It isn’t every day that a top-notch troupe of performance artists descends on Riverhead for a show, but the Spring Equinox isn’t just any day.
Over two days on March 21 and 22, the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall will play host to “LoveSphere 20,” an exploration of sound that has been bouncing through artists’ lofts, recording studios, apartments and venues in the New York metropolitan area for 20 years.
Conceptual artist, poet, musician and librettist Gary Heidt founded LoveSphere, first held in 1996 in the Museum of Sound Recording in Brooklyn, which houses all manner of archaic recording equipment collected as recording studios switched over to digital technology.
Mr. Heidt describes LoveSphere as “a sphere inscribed in time in an embroidery of sound which can only be witnessed from a higher dimension. However, we can see its stitches.”
Terri Ferrari, a video artist who has been involved with LoveSphere since its inception, will be the executive producer of the Riverhead show, a multimedia revue featuring the music of Fist of Kindness, The Grand Pepper of Reality and The Hidden City Orchestra.
Fist of Kindness, Mr. Heidt’s band, is “an art rock ensemble masquerading as a country western band,” said Mr. Ferrari. “The only thing country about the band is that Gary is from Austin, Texas.”
Grand Pepper of Reality is a project by composer Doug Principato, whose latest CD, “Calling the Air,” features a song cycle in two parts that presents environmental, corporate and political atrocities in part one and the individual struggle to deal those atrocities in part two.
The Hidden City Orchestra is an ever-shifting improvisational orchestra, which often incorporates poetry, dance and spoken word performances, led by New Suffolk composer George Cork Maul.
The show will be spiced by the absurdist shamans of the Uncarved Block performance art troupe with demonstrations of original Thomas Edison artifacts by the Museum of Interesting Things, video projections by Mr. Ferrari and a performance by the Women of Lovesphere.
Mr. Ferrari recently moved to Riverhead with Judy Sky of Women of Lovesphere, a performance artist who is also the granddaughter of Simon Leavitt, one of the first owners of the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall.
“I feel like we’re going back to our roots with LoveSphere 20,” said Mr. Ferrari, “We started at the Museum of Sound Recording, with Thomas Edison’s original wax cylinder recordings, and we’re holding LoveSphere 20 in the theater where he demonstrated the kinetophone, which is how film appeared before it was film.”
Ms. Sky’s father, Theodore Leavitt, ran a clothing store in the storefront below the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, one of just a few second-story opera houses in the country. Her father had inherited the building and the clothing business from his father, Simon Leavitt, who bought the building in 1908 and had been leasing out the theater upstairs when Edison gave his kinetophone demonstration in 1914.
“The theater wasn’t in existence when I was growing up,” she said. “For all my life it was closed, and I kept pestering him and pestering him to let me see. Finally, one day, he took out his keys and we went upstairs, and there was this incredible theater, preserved. It was love at first sight.”
“My dad had some nefarious characters living in there for a while,” she said. “At one point, he had leased the building out to a Chinese restaurant and they set fire to the roof.”
After Ms. Sky’s father died, her mother sold the theater to the Council for the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, organized by Riverhead Town’s Community Development office in 1982.
George Cork Maul, the composer, remembered visiting the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall when he was a young man in the 1970s, when a small black box theater downstairs was showing Marx Brothers films.
“I used to ride all the way out to Riverhead from Oceanside,” he said.
Mr. Maul has since done a series where he provided live music for silent films at the Vail-Leavitt.
“They had a box of music there with scores for the organist — play this when they’re kissing, play this when they’re fighting. Play this when the girl is tied to the railroad tracks,” he said.
He also performed at previous LoveSpheres in venues ranging from apartments in Brooklyn to the Theater for the New City in Manhattan.
At one point, when Mr. Maul ran a small studio, The Werkshop, in Greenport, Mr. Heidt and a crew of musicians including legendary Lower East Side free jazz saxophonist Daniel Carter took the train to Greenport with a crew from the Museum of Sound Recording, who brought a mono two-inch Ampex tape deck and a Russian ribbon microphone. They put the gear in the center of the studio and pressed the record button.
He put two pots of soup on the stove and the music took off. Late in the evening, he thought to ask the musicians how they were planning to get back to New York. They told him not to worry, they’d take the next train.
“They didn’t realize the next train was 2 in the afternoon the next day,” he said.
And so, the music just went on without stop.
They’re hoping to capture some of that magic while celebrating the Spring Equinox at the music hall.
Showtimes are 8 p.m. on March 21 and 3 p.m. on March 22. Tickets are $7 in advance online, $10 at the door or weekend passes for $15.
For full information & tickets, go to www.LoveSphere20.com.