Maestro Paul John Stanbery has created an original piece of music for the Fitton Center based on reflections of the artwork featured in the “Shifty” exhibition. Pictured is Spider Eggs, a woodblock print by artist Billy Simms. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Contributing Writer
Photo: Contributing Writer

Fitton Center to host world premiere of ‘Shifty’ with philharmonic performance

‘Brand new art, and brand new music’ will be featured on Feb. 1

Patrons can expect an amazing evening of live music and art at the Fitton Center on Saturday, Feb. 1, as the Butler Philharmonic presents a night of musical reflections on the “Shifty” art exhibition. The art will be on display from Saturday through Friday, March 27.

“This is a really exciting thing. It’s brand new art, and brand new music that are all local to Butler County,” said Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the Fitton Center.

The evening will include the world premiere of a specially commissioned piece of new music composed by Paul John Stanbery, classical favorites from the Butler Philharmonic Orchestra and a live art creation on stage from print-maker and artist Billy Simms.

“Paul John Stanbery is writing a piece of music that is reflecting upon the art that will be hanging on the walls as part of the ‘Shifty’ exhibition. In addition to that, live on stage, instead of having a solo musician, we will have a solo artist, Billy Simms, who will be creating live art on stage that will also hang in the gallery as part of the exhibition,” said MacKenzie-Thurley.

Stanbery’s newly inspired piece is titled, “With Eyes That Hear and Ears That See.” He said he created the piece to go along with the “Shifty” exhibition, where musically, he visited each one of the artworks that will be featured in the exhibition.

“My piece is like a visitor to the art exhibit, where you actually hear footsteps walking in the door, and then there is a particular tune that is associated with the visitor, and that would be the person coming to the art exhibit. Then, one by one, that tune visits the different artworks, and each one leaves a musical impression on the person that’s there looking at it, and they are all drastically different from one another,” said Stanbery.

“While the orchestra is performing the piece for the first time, publicly, at our opening, I’m going to make an original piece of art in response to their performance. So, I will be on stage with a printing press, creating a one-of-a-kind, monotype print,” added Simms.

In addition to Stanbery directing his new composition, special guest Scott Woodard will conduct the remainder of the program, which will include music from Schubert’s Symphony #3, the Bruck Violin Concerto in g minor, and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Violinist Yip Wai Chow will be the featured soloist for the evening.

Following Stanbery’s retirement this past summer from the Butler Philharmonic Orchestra, the board has been searching for a new conductor. More than 130 conductors from around the world applied for the position, and five have been selected to conduct concerts during the 2019-2020 season. Stanbery said he has been named as a composer-in-residence for life.

The “Shifty” exhibition will feature large-scale abstract and narrative artworks that will allow visitors to explore the idea of shifting spaces or movement. Solo artists will include Dustin London and Kim Rice, and an additional three-person show will showcase works from Kathryn Jill Johnson, Robert Patrick and Simms.

Cathy Mayhugh, director of exhibitions at the Fitton Center, said the event is an expansion of something the Fitton Center has been doing for the past several years, which includes pairing art exhibition openings with performances. She said this one is even more special because it’s so deeply integrated.

“The music responds to the actual visual art that’s in our galleries. Then, in turn, one of those visual artists that is featured in the show, Billy Simms, will be creating on stage this print that is responding to the music that was created in response to the visual art in the first place. So, it’s this wonderful collaboration, and a sensory expansion of an integration of visual art and music,” Mayhugh said.

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