Joseph “Papa” Haydn. Seems Haydn was rather ticked about the low wages his musicians were being paid by their patrons — royalty, along with the nouveau riche, being notoriously cheap when it comes to supporting the arts — and so he cooked up an innovative and incredibly poignant means of commenting on the situation. In writing the politically-motivated Farewell Symphony, Haydn took the meaning of “protest music” to a whole new level, a move not to be surpassed until Bob Dylan plugged in and bummed out a whole generation of soft-serve hippies. What happened was this: Haydn’s special symphony began with a full orchestra, and then, one at a time, the musicians stood up and walked off the stage until only one was left to finish. Such wicked ingenuity! Imagine the look on the pinchpenny Prince’s face when he realized what was going on!

Anyway, for the Saratoga Players “A-One, A-Two, A-Three” benefit show this Sunday at the Clyde Theatre, Nutt envisioned reversing Haydn’s attack; in other words, adding instead of subtracting players. In performing works by Mozart, Back, Beethoven, Britten and, yes, Haydn, the pieces will start with a solo, followed by a duet, then a trio, a quartet and so on and so on, until the whole ensemble is playing upon the stage. And furthermore, the trick — a sort of inside-out maneuver of Haydn’s powerful protest — is appropriate to the optimistic bent of the show, as proceeds from the evening’s event is a fundraiser for the Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund, a South Whidbey volunteer program that helps people “from Clinton to Greenbank” pay for uncovered medical expenses. Last year, FoF helped 110 folks with about $40,000 in medical-related bills. This Sunday, June 30, show at the Clyde (on First Street in Langley) starts at 4 p.m., with a $15 suggested donation ($10 for patrons under 12 or over 65). Call 730-7915 for more information.

Also, on Saturday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m. the Janie Cribbs Band, along with Timothy Hull, will play a benefit show on behalf of FoF at the Bayview Community Hall. Tickets are $12 at the door, or $10 advance available at Joe’s Island Music in Langley, Island Athletic Club and the FoF office at 1604 Main Street in Freeland.

Blues is one of the few truly authentic American art forms, a deeply felt music evolved from the African folk rhythms transported from the continent and transformed through the elegiac songs of slavery. Without the blues, no rock & roll, no rap, no “Brother, Where Art Thou?” Learn more about this mysterious millennial genre at the inaugural summer reading at the Oak Harbor Library. “The Blues: Evolution of an Art Form” is a presentation for teens and adults starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 27, and hosted by musician Diana Marre. This is a free, multi-media event, and participants are encouraged to bring instruments to take part in an informal jam session.

Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha hee hee haw haw ha! This Sunday, June 30, at 8 p.m. is Comedy Night at the China City Restaurant in Freeland, featuring Brad Upton and Jason Stewart. Tickets are $10; bring your own fresh fruit and rotting vegetables, just in case. Call 331-8899 for reservations.

Centrum’s Summer Chamber Music Festival at Port Townsend’s Fort Worden State Park continues this Friday & Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with performances by San Francisco’s critically-acclaimed Cypress String Quartet, who have been called “a Generation X ensemble to watch” by Chamber Music Magazine. the June 28 show will feature selections by Mendelssohn, Shostakovich and Czech composer Ervin Schulfhoff; June 29 highlights pieces by Brahms, Ravel and, once again, Haydn (let’s hope they all stay on stage). To order tickets by phone, call 1-800-733-3608, or on the Web at

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