It was May of 1993 when flutist Nancy Laupheimer gathered together a group of chamber musicians for a performance at the Taos Community Auditorium to celebrate Spring Arts.
Needing a name, she called the musicians the Taos Chamber Music Group.
Although Laupheimer had no particular plans beyond that concert, the name served as its own instigating force. Soon, people wanted to know when the next Taos Chamber Music Group concert would be held.
In August of that year, Laupheimer met with her friend and supporter of the arts, Mary Burns. Together they launched a plan for a year-round presence of chamber music in Taos.
With this weekend’s concerts, the Taos Chamber Music Group will celebrate its 20th anniversary as a leading force in the local art community.
The concerts are planned Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 22-23), 5 p.m., in the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the University of New Mexico’s Harwood Museum of Art, at 238 Ledoux St.
With its combination of classical, Spanish, Latin, popular and jazz influences Laupheimer describes the opening program as a “musical mash-up” that exemplifies the diverse programs for which TCMG is known. It will include Ralph Vaughn William’s “Suite de Ballet” for flute and piano, a work that Laupheimer performed on that very first TCMG concert in May of 1993.
TCMG regulars Robert Tweten (piano), Kirsten Lear, (mezzo-soprano), Angela Gabriel (marimba) and Toni Lipton (bassoon) join Laupheimer on the piece.
Laupheimer said this season’s programs will also highlight TCMG’s “greatest hits” of the last 19 years.
The season’s nine programs, which will be given September through June 2013, will include favorites by Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, Ravel, Prokofieff and Schubert, along with music inspired or composed by American Indians; collaborations with dancers, actors and filmmakers; two TCMG commissions (one a world premiere); and special appearances by Grammy-award winning Taos Pueblo flutist Robert Mirabal and the American String Quartet.
More than 30 world class performers will perform with TCMG this season.
The world premiere by Matthew Suttor “La Prose du Transsiberien” is the new commission to be performed in January 2013; Paul Fowler’s “On Taos,” scheduled for April 2013, was first commissioned and performed in 2007.
In addition to the folk-infused Williams “Suite de Ballet,” included in this weekend’s program are Chick Corea’s “Trio” for flute, bassoon and piano, Maximo Diego Pujol’s “Dos Aires Candomberos” for flute and marimba, Manuel de Falla’s “Seven Popular Spanish Songs,” a set of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon, and “Mosaics” for flute, bassoon and marimba by Eric Ewazen who will appear in person to introduce the piece.
“Mosaics” features the full range of the marimba, an instrument that is a favorite among TCMG audience members. Marimba will also be used in the Argentinian “Candomberos,” a work that TCMG first performed in 2009 on an all-Latin American program.
Ewazen’s piece was written in 1994 for a New York-based trio that included Toni Lipton, who was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at the time, and is the current TCMG bassoonist.
According to Ewazen, “Mosaics” explores “the wide variety of colors inherent in the ensemble of flute, bassoon and marimba, instruments with distinct timbres which also blend beautifully together.”
Ewazen is on the faculty of The Juilliard School in New York City. His music has been performed and recorded around the world, and he has been lecturer for the New York Philharmonic’s Musical Encounters Series.
The Chick Corea “Trio” was first recorded by Corea on piano, flutist Hubert Laws, and bassoonist Karl Porter in 1973 on an album called “Inner Space.”
“The inclusion of a chamber-style work with a jazz flavor is right up TCMG’s alley,” according to Laupheimer who added that its “driving hard-bop tunes, ballads, avant-garde exploration and chamber music set the stage for the broad spectrum of composition and performance that have made Corea a jazz icon.”
Mezzo-soprano Kirsten Lear will be featured in Falla’s “Spanish Songs” about a broken love affair, as well as three Ricky Ian Gordon songs, two of which are settings of poems by Langston Hughes.
Through the years, TCMG has attracted some of New Mexico’s best chamber musicians to perform, as well as world-class musicians from elsewhere. “Over 100 artists have presented over 100 different programs in over 200 performances,” Laupheimer said.
TCMG has built its reputation on performing popular works alongside lesser-known pieces, combining classical with contemporary works and innovative programming that includes multi-disciplinary collaborations that integrate music with dance, theater, film, photography and poetry.
“It has been a treat to have such receptive and enthusiastic audiences who are open to the unfamiliar and trust that something we present is worth a try and will most likely be exciting and inspiring,” Laupheimer reflected.
That support has helped the Taos Chamber Music Group accomplish its original goal. “We have made chamber music a year-round presence in Taos, bringing performances to the Taos community and its visitors, as well as school programs for hundreds of Taos County children,” Laupheimer noted.
Laupheimer suggested that part of the success of the TCMG has been its policy to pay musicians equitably, while keeping administrative overhead to a minimum. Quoting Charlie Parker, she said her goal as director has been, “’Keep it simple and don’t stop!’”
As you can tell, Laupheimer remains TCMG’s director and flutist. Mary Burns is the President of TCMG’s Board of Directors. Its members include Suzanne Brock, Martha Grossman, Robert Fitch and Kristin Ulibarri.
The TCMG depends on contributions to make its programs possible. Donations are tax-deductible, and contributors are recognized in all of the season’s programs and invited to special free concerts and events, according to TCMG publicity.
Tickets to this weekend’s concerts are $20, $12 for youth 16 and under. Remaining seats will be available at the door for $22. Advance tickets may be purchased at the Harwood Gift Shop ($16 for Harwood Alliance members at the gift shop only) or online at www.taoschamber musicgroup.org.
Ask about local restaurants offering concert-goers a dinner discount with a ticket stub for the day of the concert. For more information, call (575) 758-0150 or visit www.taoschambermusicgroup.org.