For nearly 30 years, the OMNI Ensemble has been your not so average classical band, performing a mix of traditional acoustic programming and electronic improvisations.
It’s all part of David Wechsler’s vision from the start, still strong all these years later.
“I’ve been doing this sort of thing for 27 years – alternating between standard repertoire and new music – sometimes jazz, sometimes rock, always improvisation,” says the musician, a Brooklyn native currently in West Midwood who’s also played second flute for the Brooklyn Philharmonic for nearly 30 years. “One reason I started the group was to do all those different kinds of things.”
Since forming, they’ve also been able to call the same place home — the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in Park Slope, where you can find them next on February 26. The first half of the program will feature music for flute (Wechsler), cello (Brian Snow) and piano (James Johnston), with works by Peter Schickele – “Summer Trio” (“It’s nice to do in the winter, makes everyone feel warm”) – French contemporary composer Jean Francaix (“Trio”), and David Keberle (“Poison or Grapes”).
After intermission, Wechsler picks up the midi wind controller, Snow the electric cello, and Johnston moves to the synthesizer for some electronic improvisation. They will also be joined by digital percussionist David Forman.
“Most improv is based on the particular mood you’re trying to create – will be slow and new agey or jazzy and rock oriented,” says Wechsler. “That’s the guiding principle behind each improvisation. Over the years, I’ve discovered that’s the best way to do it – set a few rules. That keeps the songs unique from the other ones being presented on the program.”
Something that has changed over the past few years is the trio itself. Both Snow and Johnston are relative newcomers to the ensemble, with previous members moving on to other projects.
Wechsler has had a longer relationship with the show’s guest artist; the two went to high school together at Madison back in the day.
“He’s one of my oldest friends,” says Wechsler, who has collaborated with Forman on a record coming outby the spring, a mix of their music called “Cave Paintings.”
Growing up in Sheepshead Bay and still living in deeper Brooklyn, another vision of Wechsler’s with OMNI is to provide high-quality chamber music not at Lincoln Center prices, and not at Lincoln Center, either.
“I wanted to find a group that could do many things well,” says Wechsler. “It’s hard to find them, but I find them and I have them, and they’re really good.”
The OMNI Ensemble play the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music (58 Seventh Ave.) February 26 at 8 pm. Another constant of the long-running group? The prices, which, at $15, $10 for students and seniors, haven’t changed for a dozen years or so.
For more information, go to www.omniensemble.org or call 718-622-3300.