Orchestra to move into South Street digs

December 19, 2008
By

DAVID TABER


Photo by Yoon Byun
A Far Cry, shown here at the Arnold Arboretum, is a 17-piece ensemble of classical musicians in JP.

Makes a spectacle of itself

A Jamaica Plain-based leaderless orchestra will soon be able to say it is A Far Cry from South Street, even though that is exactly where it will be.

The 17-piece classical ensemble—named A Far Cry—is mostly made up of New England Conservatory alums and JP residents. Early this month won approval from the city zoning Board of Appeal to use the storefront at 146a South St. as a rehearsal/office space.

The ensemble plans to start rehearsing there in January.

Violinist and A Far Cry president Jesse Irons told the Gazette the space will “help us fullfill our goal of integrating into JP more.”

The group plans to rehearse in full view of the street, he said. “We will be visible to pedestrians walking by…Hopefully people will see us through the big glass window and want to find out more,” he said.

The one-and-a-half-year-old group also hopes to host some open rehearsals for the community and potentially offer music workshops and other community services, Irons said.

“There will be definite options for the public to come in and meet us there, he said. “The possibilities are endless as far as how we are going to use it.”

The space will also be available for other acts to rent, Irons said.

The openness and central location can help the group break down a wall that normally exists between performers and audiences, he said. “Often musicians are kept out of public view until the one day of the concert.”

But its exhibitionist inclinations are not the only thing that separates A Far Cry from your average orchestra.

Instead of having a conductor or leader, the group functions as a democracy, Irons said. A Far Cry votes on what music to perform and rotates leadership of its rehearsals. There is constant discussion of the “dozens and hundreds of decisions we make every rehearsal” about how they are going to play the music.

“On the artistic side, we always have and always will operate as a collective,” he said.

Irons said his designation as president of A Far Cry is a purely decorative title, necessary for the group’s status as a nonprofit.

The group’s day-to-day operations, which, since it was founded, have taken A Far Cry on excursions throughout New England and to Florida, California and Minnesota, are run according to time-honored collective-organizing tradition—by committee.

It has groups working on marketing and web site maintenance; operations and logistics; and fund-raising and development.

The new space, complete with an office, will help concentrate those previously diffuse efforts. Until now, A Far Cry’s business operations have been “administered from apartments around JP. It has been unwieldy,” Irons said.

But now A Far Cry will be concentrated on South Street. The new office will no doubt come in handy as the group heads into its second full concert season, set to begin in March. If it keeps up the pace it has set, members may end up virtually living out of the South Street space. According to a blog post by one of the ensemble members on the group’s web site, since the end of September, “We have played two Boston cycles of concerts, went on two tours, and recorded two CDs! Wow, that is really a lot.”

That includes a three-concert series in Boston, including a benefit for local nonprofits Bikes Not Bombs and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at English High School in early November. For the JP show, the group performed Osvaldo Golijov’s “Last Round”; Geog Friedrich Handel’s “Concerto Grosso, Op.6”; and Piotr Tchaikovsky’’s “Serenade for Strings.”

Early next year, passers-by might hear similar strains from 146a South St. if A Far Cry is rehearsing. If not, they might be on tour, or Irons said, they might be patronizing one of the neighborhood watering holes—the Jeanie Johnston next door or James’s Gate down the street.

“Those would be excellent places to look,” Irons said.

Correction: Dues to an editing error, the print version of this article incorrectly described the 146a South St. address of A Far Cry orchestra. That address is at the corner of South and Hall streets, not in a nearby row of arson-damaged storefronts.