Two years ago, harpist Elizabeth Huston invited audiences to wander through a musical performance rather than to just sit and watch one. Presenting Luciano Berio’s 14 Sequenzas – a career-spanning set of pieces for solo instruments or voice – Huston decided to mount each Sequenza in discrete spaces through the First Unitarian Church, presenting each one in a contextually appropriate, immersive setting from a circus scene to a 1960s bedroom.
Arriving in Philadelphia from her native Seattle a few years ago, Huston quickly became intrigued by the city’s diverse arts scene – and disappointed that the kinds of imaginative staging and performance that she saw in the Fringe Festival didn’t seem to translate into the classical music world.
“Seattle isn’t quite as culturally active as Philadelphia,” she says. “So the Fringe Festival completely changed the way I saw the idea of performance. I saw dance pieces that were site-specific and theater pieces where there was a lot of audience interaction, and I was really curious why I’d never seen that in music. It’s odd that all the other art forms are very interested in how they can innovate in the way they frame a piece, so I started thinking about how you could do that in music.”