Bayolo’s Sacred Cows is built on the intriguing idea of using a sort of oratorio to explore the loss of religious belief. Bayolo’s own faith, he told the audience, had “evaporated in a cloud of logic” once he began to seriously study Christianity a decade ago, and Cows reflects a range of complex emotions from bitterness and anger to questioning regret, couched in an often jazzy, secular musical language. Not always an easy listen…it was an unusual and provocative work (…) from one of this city’s most hardworking composers.
More successful (and substantial) was Bayolo’s own Chamber Symphony. Full of lush ideas and a kind of fierce grandeur, it unfolded with subtle, driving power — a work worth hearing again.
Descriptions of Armando Bayolo’s Mix Tape led me to expect something tough and raunchy, but the effect is actually rather gentle and classical. While based around pop songs of the 1980s, the six pieces are “arranged within the framework of the Baroque instrumental suite … like the keyboard partitas or suites for violoncello or violin by J.S. Bach.” There are plenty of technical connections as well. Counterpoint can be heard in the wide leaps of something like the central movement, …bird can swing… , which starts like a cross between J.S. Bach and an Appalachian dance. There are few actually really funky bits in the work as a whole, though Kid’s Got the Beat does indeed have a beat, and there are a few flights of gritty heft. Like pop songs, each of the movements are short, the majority under three minutes. With quite a high degree of poetic expressiveness this is a highly enjoyable and approachable piece which allows you to hear music and forget you are listening to a bass instrument. There’s some humour along the way, for instance in the grunting pig rooting around at the bottom of (A [Very] Brief Meditation on the Nature of) Parentheses as well as technically awe-inspiring playing such as the final Room to Lay the Law.
Most compelling, however, was what Bayolo (in his role as composer) did with “Alap,” a lovely musing on the Indian-inspired textures and harmonies of George Harrison’s “Within You Without You.” With just five players (sic) and an electronic drone that played through the entire intermission and seeped into consciousness as a scene-setter only after the music began, the piece captured the essence of the Beatles’ magic.
Contemporary works do not often get standing ovations, but this was an exception. After the performance, even some of the audience members who came prepared not to like the piece, said that they really enjoyed it. It is a work that deserves to be heard many more times, and in many more places. It is new, it is fresh, and it gets its message across.
Cuban-Puerto Rican Armando Bayolo, based in Washington D.C., started with Renzo Piano’s Modern Wing for the Art Institute of Chicago in A Shelter That Filters the Sky, and he effectively gave a sense of shape and shaping of light and space.
Music Director Armando Bayolo led the ensemble — as he did all evening — with precision, imagination and tangible electricity.
But the star of Mr. Andriessen’s opera is the orchestra. Mr. Bayolo vividly brought out the music’s ability to project visual images, whether in the downward tumbles of the first movement, the gondola-bobbing lines of the fourth, or the blinding brightness of Paradise, where harp, bells and the airy voices of the Children’s Chorus of Washington floated in gleaming contrast to the dark timbres of hell.
Armando Bayolo, … has become a significant figure on the D.C. cultural landscape.