The first tinges of autumn are appearing on trees and shrubs across Taos Valley, signaling the opening of the 24th season of the Taos Chamber Music Group (TCMG).
The season debuts with a program called “Credo,” which explores prayerful music from the cultural East and West, and features works by composer Andrea Clearfield, who will be performing for the Taos concerts. Clearfield’s pieces incorporate traditional Tibetan music from her field studies.
“Credo” will be performed Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 17-18) in the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street. Both concerts begin at 5:30 p.m.
The Eastern portion of the “Credo” program includes a world premier of Clearfield’s arrangements: “Avalokiteshvara” (Compassion) and “Tse Go La” (At the Threshold of this Life) for voice, flutes, string quartet, piano, singing bowls and gongs; Chinese composer Chen Yi’s “Tibetan Tunes” for piano trio; and a “Tibetan Prayer Song” arranged for flutes and string quartet by TCMG Director Nancy Laupheimer. The Western portion of the concert features works by two American composers: Ned Rorem’s “Four Prayers” for flute and piano and Kevin Puts’ “Credo” for string quartet.
The overarching theme of the program reflects “connection across the globe as well as the themes of compassion, belief, rites of passage and prayer,” noted Laupheimer.
“The program, ‘Credo,’ was inspired by Andrea’s pieces after we played a smaller version together with Heidi Svoboda on gongs a couple of summers ago,” says Laupheimer. “I decided to include other music related to Tibet, such as Chen Yi”s ‘Tibetan Tunes’ and the ‘Tibetan Prayer Song,’ and combine them with deep-seated American music, such as the ‘Four Prayers’ and ‘Credo.’”
Musicians for the “Credo” concerts are Kim Bakkum (piano), David Felberg and Ruxandra Marquardt (violins), Shanti Randall (viola), Sally Guenther (cello), Nancy Laupheimer (flutes), and Heidi Svoboda (gongs and percussion). Clearfield will perform on piano and sing. She will also present a slideshow on her work to preserve Tibetan music.
An award-winning composer, Clearfield has been praised by The New York Times for her “graceful tracery and lively, rhythmically vital writing,” and by The Los Angeles Times for her “fluid and glistening orchestration.” She received the 2016 Pew Fellowship in the Arts and is the founder and host of the Philadelphia Salon. The Salon is celebrating its 30-year anniversary and was awarded the “Best of Philadelphia” award by Philadelphia Magazine. Clearfield is currently in Taos as a recipient of an artist residency scholarship from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, where she is working on the orchestration of her first opera and some new chamber music.
In an effort to preserve Tibetan music, Clearfield has traveled to Lo Monthang, an area considered one of the world’s last havens of traditional Tibetan culture. Clearfield and her colleagues recorded over 130 songs from the folk, dance and court traditions that had not been previously documented. Many of these came from Tashi Tsering, the last remaining royal court musician.
Tashi Tsering is “aging with no heirs to learn his music and should he pass, these songs, telling the stories of the culture, taught orally from father to son for hundreds of years would be lost,” explained Clearfield, who also recorded the songs of other community musicians.
Once the recordings of the songs were made, they were preserved for future generations.
“We sent [the recordings] back to Lo Monthang, recorded on cassette tapes with boom boxes and batteries to be available in their cultural library so that the children could learn them. They are also being taught to Himalayan children who have relocated to Queens, New York as part of a Himalayan cultural preservation initiative. The songs that we recorded are now part of the University of Cambridge Oral Literature Project, committed to documenting endangered languages before they disappear without record.”
The first of Clearfield’s pieces to be performed as part of TCMG’s “Credo” is “Avalokiteshvara” (Compassion), and is part of a longer work called “Lung-ta” (The Windhorse). The piece was presented to the Dalai Lama in 2009 as part of a world peace initiative. The Taos Chamber Music Group commissioned a chamber arrangement of the central movement: ‘Compassion.’
Her second piece, “Tse Go La Chamber Suite” is excerpted from the large-scale cantata ‘Tse Go La’ (At the threshold of this life), originally scored for two choruses, digital audio and chamber orchestra.
“I composed this work in 2012, after my second trek to Lo Monthang to document Tashi Tsering’s repertoire,” said Clearfield. “The theme is on rites of passage, from birth through death: a meditation and celebration of the life cycle and the significant thresholds and transitions that we encounter along the way. I chose three movements from the cantata to feature in the ‘Tse Go La Chamber Suite,’ commissioned by the Taos Chamber Music Group.”
Following the performances, concert-goers also receive a dinner discount from the following local restaurants: Doc Martin’s, Martyrs, the Gorge Bar & Grill and Lambert’s.
Individual tickets for “Credo” are $25 and $12 for students. Season tickets can be purchased for $140 for seven concerts.
Tickets are available through taoschambermusicgroup.org and by calling The Harwood Museum of Art, where there is a discount for its Alliance members.