A Nite of Rites

Saturday evening at the 2017 Ojai Music Festival and Libbey Bowl was filled with lots of color and revelry, sacred and profane. Things got off to a rousing start with a vigorous arrangement for 12, by Cliff Colnot, of Stravinsky’s history-changing “Le Sacré du Printemps.” Members of ICE, under the baton of  human dynamo Steven Schick gave an exciting,  spine-tingling performance that set a new standard for the old warhorse. It was a perfect prelude to the second part of the evening program – “Radhe Rahde: Rites of Holi,” a film by Prashant Bhargava with a score by Vijay Iyer, performed live with the projected movie by ICE, again led by Schick. Each spring in India, a wild celebration of the union of the Goddess Radhu and Lord Krishna in which thousands drench each other in saturated clouds of colored powders and liquids and dance with wild abandon, build huge bonfires and generally go crazy, culminating in a blissed state of exhaustion. Stravinsky’s ballet score served as the template for Iyer’s music, retaining hints of the original but going much further in response to the rhythms and visuals of the Indian “rite of spring.” Both works are explosive journeys toward release – in the Stravinsky, ending in ritual sacrifice, in “Radhe Radhe,” spiritual transcendence. Mr. Sorey even painted his face for the occasion.