BEOWULF Cast Spotlight: Larry Ochs

A killer saxophonist and all around great guy, Larry is another of Rova's founding members. We love collaborating with him; when you see his answers, we think you'll understand why!


Have there been any specific challenges or funny/interesting stories working outside and in the chapel for BEOWULF?


  • Never have played before with a flagpole sticking to my back and the bay winds whipping around the flag on that pole, which is kind of knocking me to the left or right or backwards as I’m trying to focus on playing the music. 
  • One of the greatest perks of all time; walking in costume down towards the stairs to the bay and enjoying the view west to Golden Gate Bridge just before each show starts
  • Very much enjoying the exchange of sound between the two conch players, as there is what seems to be a long delay between Jon’s conch sound on land and the reply from Albert out in the bay.
  • Also digging the symphony of ambient sounds wafting around us as we perform outside. There is the challenge of hearing our cue at The Battery event to come wailing out of hiding. Ava plays this bell -  slowly- until the time we are to rise up; then quickly; that’s the cue.. But yesterday there was an off-shore bell that sounded exactly like our own, and discerning between the two amongst the recorded music from one direction and the fog horn from another, and the wind… yeah; a challenge but all of it in fun...
  • Except yesterday maybe, when some guy threw a bottle over the wall that i am hiding behind and playing. It smashed a good distance from me, but did make me a bit paranoid as he and his cohorts were just a bit inebriated, and thus seemed capable of sending more projectiles over the wall. Did not happen… all’s well that ends well.
  • The weather!  This we expected to be our big challenge, even renting an entire set of saxophones for the outdoor portion of the piece; obtaining ponchos to cover ourselves and the saxophones; having an entire set of alternate capes created for the outdoor shows in the rain which we could discard upon arrival at the chapel for the longer more intimate and intense  indoor part of the show. But somehow through all that rain in February we never got wet. And now the weather seems turned completely beautiful; spring is here... Knock wood!

Beowulf in four words?


Share a favorite artistic experience- how did it impact you and affect your life and work afterwards?

Larry: There are so many...

  • Stumbling out of a Fugs’ concert in the East Village in summer 1966, rounding the corner and seeing a sign for John Coltrane at the Village Gate. walking in for the 2nd set and listening with an audience of maybe 2 dozen. Quite likely less. Never had experienced anything that intense in such a small space.
  • Stumbling out of my tent on Monday morning, early, to find with my ears that someone was still playing music, even though the festival- Woodstock- should have ended about midnight; some 7 hours before that. It was Hendrix, whom I had seen live before. But what he was doing that morning, the part I saw, was off the charts.
  • Art Ensemble of Chicago in Berkeley in 1973 or 74. By this time I was committed to the avant garde, and this concert confirmed that the direction I was headed was the right one for me. 
  • Diamanda Galas at Moers Jazz Festival 1981. Her debut in Europe. 5000- as in ‘five thousand’- wet audience members... it had been raining all weekend at this outdoor festival, but more and more people showed up each day anyway. You know: well known avant garde jazz groups played this festival. But on this Saturday afternoon, safe to say that almost no one familiar with Diamanda’s music was out there in the audience. She’s there to sing solo; no support onstage. And she has complicated tech; and it’s 1981, and she can’t explain how it works technically; her normal tech person was not flown in. The festival engineer comes up to me almost crying…”can you help? I don’t know what she wants, but whatever that is,  it’s not working.”
  • Diamanda standing resolutely behind her microphone in a raincoat adamantly shaking her head;  the concert does not start- for about an hour- and by then the audience is yelling at her to start; the engineer is throwing up his hands from the control booth situated out in the audience; and I know she’s about to ‘play’ something quite unlike the normal fare delivered… And yet, when she finally gets what she needs onstage,  she walks offstage, to more boos, and returns without the raincoat and DELIVERS. Solo, no help, for an hour. Completely wins over this hostile, miserably-wet crowd. A tour-de-force of performance power. Taught me some things I’ve never forgotten.
  • Hearing John Cage and David Tudor et al, creating music for the Merce Cunningham Dance Troupe. That first time stands out in a huge crowd of major concerts that set my mind off and helps me solve my own creative problems..