Expect the unexpected

Daniel Newman-Lessler brings transparent ANIMALS to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Santa Paula on Jan. 22. (Photo submitted)

Santa Paula Concert Series presents musician and sound artist Daniel Newman-Lessler

If you’re searching for an entertaining and innovative musical event, consider the Santa Paula Concert Series featuring Daniel Newman-Lessler and his piano/techno presentation of transparent ANIMALS on Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Santa Paula (UUCSP).

The Santa Paula Concert Series has been ongoing since 2015 and was founded by Maddie Sifantus, reverend and music director of UUCSP. The series features a wide variety of music, from classical to world music, singer-songwriters, composers, folk and jazz.

“I try to present music that isn’t usually being presented in the area,” said Sifantus. “The mission is to bring quality music to the Santa Clara River Valley and expose people to our beautiful building, our amazing acoustics, and our Steinway piano.”

Sifantus also likes to present diverse forms of music, such as Chinese orchestra, Celtic harp and even ragtime.

“People go to Ojai, and they go to Santa Barbara, Ventura and Thousand Oaks for music,” said Sifantus, “but we want to have it here and also encourage local musicians who have gone into the professions to come and perform.”

For Newman-Lessler, who is currently completing his Ph.D. at the California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita, it’s a return performance. He previously played for the series in February 2017. This time, however, Newman-Lessler will use the piano and a smorgasbord of keyboards, computers and software to provide a multimedia concert.

Newman-Lessler is local to Ventura County. He grew up on an avocado farm in Somis and started his musical career via a Gymboree music class for young people.

“Music has always been a compulsion, even in the car,” he recalled. “I would always be banging on the back seat or the door, much to my parent’s chagrin, and anytime I was in somebody’s house, and there was a piano, I would just start banging on it.”

He took to his introductory class so enthusiastically that his parents decided to enroll him in private lessons, and thus a career was born.

Newman-Lessler is talented in several musical arts. In addition to piano, he plays a variety of keyboards, including synthesizer, organ, harpsichord and a particularly unique instrument called the melodeum. He is also a composer and singer, conducts orchestras and choirs, and works as an educator. Finally, he is an installation artist working with kinetic sculptures and sound art installations.

Describing transparent ANIMALS, his upcoming concert at UUCSP, Newman-Lessler said, “I’m interested in pieces that have an exoskeletal quality to them where the process of the composition is on the outside and is manifested through music that uses fixed media, recordings of important historical figures, and how I’m playing along with speech.”

Instrumentally, it may involve a combined use of piano and laptop or even bowing the piano.

“It’s a collection of pieces that showcases all the things that I do as a performer while also trying to find ways to unite these varied pieces through the raw material of those pieces.”

In other words, expect the unexpected. This is not your typical classical presentation.

Newman-Lessler will also feature some of his original compositions in the program.

The Santa Paula Concert Series featuring Daniel Newman-Lessler takes place on Sunday, Jan. 22, at 3 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Santa Paula, 740 E. Main St., Santa Paula. Admission is a $20 ($10 for ages 10 and under) donation at the door. For tickets and more information, call 805-525-4647 or visit www.uucsp.org/SP-Concert-Series.