Ah, the words “road trip” conjure up so many thoughts and images. There might be fond recollections, or dreams of travels to come. For some, the road trip wanderlust might have started with a book like John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charlie: In Search of America,” or for others, it might be the Beat classic “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. Or a movie about searching out for America, or even a song.
It was a few years ago that Terre Jones, then 60, finally fulfilled his own delayed road-trip dreams from his reading of Steinbeck’s travelogue of traveling across the country. At last, Jones could “walk, hike, and observe, to capture the unexpected.”
Jones took a sabbatical from his position as president and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. He went on a 19,000-mile solo trek driving across America, visiting nearly 90 U.S. national parks. He went alone with a camera in hand to record the natural beauty.
From the thousands of pictures he took came his 2012 book, “Roadtrip — A Photographer’s Journey to America’s National Parks.”
On Feb. 15, in the relaxed setting of the Barns at Wolf Trap, there will be a multimedia exploration of Jones’s photographs in “America’s National Parks, Through the Artist’s Lens, Volume 2.” The images will be projected on a large screen. In an extraordinary artistic touch, the changing projections of pictures will be accompanied by vocalists who are alumni from the Wolf Trap Opera Company. Pianist Kim Pensinger Witman will provide the music.
The evening’s score is a broad range of classical and pop, solemn and humorous, powerful and delightful. The music and voices will feature works spanning genres and styles in a recital format.
A sampling of the renowned composers to be heard includes Aaron Copland, Gabriel Fauré, Henri Duparc, Stephen Sondheim, Giocchino Rossini, Michael Ching and Frederick Loewe, among others.
In a recent interview, Jones, now Wolf Trap Foundation president emeritus, discussed how the seeds for his journey included not only Steinbeck’s journey, but his childhood photographic work with a Kodak Brownie camera. Photographs “can help us recollect what we remember or fire up our imaginations to go out and explore what is unknown to us.”
“What an extraordinary country America is, and the American people are more alike than they may think,” Jones added.
When asked about surprises, Jones was quick to mention Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park in Vermont. It is a 550-acre park east of Vermont’s Green Mountain range. Its purpose is to interpret the history and evolution of conservation activities in America. The beauty of the park, with its trees and greenness, was unexpected and breathtaking.
There also was California’s Death Valley, the lowest spot in the United States. Jones made his visit when the temperatures were not boiling. The colors and textures he saw were inspiring and quite unanticipated, he said.
In our conversation, Jones “urged people to take in nature; and not at our usual fast pace. For at our usual pace, we may fail to take time to observe our surroundings. Take your time, slow down and look;, it really is such an extraordinary world around us.”
As for photographic advice, Jones suggested, “Look at what you are planning to shoot; but then look at it again from different angles and perspectives for new views. Keep shooting and find your own artistic qualities.”
A key person bringing the evening to life is Kim Pensinger Witman, the director of Wolf Trap’s Opera Company. Not only is she the pianist for the event, but she collaborated with Jones and vocalists Eric Barry, tenor; Craig Cocklough, bass-baritone; Eve Gigliotti, mezzo-soprano; and Marcy Stonikas, soprano, to develop the musical and vocal score for the multimedia evening.
Recently, Gigliotti chatted about the event. She noted how the selections of photographs were partnered with music. The singers were provided many photographs to view and select from; and then urged to find ones that “they connected with and that resonated and deeply moved them.”
“I am so excited to be part of creating something so special. We want this evening to be one in which we express ourselves and communicate our feelings with the audience,” Gigliotti said. “We want to impact the audience. I hope everyone will be delighted with this special creation.”
The American landscape is so majestic and full of surprises. It is Jones’ hope that “the audience will get lost in the photographs combined with music,” and that they will be “encouraged to explore this great country.”