Courtesy photo

Piano soloist Kim Bakkum

The Taos Chamber Music Group will launch its 29th season this weekend, in collaboration with the Taos Center for the Arts. The opening concert, featuring pianist Kim Bakkum, will take place at the Taos Community Auditorium on Sunday (Sept. 26) at 5:30 p.m.

"We are thrilled to put in place a fall series of concerts, but well aware of the changing pandemic landscape," said TCMG Director Nancy Laupheimer. "Safety of our musicians and audience are front and center, so we are starting small with a solo recital and limited, socially distanced seating at the TCA. Masks and proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test will be required."

Kim Bakkum will be performing works from the solo piano repertoire on the TCA's recently acquired Baldwin baby grand piano. Bakkum has appeared on several TCMG programs and is well-known in Taos as both a performer and teacher to students of all ages. Originally from Montana, she performed and coached in Europe and on the faculty at both University of Akron and Kent State University before moving to Taos in 2014.

Bakkum has titled her program "L'isle Joyeuse," the name of a piece by Claude Debussy that she will play.

"It seemed only fitting that joy be the theme of this program, hence the centerpiece, 'The Joyous Island,'" says Bakkum. "This is not only a celebration of you, the long-awaited live audience, but also of passionate mentors I have had the rare opportunity to work with. This program was birthed whilst reflecting on those musicians' remarkable exuberance for performing and teaching. Their generosity in sharing their artistry with humility and humanity has been priceless to me."

For the rest of the program, said Bakkum, "I'll start with two early 'Sonatas' by Domenico Scarlatti which are playfully virtuosic in character. Frederic Chopin's 'Ballade, Op. 23' (his first) exudes his genius with elegant, mournful melodies and an exuberant display of harmonic peaks and valleys. Maurice Ravel's 'Sonatine' is a pianistic gem that portrays his poignant, refined style. It challenges the pianist to conquer scintillating textures, dramatic dynamic switches, and pristine, imaginative coloration inherent to his orchestral style. And Nancy and I are elated that we get to collaborate in Philippe Gaubert's exquisite French 'Romance' for flute and piano."

Bakkum and Laupheimer have enjoyed a close friendship through music, and are glad of the opportunity to play together once again. They will also perform a short duo by the American composer Roy Harris.

Laupheimer is the founder, director and flutist of the TCMG. She has for years brought world-class artists to Taos through her connections and the respect she has earned in the music world. Many of them return again and again, attracted by the quality of the music and the surroundings. Laupheimer jokes that when she first moved to Taos more than four decades ago, she was taking early retirement. When a position offered to her by the Orquestra Sinfonica de Sao Paulo in Brazil fell through at the last minute, she instead accepted an invitation to participate in the New Mexico Music Festival in the summer of 1979. It was intended to be a temporary detour from her career path, but New Mexico's combined offerings of musical and skiing opportunities, its natural beauty and cultural diversity soon proved irresistible.

"In terms of the Taos Chamber Music Group, its value has been even more impressed upon us during this time," said Laupheimer. "We have received several notes and emails of praise and appreciation, citing TCMG as an essential treasure of Taos. Our collaborations with composers and with the TCA and Harwood Museum during last season kept the creative juices flowing and 'helped us feel as one about the pandemic,' as one audience member put it. TCMG musicians stepped up to share virtually, and we found new ways to keep the music we present vital and inspiring. While TCMG cut back on production and administrative costs and took in next to no ticket income, we remained committed to paying our musicians equitably, helping to support a profession particularly hardhit by the pandemic. As we go forward with this fall season of five different programs, TCMG is dedicated to connecting with audiences through passionate and professional performances as safety permits.

"Following the opening concert on Sept. 26, TCMG and the TCA will present the American String Quartet in two different programs on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29 and 30. In December, pianist Gleb Ivanov will return to the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum to perform in a solo recital on Friday, December 10, and then in a chamber music program on Saturday and Sunday, December 11 and 12, with TCMG members."

"I have observed the effect of the pandemic on my musical colleagues all over the world," mused Bakkum. "From academia to orchestras, educators and chamber groups, it's been a huge blow to our musical psyches and naturally to the livelihood of making music. That being said, it has been beyond remarkable how we've all collectively pursued and insisted on a way to share music. For me personally to continue to teach music in my community has been critical. Music is that important to the human spirit.

"Musicians are resilient, persistent and curious, and I've watched colleagues reinvent the ability to teach music at colleges, to stream concerts, and to insist that music continues to have a place in our communities. There has been incredible technical growth in this area for us all. We are entirely fortunate that we have the benefits of technology to bring performances into our living rooms, bring playlists to our cars, and Zoom, Skype or FaceTime students. I'm especially proud of my individual private students who continued their pursuit of music online all last year. I never ever imagined that I'd be teaching via a screen, but we did it. The students did it and that was so critical to me, to continue to enhance and support their love for music. This week, I got to meet some students for the first time in person for a lesson and was quickly reminded of the power of 'in person' human connection. The glory of sound produced from an acoustic instrument that bathes us in energy and beauty is amazing. That cannot be reproduced via a screen. There truly is nothing like it, and I have missed it, and I applaud my students and their parents for knowing that music in their lives is a forever gift. So, during the pandemic, in lieu of collaborations, the pursuit of a solo program seemed natural and necessary. Music has a power to organize, create and feed the soul. Music is sound and heart. It's part of the human condition and human connection!"

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