After a fall appearance at Kansas City’s Open Spaces festival, the ETHEL string quartet, along with longtime collaborator Robert Mirabal, will return to Kansas City as a part of the UMKC Conservatory Artist Series on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. in White Recital Hall.
ETHEL was established in New York City in 1998, quickly earning a reputation as one of America’s most adventurous string quartets—heirs to the likes of the Kronos Quartet and Soldier String Quartet, and part of a generation of young artists skillfully blending uptown, conservatory musicianship with downtown genre-crossing—by playing with the intensity and accouterments of a rock band. The New York Times has described them as “indefatigable and eclectic,” and the Washington Post declares that “in the hands of ETHEL, American music is alive and well.” ETHEL has traveled around the world collaborating and creating a renewed sense of community among musicians and fans alike. Nearly 200 works have been commissioned and composed, and ETHEL continues to be a trailblazer in contemporary music.
ETHEL’s current lineup features two founding members and Artistic Directors Ralph Farris (viola) and Dorothy Lawson (cello), along with violinists Kip Jones and Corin Lee. This group has a continuing creative quest to celebrate community, blending sounds of new and old in a wonderful new tradition. They also have an ongoing dedication to working with indigenous peoples and their music, and in 2010 released the first commercial recording of American Indian students’ works.
A collaborative ethos is the heart of ETHEL, a quest for a common creative expression forged in the celebration of community. Once such collaboration, now in its seventh year, is with Native American performer Robert Mirabal. Mirabal is a Pueblo musician and world-renowned Native American flute player and make from Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. An award-winning musician and leading proponent of world music, Mirabal performs worldwide, sharing flute songs, tribal rock, dance, and storytelling. He was twice named the Native American Music Award’s Artist of the Year, and received the Songwriter of the Year award three times.
The latest inspiration for Mirabal and the ETHEL quartet is water, and its essential role in life on earth. Led by Mirabal, this adventurous and unconventional journey rushes through rapids and flows gently through still, sacred spaces. The accompanying album, The River, was recorded at Mirabal’s home on the Taos Pueblo, with the Pueblo River in the background drawing inspiration as each artist contributed to the project original music or poetry with special significance. A true blending of cultures, influences for this project reach as far as India, Mongolia, Japan, and Soviet Georgia. The Seattle Times noted that “The River resides somewhere beyond the intersection of ceremony and show biz, at a place where multicultural collaboration becomes sacred art.” Audience members are immersed in a flow of music, narrative, and ritual that evokes timeless Native America traditions through contemporary musical artistry. This ethereal concert experience connects audience members to the movement of life within each other, and within themselves.
This concert is sponsored in part by a grant from the James and Vera Olson Fund for the Arts. Tickets are available on our website, www.conservatory.umkc.edu, by calling the Central Ticket Office at 816-235-6222, or by visiting our box office in the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center.