Composer Laurie San Martin wrote Witches, one of three works having premiere performances in the upcoming concerts by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and Volti. It’s scored for cello, two oboes, and chamber choir, and has a text that’s more playful than spooky. Married oboists Andrea Plesnarski and Thomas Nugent will also be featured in another premiere, Murmuration, by Addie Camsuzou, and the West Coast premiere of The Tower and the Garden by Gregory Spears features Volti and a string quartet.
Both Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and Volti have a long history of commissioning and premiering works, and they’ve worked together many times in the past. Laurie San Martin knew that she was going to be writing for this particular instrumentation, but she says, her original concept went out the window. “I was going to write for the group, and the project was to do something completely different. This ensemble, but it was going to be troubadour female poetry. I don’t speak French, and so when I was looking at the translations, the translations that I found were things like ‘I’ve baked a wonderful dinner for my husband, I hope he’ll love me…’ I just couldn’t set that!” So instead, she turned to the work of a writer who also teaches at UC Davis, Lucy Corin. She had a series of short pieces of fiction which she called ‘Apocalypses’ that McSweeney’s published, and one in particular caught San Martin’s imagination. It tells of three girls pretending to be witches as they’re playing. “This one I thought was really fun, because I have two daughters. There’s so much devastation and bad news, and I wanted to focus on, maybe there’s an apocalypse, but there’s this joy, and there’s these girls and they’re playing. And I could also remember being that girl, and playing witches.”