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Dynamic Duo

Darkwood Consort's eclectic show

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dynamic duo

Darkwood Consort's eclectic show

Say you're a chamber music outfit. Say you've just returned home from performances at the International Viola Congress in Reykjavik and the World Bass Clarinet Convention in Rotterdam. What's your next move? Slide show, baby! On November 20 at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, Boise's Darkwood Consort took a break from their instruments to display on the wall the pictures from their recent trips and talk about their experiences.

Darkwood is Jennifer Drake on viola and Aage Nielsen on bass clarinet. The duo often plays with other musicians but they tour and record alone. More importantly, they are also Boise's leading resident chamber music series with thematic programming and free food. The free food is self-explanatory (and appreciated), but the thematic programming basically refers to Drake and Nielsen's on-stage witty banter, joking and slideshow--all of which makes the audience feel like we're watching our friends perform.

That show last weekend, the second installment of their home concert series, titled "Four I's" (the joke is funnier when they can visually include a pair of spectacles) featured music from Ireland, Iceland, Italy and Idaho, which included rich and moving compositions by local artists Johann Helton and Jim Cockey.

"It's awesome when the people you hang out with and have a beer with can write you some music," says Drake of working with the local composers.

True, it's a symbiotic collaboration. And Darkwood reciprocated the gesture by offering the music to international ears; they just returned from performing the local composers' work at World Bass Clarinet Convention in Holland. "To be invited to participate is huge," Drake says in her usual upbeat tone. "To represent what the instrument is about, it's not usually thought of as being a solo instrument ... it's sort of this hidden instrument you don't hear a lot about but there are hundreds of thousands who play."

It's a good thing Darkwood went to represent Boise amid all the international players, because Drake and Nielsen are truly skilled musicians and engaging performers, and surely they did us well.

"We do a four-concert series in Boise about every year," says Drake. "But this is the first really big thing since we've been back."

But fans can usually find Darkwood playing twice a month someplace in Boise. "It could be something that's really serious like a classical recital, or it could be goofy where we do Village People covers," says Drake. "We do a variety of things that people who are 'classical musicians' don't typically do--we've played in Buhl!"

The Darkwood audience is also different than the standard classical music fans, evidenced from the attendees at "Four I's." Old, young, punks, nerds--all enjoyed the show that included traditional Irish folk songs, classic Italian numbers and an Icelandic selection--a Bjork song. "It appeals to people who people who come from all kinds of musical backgrounds," Drake says of the audience. "We're just really passionate about the music we present, and it doest matter what it is, it's something important to us and we want to share it with the audience."

For their next show on February 5, Darkwood has commissioned music to be written based on the Hans Christian Anderson classic The Ugly Duckling and they will collaborate with Boise High students for the performance. Like all of Darkwood's unique performances, this next concert is certainly not to be missed.