By C. Harold Pierce
From the third floor of the Santora Building, a clarinet stabs over Lisa Bielawa’s piercing vocals. While belting out the final lyrics of “Chance Encounter,” she glides away from an audience that came to hear her perform.
The song doesn’t end so much as it drifts away. The melody pipes out softly from the other side of the building, even after Bielawa has drifted into another gallery space.
As soon as one movement was completed, musicians hustled to other parts of the building, lugging cellos, shouldering French horns and toting music stands up and down the stairs for their next performance.
“I like to write pieces where the music just kind of trails off. It challenges the listener to decide when the experience is over,” Bielawa said.
About 20 musicians from the Colburn Conservatory and wild Up played micro-concerts on all levels of the building, filling empty basement galleries, hallways and foyers with music. It is part of Santa Ana Sites, a program that brings contemporary music to architectural landmarks in Downtown Santa Ana at no cost to the public.
“Audiences crave the intimacy. If you break down the formality of a standard theatrical environment, I think there’s an opportunity for the audience to have a pathway leading to greater understanding of the work,” Allen Moon, co-founder of Santa Ana Sites said.
But the performance spaces were not stationary.
“It’s a big jigsaw puzzle. There could be five concerts going on at once and the audience has to choose which room to go into,” Moon said.
The Santora Building concert is the fourth installment of the Santa Ana Sites program. The first two were hosted in Moon’s Downtown Santa Ana loft before AnDa Union, a Mongolian throat-singing group performed in January.
Bringing music to architectural landmarks, including the Santora Building, has been a goal for the concert program.
Despite public fears that recent changes in ownership and the eviction of several artists signals a new direction for the historic arts building, Santa Ana Sites founders say the space will keep its creative roots.
“It’s a place where creativity has always occurred and will continue to occur,” Santa Ana Sites co-founder John Spiak said.
When Jack Jakosky, the owner of the Santora Building heard about the casual concerts Santa Ana Sites was hosting, he asked them to come to the Santora, Moon said.
“It’s like the perfect thing, for a person to come out and say, ‘What can happen in this space?’ and that cuts to the core of what we’re trying to do,” Moon said.