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Music Ensemble Pays Tribute To Patron of Arts

By Dirk Sutro | April 24, 2006

Betty Freeman (David Hockney)
Photo by David Hockney
“Tribute to Betty Freeman”
Date: Wednesday, April 26, 8 p.m., and Thursday, April 27, 8 p.m
Location: Mandeville Auditorium
Tickets: $8 general, $6 student, free for UCSD students with I.D. (available at the door)
For information on Department of Music events go here:

Composers working in the genre known as “new music” usually don’t have the benefit of big record sales or concert revenues. The music has grown over the past century mainly through the support of patrons who are committed to music outside the mainstream.

One of the most prolific of these patrons is Betty Freeman, who has commissioned hundreds of pieces by dozens of composers including John Adams, Harrison Birtwistle, John Cage, Philip Glass, and Lou Harrison.

Freeman’s impact is significant right here at UCSD where the department of music is known for new and experimental music. Groups such as SONOR, the department’s resident new music ensemble, rely on a steady supply of fresh material from these composers and others who are supported by Freeman’s generosity.

This Wednesday and Thursday nights (April 26 and 27) at 8 p.m. in Mandeville Auditorium, SONOR pays tribute to Freeman with two concerts featuring music she has commissioned over the years.

“Betty Freeman has been the best friend, the most enthusiastic supporter, and the most ardent provocatrice that contemporary music and musicians could ever wish for,” said UCSD percussionist Steven Schick. He’s a longtime member of SONOR, a UCSD professor, and an internationally renowned musician who has premiered more than 100 new works for percussion, many of them commissioned by Freeman.

“We have chosen two small programs from among the hundreds of works she has commissioned, provoked, championed, and supported,” Schick said. “By quick calculation, if we were to perform a festival of all of the music that Betty Freeman commissioned or substantially supported throughout her life, we would have to play daily concerts for a period of at least five months.”

SONOR’s program for Wednesday night is devoted to Harrison Birtwistle’s music and includes “The Axe Manual,” “Harrison’s Clocks,” and “For O, For O, the Hobby Horse Is Forgot”.

Thursday night’s concert will consist of compositions by Birtwistle, Cage, former UCSD music professor Robert Erickson, Steve Reich, and current UCSD graduate composition student Nathan Brock.

“With these two concerts, Betty, we acknowledge the large reservoir of new art and good will that is the legacy of your life and work,” Schick wrote in the program notes for this weeks concerts at UCSD. “It's a small down payment towards a large debt. But then what can we say in the face of your great generosity except, simply, thank you.”

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