Expect innovation, energy and creativity with the Bakersfield debut of Valley Chamber Ensembles on Sunday. The nonprofit San Fernando Valley group of musicians dedicated to exploring connections among the arts will perform as part of the Fred & Beverly Dukes concert series, which is also supported by Valley Public Radio.
This free concert starts at 4 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 5 Real Rd. and is co-sponsored by the Fred & Beverly Dukes endowment as well as Valley Public Radio (KVPR/KPRX FM, 89.1).
Founded in 2016, the ensemble includes Mary Cervantes (flute), VCE co-founders Candis Badgby (clarinet) and Cameron O’Hanlon (percussion), Wesley Hicks (composer and instrument builder) and Xale Slusser (bassoon).
Hicks, who received a BFA in ceramics at Cal State Long Beach, has built and performed on a unique set of ocarinas (called juicerinas) at various San Fernando Valley locations, including Pomona College Museum of Art and the Getty Center. On the program are two of Hicks’ original compositions, “Insects” and “Birds,” which use his hand-built instruments to mimic wildlife sounds.
From Bakersfield, Cervantes has been a featured soloist with the Cal State Northridge Symphony, Beverly Hills International Chamber Music Festival and Bakersfield’s Youth Symphony and Dukes Concert Series. She is currently pursing a MFA in music at CSUN.
O’Hanlon speaks of the group as “focusing on improving the human experience and opening dialogue on modern issues through the arts.” He owns a live audio-video recording company and works closely with the director of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts in Northridge. He also performs and teaches percussion in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas,
Other pieces on the program feature strong Spanish influences, including a tribute to Manuel De Falla in the style of a traditional Spanish dance known as flamenco.
“The work is especially well written by Bela Kovacs for unaccompanied clarinet,” according to O’Hanlon, because of the way the clarinet is made to sound like different instruments such as guitars and trumpets.
The concert is free and open to the public, "but door donations are gratefully accepted," said Rachel Robinson, new director of the Dukes board.
Remaining concerts in this 12th season of the series are Chamber Music Kern County with Liz Cervantes and Friends (Jan. 21) and the Bakersfield High School Chorale & Chamber Singers, directed by Christopher Borges (April 15).