With the arrival of spring, our senses are newly invigorated. And that is evident by what’s happening on area stages. Welcome the season by taking in one of the many musical performances you’ll find at our local venues this weekend.
ETHEL’s post-classical musings
Described and acclaimed as a postclassical string quartet, ETHEL brings its exuberantly innovative style to Rockville Centre, when the ensemble performs at Molloy College’s Madison Theatre on Saturday, March 24.
The quartet’s Juilliard-educated young musicians are all involved in the new music scene, from which this dynamic ensemble evolved. Formed in 1998, Ethel is comprised of founding members cellist Dorothy Lawson and violist Ralph Ferris, with violinists Cornelius Dufallo and Jennifer Choi.
“We like to call ourselves a string band rather than a string quartet to stray away from the classical idea of a quartet,” said Choi, who is the group’s newest member, having joined in 2011.
These classically trained musicians bring their technique and musicianship to the adventurous music of the past four decades. “Our style stems from the classical tradition but goes way beyond,” Choi said. “ETHEL will play anything from rock to jazz to postclassical. We choose to play compositions from American composers who are still living, with the emphasis on works composed since 1995.”
ETHEL has premiered over 50 new works in the past three years, many of the commissioned by the ensemble. Boldly exploring new synergies between tradition and technology, ETHEL has initiated innovative collaborations with such American and international artists such as Joe Jackson, Kurt Elling, Bang on a Can, Todd Rundgren, David Byrne, Ursula Oppens, Loudon Wainwright III, STEW, Ensemble Modern, Jill Sobule, Joshua Fried, Andrew Bird, Iva Bittová, Colin Currie, Thomas Dolby, Steve Coleman, Stephen Gosling, Jake Shimabukuro and Polygraph Lounge.
Their Madison Theatre performance features one of their newest programs,“Present Beauty,” based on Philip Glass’s score for the 2002 film The Hours. That score was arranged by the group, as a tribute to Glass’s 75th birthday, and this concert created around it.
“This program celebrates the moments of continuity and presence. It expresses different moments in time and presents the beauty of every moment,” said Choi. In addition to the music from The Hours, the program includes compositions by Terry Riley, Huang Ruo, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe. “Each piece is completely different yet they all work together a whole.”
The concert is performed without intermission and with amplification, as ETHEL explores the boundaries between tradition and technology. “We are bringing a new experience to the audience,” said Choi. “Our style of playing is fresh and invigorating and expresses a lot of deep, meaningful feeling. “We are excited to bring our music to Molloy’s new theater.” ETHEL last performed on Long Island at the 2010 Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival. They have appeared on stages as varied as Venice Biennale, Sydney Opera House, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Ravinia, TED, Lincoln Center, Holland’s TROMP Festival, Kennedy Center, FIAC in Guanajuato, Mexico, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A ubiquitous presence in New York City, the group regularly appears in venues ranging in size and mission – from The Stone to Alice Tully Hall.
Upcoming 2012 collaborations include nationwide tours of “Music of the Sun” with Native American flutist Robert Mirabal and “Tell Me Something Good” with rock icon Todd Rundgren; as well as new collaborative works with the Dusan Tynek Dance Company.
“We play music that reaches audiences as well as ourselves,” said Choi. “We found the film score to The Hours so moving that we wanted to arrange it for our string quartet and that’s how we came to create Present Beauty. We are thrilled that we are introducing to the New York City area for the first time at the Madison Theatre.”
A tribute to George Gershwin
The joint will be jumping, when Hofstra University’s alumni theater group The Gray Wig, in association with Hofstra Entertainment, presents “Rhapsody in Gershwin,” this weekend, March 23-25.
A cast of 40, with a live band, performs some of George Gershwin’s most popular songs. And they certainly have many to choose from.
One of America’s most beloved musicians, George Gershwin wrote more than 860 songs in a life that spanned a mere 38 years. Some of those hits that you can look forward to hearing include “But Not for Me,” “Summertime,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
Gershwin is currently the subject of a revival of sorts, as his classic Porgy and Bess, now considered one of the seminal works of American opera, is currently playing on Broadway to much acclaim. As American Songbook host Michael Feinstein put it, “I hear the name Gershwin and I think of the most incredibly talented, prolific, extraordinary composer of the century, and his music is as fresh and vital today as it was when he originally created it.”
A jazzy look at women in song
Also at Hofstra this weekend, San Francisco-based blues vocalist Pamela Rose presents the Long Island premiere of her retrospective “The Wild Women of Song – Great Gal Composers of the Jazz Era” on Saturday. This captivating showpiece, with The Wild Quintet, celebrates the lives, times and music of the female songwriters of Tin Pan Alley. With dramatic projected images, and dynamic storytelling, Rose artfully delivers her cultural musings on the impact of women in the music of that era, while treating the audience to a jazz and blues concert.
Rose make a compelling case for the enduring contributions of women to America’s treasure trove of popular music, from Alberta Hunter to Peggy Lee, in this multi-media program. Using period slides, and her throaty voice to bring her heroines to poignant, funny life with stories of travail and triumph, she presents a loving tribute to these ladies of the classic jazz era.