LOS ANGELES – A special outdoor concert of classical and modern jazz music titled the Pythiad, was hosted on the Getty Villa’s Outer Peristyle garden on a beautiful California spring evening.
Inspired by Ancient Greek mythological figures, it was performed by composer and saxophonist Jim Gailloreto and his ensemble Jazz String Quintet.
The Pythiad was written for voice, string quartet, soprano saxophone and string bass. The music is a blend of classical and modern jazz.
Gailloreto, who has performed on numerous occasions with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, first appeared at the Getty Villa in 2006 as a member of composer Patricia Barber’s group when she performed her album Mythologies, her own interpretation of Greek mythology.
That rendition inspired Gailloreto to compose his own creation of themes and characters from the Ancient Greek literature.
Beautifully sung by vocalist Cheryl Wilson whose recording of ”America the Beautiful” can be heard every evening at the foothills of Mt. Rushmore and who, according to Gailloreto, “is a singer who can do anything you ask of her.”
The task of crafting the lyrics was assigned to his son Coleman Gailloreto, while the father focused on melodic ideas that would best exploit Wilson’s vocal talents. Jill Kaeding, a cellist and Gailloreto’s wife, has been part of the ensemble since the inception.
There are nine mythological stories that are featured in this concert. Composer Jim Gailloreto told TNH that during the selection process “I was interested in lesser-known characters of Greek mythology who gravitated towards and seemed to have connections to modern culture. My son Coleman helped with the research of the stories and presented me with options to pair with the musical sketches I was working on.”
The first story was the Oracle of Delphi. In this interpretation the high priestess of Apollo Pythia takes on the role of a psychologist, who transfers her listeners into a hypnotic state in order for them to relive the past and understand their future.
Asclepius, son of Apollo, who became the greatest healer in Ancient Greece, was struck down by Zeus with a thunderbolt in order to preserve the cycle of life and death.
Atalanta, a mortal who outpaced the children of gods to become an athlete and a hunter, was the first one to wound the Calydonian Boar.
Philemon and Baucis were a poor but loving and generous couple who welcomed two weary travelers into their home giving them the little food they had.
The grateful travelers revealed themselves to be Zeus and Hermes in disguise and they granted the couples wish to grow old and die together.
The gods transformed them into oak and linden trees, their branches as their love, intertwined forever together.
This story resembles the stories we hear on the news currently with Greek families welcoming weary refugees into their homes and sharing their food, proving once again that Greek hospitality has ancient roots.
In a tale of brotherly love Pollux gave Castor half of his immortality so they can remain together in the afterlife becoming the constellation Gemini.
Gailloreto said that “we would like to perform the concert in Chicago, New York, Greece and possibly return to Los Angeles.”