Hot Rats, Four Saints & many mandalas

Joel Thome and the late Frank Zappa.

Documentary about composer Joel Thome’s comeback from stroke screens this weekend in Rosendale & Woodstock

Joel Thome may not be a household name, but he’s a heavy-hitter in the world of classical and avant-garde music. Richard Gehr of Rolling Stone called him the “cosmic love child of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Frank Zappa,” and indeed it is for his work with symphony orchestras and smaller ensembles around the world championing Zappa’s genius that the composer/arranger/conductor is perhaps best-known. Thome’s Polygram/Verve recording of Zappa’s Universe received a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental in 1994.

But Thome is equally at home in the world of opera. His Nonesuch recording of Virgil Thomson’s operatic setting of Gertrude Stein’s quirky, charming Four Saints in Three Acts was named Recording of the Year by Stereo Review. Thome was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his composition Savitri, Traveler of the Worlds. He has collaborated with pianists Vladimir Feltsman and Lorin Hollander and violinist Jaime Laredo; visual artists Alexander Calder, Françoise Gilot, David Hockney and Red Grooms; filmmaker Robert Fulton and choreographer Anna Sokolow. Formerly head of the Music Department at Carnegie Mellon University, Thome is currently professor of Composition at SUNY-Purchase.


Impressive bio, right? But what’s truly amazing is the fact that Thome is still hard at work, having suffered a debilitating stroke in 1998, after which he had to go through years of recovery to regain the use of his left arm. Producer/director Chris Pepino documented his rehabilitation and subsequent return to the stage in a film titled Inside the Perfect Circle: The Odyssey of Joel Thome. Thanks to the Hudson Valley Programmers’ Group, the documentary will be shown in two mid-Hudson venues this weekend, on Saturday at the Rosendale Theatre and on Sunday at Upstate Films in Woodstock, with question-and-answer sessions with Thome himself following both screenings.

Featuring interviews with colleagues, musicians and performers as well as archival and performance footage, the documentary provides an in-depth look at the career and philosophy, creative genius and unwavering dedication of the composer. Deeply influenced by the works of Sri Aurobindo, Thome created his own notational system based on mandalas, drawn on see-through vellum sheets that, when placed one page atop another, create an entire mandala form for the musicians to play. Using music as a resource for healing, he has resumed composing and performing his graphically notated mandala scores.

Tickets to either showing of Inside the Perfect Circle cost $10 each. The Rosendale Theatre screening will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 11, with a musical performance by Weston Minissali to follow the question-and-answer session with Thome. An after-party will follow at 9 p.m. at the Redwing Blackbird Theater, located at 413 Main Street in Rosendale. A separate $10 ticket price for the after-party will include an open bar and snacks. For admittance to the after-party, tickets must be purchased beforehand. Purchase of combined tickets online through will guarantee preferred seating to the film. Film tickets can also be purchased at the Rosendale Theatre box office.

The screening on Sunday, August 12 at Upstate Films Woodstock, located at 132 Tinker Street, will begin at 8:30 p.m. Advance Tickets for Upstate Woodstock can be purchased at, and you can see a trailer for the film at that site as well.



See Inside the Perfect Circle: The Odyssey of Joel Thome at the Rosendale Theatre on Saturday, August 11 at 7 p.m. or at Upstate Films Woodstock on Sunday, August 12 at 8:30 p.m. Both screenings will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Joel Thome. Admission to either venue costs $10, and an after-party at the Redwing Blackbird Theater in Rosendale beginning at 9 p.m. costs an additional $10. Tickets to the Rosendale show are available at the Rosendale Theatre box office. Order tickets to the after-party at Tickets to the Woodstock showing may be obtained at