Benoit Glazer, Timucua have given us 15 years of beautiful music.
In September 2000, Montreal-born Benoit Glazer (conductor of Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba show for the past 17 years), his wife, Elaine Corriveau, and their trio of small children opened their Hunters Creek home to aspiring local jazz players, folk musicians and New Classical experimentalists for casual living room jam sessions. The Glazers would pull their kids around the neighborhood in a Radio Flyer to pass out invitations door to door. The soirees became so popular with invited (and uninvited) guests that Glazer had to tear down interior walls twice to fit the growing crowd.
Fifteen years and 600 shows later, their current home—the Timucua White House, across from Orlando’s Boone High School—has become a treasured stop on the international music circuit, a three-story performance space built in 2007 to exacting sonic specifications. On September 13, the Central Florida Composers Forum will present new work by local composers in a celebration of Timucua’s anniversary.
"I would work on the house from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.," Glazer recalls, "rush to Cirque, take a quick shower there and work until 11 p.m. And so it went every day for about two years. And then, on Sunday, we would have a concert at the old house!"
The dizzying range of styles of the musicians who perform at Timucua on Sunday, Monday, perhaps Thursday or Saturday, nights (the schedule grows with opportunity) reflects the eclecticism of Glazer's tastes. As conductor and trumpeter for the La Nouba show since 1998 (around 8,000 live performances to date, for approximately 11 million people), he probably gets more practice time than any other musician in town, playing trumpet for 10 chart-intensive shows a week. That influence shows in the circus-like soundtrack he wrote for local independent filmmaker Banks Helfrich's movie 7 Lives of Chance, and his own compositions tip several hats to Italian opera, Mardi Gras second line, American jazz and French ballet. There can't help but be a mercurial change of style at almost every Timucua show.
Past concerts have been a genre-spanning playlist of mainstream jazz, folk guitar, avant-garde cacophony, Latin salsa, spoken word and everything in between, from a solo klezmer clarinet to the 18-piece UCF Flying Horse Big Band playing Ellington's version of the Nutcracker Suite. The price of entry at almost every show is a bottle of wine or a potluck snack.
Glazer has created a music venue that still has the casual feel of a living room—albeit one with two balconies and a recording booth—that fosters spontaneity and collaboration. Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi, playing as Rabbit Rabbit, created otherworldy, engaging, and unclassifiable music while their young daughter sat under the piano, pulling at her mother's skirt. New Orleans multi-instrumentalist Aurora Neland sang from the second-story balcony during a break in the U.S. State Department-funded OneBeat program, which brought 25 musicians from 16 countries to the Timucua stage to improvise cross-cultural music. Brazilian pianist Weber Iago played extraordinarily lyrical tunes with Bulgarian guitarist Hristo Vitchev. New York trumpeter Brian Groder performed an entire evening of uncharted music with Sicilian pianist Tonino Miano.
Appearances by jazz legends Peter Brötzmann, Roscoe Mitchell, Frank Gratkowski and Walter Wierbos are some of Glazer's enduring memories. Guitar master Larry Coryell, a local resident, would drop by and jam with the talented Glazer kids, who opened the White House shows for almost 10 years. On one particular evening in 2001, Camille (then 6) played solo piano, Charles (7) was bowing on bass, and Jean-Marie, not yet 4 years old, sat at the drums on his mother's lap. "He was swinging pretty good," says Glazer. "Not a dry eye in the house." Area greats George Weremchuck, Jeff Rupert, Marty Morell and Charlie DeChant (the sax player for all the Hall & Oates hits) also have often graced the stage.
The House isn't for jazz lovers only: The Central Florida Composers Forum debuts new classical and expressionistic works annually; local musicians have staged tributes to Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, and performed new age interpretations of the Disney movie songbook; local poets and novelists has debuted new work for the Functionally Literate reading series. Brazilian chorinho artist Ricardo Filipo, folk songwriter Todd Burge and classical musician Chris Belt have all played guitar on the hand-built stage. And an evening of exotic beauty was created by the Dosti Music Project, uniting Indian, Pakistani and American players, playing everything from ragas to khyal to Punjabi pop.
Glazer's next plan is to build a floating Timucua, a multimillion-dollar ship that would cruise the Tampa Bay coast, bringing his vision of intimate music to even more audiences. His motto includes the words, "Art and music should be enjoyed in the most intimate venue: the living room." Regardless of how big that living room is.
For information on concerts go to timucua.com