Party for Music or Party for Betty… Just Party!

People who really have a hand in forming culture and changing points of view don’t come around very often and when they do, it has been noted many times before, they’re rarely recognized during their lifetime for their pioneering vision.   The genre of music that can be best categorized as contemporary classical music is not one with many beneficiaries – the large majority of classical music fans prefer to hear various orchestras perform works composed hundreds of years ago by known talents and there isn’t anything wrong with that.  However, just as there were revolutionary composers in their day (Stravinsky, anyone?), there are people working to push the envelope in ours and its lucky for them when someone comes around who can recognize their work and support their futures.

Betty Freeman was once such woman. She had her fingers on the pulse of the modern classical music scene and was a legendary philanthropist within the world of music.  A photographer and painter’s muse -David Hockney’s portrait of her hung in her Beverly Hills home until she died in early 2009, Freeman was a force to be celebrated, which is just what REDCAT is doing with their forthcoming “Party for Betty!” A special concert featuring compositions by Conlon Nancarrow, John Cage, James Tenney, and Helmut Lachenmann, Party for Betty! will highlight many compositions that were either commissioned by or dedicated to the lady herself.

Her scope was boundless and she ended up giving nearly 450 grants and commissions to various composers starting in the early 1960s.  She also hosted salons (italicized so you know to pronounce it with a British accent) in her home where contemporary classical music buffs and their amateur friends would come listen to her latest discovery.  What made her so distinct, though, was her ability to see talent where others might see some rough edges.  She took in composer Harry Partch, before he achieved his great successes, when he couldn’t afford to live on his own.

All in all, she’s just the kind of person you’d want to celebrate.  I was lucky enough to meet Betty toward the end of her life and one thing anyone could see was that she simply hadn’t slowed down.  Anyone interested in contemporary classical music would be sad to miss this concert – go for yourself, go for the music, or go for Betty. Just make sure you go.

Party for Betty! is on Wednesday May 5 at 8:30pm at REDCAT.  Please click here for more information.

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