Steven Osgood has always wanted to lead a performance of Terry Riley’s “In C,” and now he will have the chance with Chautauqua Opera Company’s latest invasion.
Osgood, general and artistic director for Chautauqua Opera, will conduct four Young Artists and 13 students from the Music School Festival Orchestra in the piece at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 26, in Odland Plaza.
The sheet music for “In C” is different than most. Instead of having concrete measures and a time signature, the music is composed of 53 cells, and each cell can be performed multiple times.
One musician starts in the first cell and plays that as many times as desired. The conductor cues the next instrument and that musician starts from the beginning. As the work keeps going, more instruments are added.
“You get these layers and phasing of the musical material as the piece evolves,” Osgood said.
Because the pace of the piece relies on the musicians, “In C” can be performed from anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and a half. Osgood will hold up cue cards during the performance to keep the musicians and singers on track for a 30-minute performance leading into the 8:15 p.m. show in the Amphitheater from the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. There will be numbers on the cue cards that correspond to the number of a cell, signifying to the musicians that they should be at a certain area in the piece.
“I find this piece to be mesmerizing. Every performance of it is completely different,” Osgood said. “I find it incredibly joyous, just this sense of community of making this piece happen.”
The opera performers will sing different vowel sounds and walk among the audience, Osgood said. The audience itself will be able to listen to the piece from different areas of Odland Plaza, creating different sonic points.
“It will be interactive and spatial in a way that is not always how you experience ‘In C,’ ” Osgood said.
Osgood doesn’t know how often the people in different art programs at Chautauqua interact with one another, so an event like this gives both opera and MSFO artists that opportunity.
“We’re here sharing this experience, so we might as well share a musical experience, too,” Osgood said.