Angels of the Valley, A Multi-Media Concert
You may not know it, but there’s a new type of live musical performance on the horizon, brought about by the digital age, which can provide artists an opportunity to meld gallery viewings and musical concerts into one thing.
They’re called “multimedia performances,” and a group of artists from our neck of the woods are currently working on such an event, which will tell the story of the Napa Valley like it’s never been told (or viewed) before. It’s called Angels of the Valley, hosted by Carmen Policy and Mary Ann Gamble of the Gamble Family Vineyards, and it will play for one day only, April 19th at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville as part of the annual Arts In April Program.
Angels of the Valley will include not only live songs from internationally known musician Mars Lasar; there will also be a three-dimensional slideshow of high-def images, projected all over the auditorium’s walls and ceiling. The music and artwork are designed to complement one another and the performers say this will make the audience feel like they’ve been transported right into the gorgeous scenes in the photographs.
“We’re using lots of compositing techniques to liven up the pictures, make them pop out more,” said Chris McCard, a local 3D visual artist who’s been brought onboard to handle the multimedia component of the show. “Or doing cool stuff like making the whole inside of the theater looking like it’s the inside of a barrel. We’re coming up with all sorts of crazy ideas.”
The two-day performance will largely celebrate the work of multi-talented musician and artist Mars Lasar, who has produced more than two dozen solo albums and has had his music featured on shows like Law & Order, The Bachelor and 24. He has also been awarded platinum plaques on two separate occasions for collaborations with other artists, his first coming from his work on R&B singer Seal’s album Crazy. Lasar is best known as a composer and musician, the realm where he’s had most of his mainstream success. But, he’s been doing oil paintings since his teenage years and has an equally solid background in photography and the digital enhancement of art, which dates as far back as his musical career.
“As I got more involved in music and started producing my own products, I wasn’t really keen on putting other people’s artwork on my CDs, so I learned how to do it, and that’s how it all started,” Lasar said of his professional beginnings in fine art, photography and graphic design.
He might be a seasoned veteran in the performing arts world, but Lasar is also quick to emphasize the collaborative nature of Angels of the Valley. And he’s most excited by the opportunity to include local talent, including student musical organizations, in this multimedia performance.
“I want to build toward bringing all the local talent together, from the youngsters to the retirees who’ve been involved in the community for many years,” Lasar said. “I’m constantly reminded that there are a lot of very fascinating artists and winemakers here in the valley and that’s what this show is all about.”
As a New Age electronic musician, Lasar has always been fascinated by new technology, and with evolving his style over time. So naturally, he’s applied this interest to his visual work as well. For instance, he enhances his photos using sophisticated imaging software to yield a vibrant, textural final product, which is often more beautiful than the actual scenery in the photograph would be to the naked eye. Images are then printed onto canvas and hand painted by Mars to produce the final fine art pieces.
“I’d say it’s definitely 50-50 between art and science, and one doesn’t work without the other,” said Lasar, when asked about his creative process. He added that on a typical day, he often goes back and forth between painting, photography, computer editing and musical projects, and tries hard to keep “all the plates spinning at once.”
Lately, Lasar has been fascinated with the Napa Valley’s scenery, and dedicates much of his time to documenting it with his camera, taking thousands of images, which can be found on his website, www.picsfrommars.com . His landscapes capture the right colors in the right places almost perfectly; some prints, for instance, will show a field of crispy bright orange and yellow leaves surrounded by a deep blue and green hillside with a reddish purple sunset that slowly fades to baby blue in the background.
“Some people, when they look at my catalogue, they say ‘that’s very dreamy,’ and when they hear my music, they say the same thing,” Lasar said. “I’ve always been someone who goes in that dreamy and modern direction. But Angels of the Valley will be the first time I get to fuse the music and art together in a live environment, and that’s very exciting.”
The 3D multimedia aspect of the show is perhaps the most cutting-edge and, not surprisingly, the logistics of setting it up have been challenging. But McCard has been working hard throughout February and March to make sure everything goes smoothly. He’s even constructed miniature sculptures of the Lincoln Theater and its interior to help ensure that everyone in attendance will have a good view and be able to feel like they’re a part of the imagery.
McCard and his crew have set up five projectors throughout the theater and he says they’ve worked to make sure all available space is precisely filled with color and light. Done properly, the auditorium will look phenomenal, McCard says.
“It’s a completely immersive experience; you have this 360-degree panorama of the valley, with HD quality that contains things your eye wouldn’t be able to see,” McCard said. “It’s a really lifelike quality.”
There will be a second visual component to the show as well, separate from the multimedia performance: an exhibition of Lasar’s fine art canvases will be displayed at the Napa Valley Museum from April 9-30th, and at the Andretti Winery, where he is resident artist this year, with a reception and signing on April 26th. So if you’ve heard Lasar’s music but haven’t seen his visual work in person, there’s an available avenue open 10 days prior to the Angels of the Valley performance.
In keeping with Lasar’s desire to include a diverse group of artists from the local community, he has invited the Napa Valley Youth Symphony, as well as the Napa High School Chamber and local Jazz, Blues and R&B singer Kellie Fuller (Host of “Kellie In The Morning” KVYN The Vine), to join him in the performance, which will mostly be of music from Lasar’s catalogue. Also, Mary Ann Gamble of the Gamble Family Vineyards has agreed to read and perform spoken word poetry at the performance.
“There’s definitely a cohesive community of artists here [in the Napa Valley],” Lasar said. “It’s an actual community, and I haven’t seen that in other cities I’ve lived in, in the past.”
Yountville is credited as the birthplace of the wine industry in the Napa Valley (see our last issue), so no event there would be complete without at least a little wine. That’s why three local vintners—Gamble Family Vineyards, Casa Piena, and the Keever Vineyards & Winery—will be on hand, adding yet another sensory component to the multimedia show.
Despite having so many different contributors and a groundbreaking medium, Lasar is still looking ahead, hoping to take this concept in a new direction if the show turns out to be success.
“We are hoping this will be a prototype for an annual event, and that we’ll come together to teach different ‘angels,’ local artists each year,” Lasar said.
April 19th, is a Friday evening performance with the reception starting at 7 pm. This evening will be hosted by former 49ers front office executive Carmen Policy, with Yountville wines (of course!) and appetizers. Yountville Arts will also be hosting a Sip & Savor event with the artists and Yountville vintners featured at their Art Walk from 11 am to 4pm
Tickets for Friday’s performance range from $15-$50. To buy them, visit the Lincoln Theater Box Office 100 California Drive, Yountville 94599, (707) 944-9900, or you can purchase them online at www.lincolntheater.org
Nate Gartrell grew up in Benicia, studied journalism in college, and has written for a handful of media outlets since age 15. He aspires to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums and to hit the trifecta at the horse track.