Music

Concert features poetry, music -- and silence

Taos Chamber Music Group kicks off its 27th season with a musical conversation

By Laura Bulkin
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 1/8/20

Music, visual arts, poetry and silence intertwine in Taos Chamber Music Group's first offering of the new year. The program is titled "Chatter in Taos" and it comes to the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum of Art Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 11-12), at 5:30 p.m. both days.

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Music

Concert features poetry, music -- and silence

Taos Chamber Music Group kicks off its 27th season with a musical conversation

Posted

Music, visual arts, poetry and silence intertwine in Taos Chamber Music Group's first offering of the new year. The program is titled "Chatter in Taos" and it comes to the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum of Art Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 11-12), at 5:30 p.m. both days.

Chatter is an Albuquerque-based string quartet made up of violinists David Felberg and Carla Kountoupes, violist Laura Steiner and cellist Dana Winograd. This is TCMG's second collaboration with Chatter director Felberg, whose innovative concert series is presented every Sunday in Albuquerque. TCMG director Nancy Laupheimer was inspired to add an annual Chatter concert in Taos, using a similar format of music accompanied by a 10-minute poetry reading and a two-minute "celebration of silence."

The program will feature music by composers Caroline Shaw, John Luther Adams, John Coolidge Adams and Yuko Uebayashi. Laupheimer will be joining the quartet on flute for the Uebayashi piece, and writer Ariana Kramer will be contributing original poetry.

Said Laupheimer, "David Felberg and I have been dear friends and colleagues for many years. David was one of the earliest members of the Taos Chamber Music Group, and before that I had played with his father, violinist Lenny Felberg, since the early '80s.

"The Chatter series is truly amazing in providing engaging chamber music every Sunday morning in Albuquerque. With poetry and two minutes offered for reflection, it takes the place of church or synagogue for many of its attendees. The performance quality is extremely high, and the poetry always intriguing. Since David had been coming to Taos for years as part of TCMG, and since Chatter added a monthly Santa Fe show, I decided to ask him to re-create the Chatter-style program up here last season."

Laupheimer spoke about the collaborative process of putting together a multidisciplinary event. "David and I chose the music together. I wanted all contemporary works and knew that he and his players do that so well. I also chose poet Ariana Kramer. Serendipitously, as so often happens, 'Long Environmentalism,' the exhibit of Subhankar Banerjee's photographs, is on view at the Harwood. The visual connection with the land, specifically Alaska, is perfect for these concerts, and also reflects how much TCMG's programming, in general, is influenced by our own landscape. The intermingling of the arts has always been an important part of TCMG, and our history includes collaborations with writers, poets, dancers, artists, filmmakers, photographers and music historians, as well as nonclassical musicians and composers."

Poet Kramer is a valued Taos News contributor and a curator of spoken word events at the Society of the Muse of the Southwest. "I've written poetry since I was a young girl, and studied creative writing in high school and college, though I was a biology major," she said. "Writing poetry has always been a very personal, private thing for me. It's only in the past six years or so that I've become more focused about sharing my poetry with others, and have had some of my poems published in poetry journals and anthologies."

Kramer spoke about the art of matching poetry to the program's musical selections. "Early on, Nancy Laupheimer told me that the program would highlight a piece called 'The Wind in High Places,' by John Luther Adams. I listened to this piece many times. It has an elemental quality to it -- and a very specific sense of evolution for me. Because of this, I have chosen to read four poems that I wrote about the elements: fire, air, earth and water. The poems as a series are called 'Ancestors Speak,' and are based on text fragments from 'Teutonic Mythology,' a four-volume set of books written by Jacob Grimm and first published in German in 1835.

"The work is an encyclopedic recording of the beliefs and practices of the ancient Germanic peoples prior to the introduction of Christianity," Kramer continued. "Jacob and his brother Wilhelm are known as the Brothers Grimm, and also wrote down folk and fairy tales. The poems are meant to be a window into how ancient peoples conceived of the natural elements, and their relationship to them.

"Part of my heritage is German. My mother was born in Germany, and I grew up reading and hearing the Brothers Grimm stories. When I first read the 'Teutonic Mythology' text, I felt like my ancestors were speaking to me -- giving me glimpses of an older way of thinking and being. My poems are an acknowledgment of that experience. I look forward to sharing these poems with a musical audience in the beautiful setting of the Harwood during these dark winter nights."

Albuquerque-born Felberg is concertmaster of the Santa Fe Symphony and associate concertmaster of the New Mexico Philharmonic, and teaches contemporary music at the University of New Mexico. He co-founded the first Chatter ensemble nearly two decades ago.

"The name Chatter was conceived almost tongue-in-cheek," Felberg said. "So much music is about 'conversations,' instruments chatting among themselves, composers (dead or alive) chatting with performers and performers chatting with the audience through music. Chatter, of course, also implies 'mindless talk,' which is where the tongue-in-cheek comes in, in that lots of contemporary music might sound like chatter at first, but it's highly constructed. So many ways of integrating the name in what we do."

Felberg has been performing with TCMG since 2002. "I absolutely love it and look forward to it always," he said. "For this weekend, I'm looking forward to some really great music - four contemporary composers. Both John Luther Adams and John Coolidge Adams have been favorites of mine since really learning about contemporary music. Discovering Caroline Shaw has been a wonder, and I'm looking forward to collaborating with Nancy on the Uebayashi quintet."

The TCMG season continues in mid-March with "Youthful Exuberance," followed by "World Journey with Suzanne Teng" in April and "Sounds of Shakespeare" in May.

The Harwood Museum of Art is located at 238 Ledoux Street.

Tickets are $25; $12 for students. All tickets are general seating. Local restaurants Lambert's, Doc Martin's, Martyrs and the Gorge Bar and Grill offer TCMG ticket holders dinner discounts after the concerts. Tickets may be purchased at taoschambermusicgroup.org or in-person at the museum store.

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