On Thursday, Dec. 4, the members of Blue Haiku regrouped following a five-year hiatus to ring in the holidays for downtown, Salt Lake City.
An ambient and lighthearted night gave audiences a sampling of the local talent Utahns have at their fingertips, and is a part of Excellence in the Community’s ongoing efforts to spread arts awareness among residents to foster a deeper sense of community. Founded in 2005, the non-profit organization holds free concerts regularly at the Gallivan Center with some of the state’s premier musicians and dancers.
The intimate room at the Gallivan was full-to-bursting with newcomers to the ensemble and devoted fans of the ensemble and its offshoot project, Red Rock Rondo. Key players of the latter’s Emmy-winning chamber-folk collective were present – Phillip Bimstein (singer, guitar), Charlotte Bell (oboe/English horn), Flavia Cervino-Wood (violin) and Harold Carr (bass). The acoustic vets were joined by the show’s starlet and highlight, Monika Jalili.
It was an occasion which gave audiences an unprecedented performance of new music penned by Bimstein, specifically for the guest star. Trained on the East Coast and known worldwide for her Persian love songs, Jalili was an ethereal presence; effortlessly, she captured our attention with warm vocals whose caress spared no syllable. The anticipatory hush in the crowd was almost palpable when the instruments ceased at the close of “Somewhere Else Beneath the Sky,” and she breathed out, “Somewhere…” The song was the first of many that Bimstein had written for the singer.
Bimstein himself provided the wit and effervescent charm in between songs and in his playful lyrics. The song, “Whisper,” he remarks, “is a bit of a contradiction:” sassy lines about selfies and tweets (and even a playful jab at Bill O’ Reilly) are countered with sentimentality: “I’ll whisper something sweeter than the news of the day,” he assures.
An austere moment came in his solo performance of “One String,” which, as the name suggests, is a song played with one string... about playing with one string. It’s a meta concept he romanticizes with suaveness; “If this guitar had but one song, I’d only play that song for you… All afternoon, I’d pluck out that tune, and every note would be true.”
For a genre that might seem exhausted to this new generation of music listeners, watching Blue Haiku and Jalili is a delight. It’s refreshing for a band that specializes in traditional instruments to be able and willing to not take itself too seriously, playing with cheerful deftness.
On the horizon for Excellence in the Community at the Gallivan is a Christmas concert on Dec. 18 by Lark & Spur, an underdog troupe which went from street performances on the Paris metro to the Montreux, Deauville and French radio.
For a full listing of upcoming events, visit excellenceconcerts.org.
Go here to view more photos of Blue Haiku’s performance with Monika Jalili at the Gallivan Center.