The Unseen Embellishes the Pageant of the Masters


1 pageant DSC_9276Archeological treasures hauled off from ancient tombs, museum heists, art sleuths and mysteries shrouding artist’s relationships with their muses.

Such intrigues of the art world drive this year’s Pageant of the Masters, “The Art Detective,”a series of tableaux vivant scenes created by Diane Dee Challis Davy and script writer Dan Duling opening Wednesday, July 9, in the Irvine Bowl in Laguna Beach.

“We will delve into art thefts during World War II, Howard Carter and his discovery of King Tut’s tomb and David Hockney’s ‘The Secret Knowledge,’an exploration of the little-known drawing and painting methods of Dutch and Flemish masters,”explained Davy.

She also mentioned movie posters, a portrait of Charles Dickens, the infamous Jekyll and Hyde and a statue of Sherlock Holmes.

Before the narrator starts his spiel and the curtain parts on the first scene, let’s put a spotlight on the unseen: music composers Bill Liston, who wrote music for Rembrandt’s “Night Watch,”and the husband and wife team, Starr Parodi and Jeff Eden Fair, who created the music accompanying “The Heist,”a re-enactment of the infamous 1990 robbery at Boston’s Isabella Steward Gardner Museum.

Liston, a composer, orchestrator and arranger from Cypress, has written the Pageant score for six seasons. Liston began playing saxophone at 13 as well as composing for the piano, fascinated by music’s correlation to mathematics. “I figured cords and cord extensions, explored jazz harmony. It was like taking an engine apart to see how it worked,”he said.

Music runs in his family. Grandfather Leo Kronman was a well-known sax and clarinet player, arranger and orchestrator during the 1920s. His father tuned pianos and his mom, in earlier days, sang with Kronman’s band.

His composition credits include video games and film. And performance credits span Michael Bubléto Ray Charles.

Writing for the Pageants, he has sought a balance between the impact of the art and the palette of musical sounds from a full pit orchestra whose traditional instruments include modern inventions to create sound effects. “Music should not pull you away from what you are seeing,”said Liston, noting that the art and music must denote the same era. “There should not be an 1840 painting accompanied by music that would be written 100 years later,”he said.

Parodi and Fair met on the Pacific Amphitheater stage during a performance. They started writing 20 years ago and today live and work in Pacific Palisades.

They, too, are in their sixth Pageant season, having written music for 12 works of art, including background for “The Heist,”Johannes Vermeer’s “The Concert,”John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X,”Tut’s “Sentinels”by an anonymous painter and “Olympia”by Edouard Manet.

For the latter, the couple explored the jealousies and intrigue surrounding Manet and Victorine Meurent. “We prefer to deal with the back stories as opposed to the obvious,”said Parodi.

Their daughter, Isolde, 10, made her first Pageant appearance in 2010 as a substitute.

The couple’s numerous credits include scores for “Dream Girls,”“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,”and other films.

Pageant regulars know that Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper, accompanied by “Meditation of Thais”by Jules Massenet, usually ends performances. In 2011, Pageant creators broke with tradition, ending with “Sacrament of the Last Supper”by Salvador Dali. Parody and Fair composed the accompanying music.

“We love working together because we trust each other. It allows us to experiment and make occasional mistakes. But, if you are 100 percent free with someone, creativity flows,”said Parodi.

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