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American Impressionism exhibit inspires 'Black Neon Rose'

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Courtesy photo
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"Black Neon Rose" in performance on September 3, 2021 at San Antonio Museum of Art.

The story of Nathan Felix’s musical career is growth. He began in a rock band, and eventually the sounds he heard in his head got bigger than the traditional four-piece lineup could handle, so he added more players. And more. And then he moved into choir, and opera, and symphonic music. He’s written an opera for headphones, a piece for six pianos, and last month Felix premiered his latest work, “Black Neon Rose,” at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

The piece is scored for four harpsichords, strings, and choir, and was inspired by a summer exhibit at San Antonio Museum of Art that showcased the work of American impressionist painters.

“I saw a lot of landscape paintings,” Felix explained in an interview after the show. “The colors are telling me there’s a lot of love, there’s loss in a lot of them, there’s some darker strokes that they use. And so [the music] is really my take on early 20th Century love, loss and hope.”

The premiere of the piece was recorded by Texas Public Radio for “Performance Saturday,” and the cavernous nature of the space led to an even closer blending of the musicians’ sounds than normal. Still, Felix said “I really hope that you felt the emotive quality, much as a painter puts in his paintings. I wanted something that could be heard and understood, but also felt if you didn’t know [what was being sung].”

You can check out an excerpt from “Black Neon Rose” in the Soundcloud link above.

Upcoming projects for Nathan Felix include performances of two of his operas in Orlando this December, plus an immersive opera performance in New York, and a film exhibition in College Station this month. And if you want to catch “Black Neon Rose” in person, it will be performed again at the San Antonio Museum of Art on November 12.

PERFORMANCE DETAILS:

Composer: Nathan Felix
Conductor: Jonathan Martinez

STRINGS

Oscar Dodier - violin I
Sharon Kwee - violin II
Ptotia Furlow - viola
Stephen Long - cello

HARPSICHORDS

Ed Knoekel - harpsichord I
Daniel Anastasio - harpsichord II
Wes Freeland - harpsichord III
Samuel Gaskin - harpsichord IV

CHOIR

Steph Huskin
Laura Grindle
Justin Chappell
Eva Salmon
Celeste Ramirez
Mark Gurrola
Michael Zuniga
Kay Sherill
Kelly Vix-Miller

Harpsichords built by San Antonio's Gerald Self.

Nathan has been with TPR since 1995, when he began working on classical music station KPAC 88.3 FM, as host of “Tuesday Night at the Opera.” He soon learned the ropes on KSTX 89.1 FM, and volunteered to work practically any shift that came his way, on either station. He worked in nearly every capacity on the radio before moving into Community Engagement, Marketing, and Digital Media. His reporting and criticism has been honored by the Houston Press Club and Texas Associated Press.