James Westwater has a unique job description. He's a "photochoreographer," creating live performances of multiple-image projected photography, set to live performances of orchestra music.
But the orchestra does not merely accompany the photography. "What I do is really a wedding of the two art forms, not a situation in which one simply supplements the other," he explained.Westwater will bring an immense three-panel panoramic screen to Abravanel Hall Monday evening for a concert in the Utah Symphony's Family Series, which allows for a precise integration of music and photography. Acting associate conductor Bruce Hangen will conduct the symphony for the event, featuring works of Copland, Vaughan Williams, Wagner, Rossini and Tchaikovsky.
"The arts can be a wonderful manifestation of life," Westwater said during a telephone interview from his home in Ohio. "They can raise the human spirit."
He feels that his works address important issues and show "how a symphony orchestra can be involved in vital concerns." An example is "Vanishing Forest," set to Vaughan William's lovely "The Lark Ascending."
In Westwater's words, the work focuses on "the fragile and wonderful ecology of the tropical rain forest." "The rain forests are the `lungs of the planet,' and if we allow them to be destroyed, we are committing a form of suicide. I want to show through the senses of sight and sound that the arts are alive and well, and engaged in what is important." Utah Symphony concertmaster Ralph Matson will perform the solo violin part in "The Lark Ascending."
"Wilderness Suite" is set to music of Copland and includes photographs of wilderness regions from the Rockies and the Grand Canyon to the Cascade Range, and from delicate Alpine flowers and canyon fauna to high mountain glaciers. The work premiered with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., in 1975.
The music of Copland is again featured in "American Fanfare," inspired by the American composer's "Fanfare for the Common Man." It is a multi-arts synthesis of dramatic landscapes, quintessential American monuments, brass and percussion. The Pittsburgh Symphony premiered the work in 1989.
Rounding out the concert will be performances by the symphony of Wagner's Prelude to Act II of "Lohengrin," Rossini's Overture to "William Tell," and Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" Overture-Fantasy.
James Westwater's photochoreography program with the Utah Symphony takes place on Monday, April 6, at Abravanel Hall. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are priced from $8 to $14 and can be purchased by calling 801-533-6683 or by visiting the Utah Symphony box office at 123 W. South Temple in Salt Lake City.