Concert Tickets Are $25 At The Door   •   Students & Active Duty Military Attend For Free!

Eighth Blackbird Outreach Event

Eighth Blackbird Outreach at Morningside Manor Assisted Living on March 11, 2019

On March 11 Eighth Blackbird shared their talent with a segment of the population that is too often forgotten.  They played for an hour in the Morningside Manor assisted living unit.  Their pieces were thoughtfully chosen and warmly introduced to the quiet audience of elderly people who mostly arrived by wheelchair.

The program was completely different from the music performed by the group on Sunday here in the Temple.  We had the chance to hear a compelling work by Eighth Blackbird flutist Nathalie Joachim, from her piece “Fanm d’Aviti” (Women of Haiti).  Etude No. 12, a minimalist piece by the revered American composer Philip Glass, was soothingly played by pianist, Lisa Kaplan.  Violinist Yvonne Lam gave a riveting performance of a solo work for violin – “Dissolve, O My Heart” by Missy Mazzoli.  The group ended with “The Days Run Away” by Peter Garland, a piece for all the instruments that brought the program to a calming end.

It is difficult to witness a program in an assisted living environment without feeling very much humbled by the power of music to heal and soothe.  We are grateful to Eighth Blackbird for their loving kindness in presenting this concert.

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins

Experiential Music

The audience at the Eighth Blackbird concert last Sunday were promised a novel and exciting experience; they got it.  If you were expecting four or five string musicians in their somber black suits and dresses performing the usual chamber music fare (16th, 17th and 18th Century composers with maybe a little 19th and 20th century thrown in for good measure), you were definitely surprised.  Rather than the usual, San Antonio Chamber Music Society presented the unusual: six very talented musicians performing very modern music on roughly a dozen instruments.

This was “experiential music” as opposed to “expected music.”  To explain: think about a painting by Georges Seurat, say “A Sunday Afternoon at the Island of the Grande Jatte,” a prime example of pointillism.  The reason it fascinates is a bit of a trick it plays on the brain:  you are deceived into believing you are looking at an ordinary Impressionist painting, but it is actually an impression of impressionism: thousands of tiny dots of paint, leading the brain to the experience of summer light and enjoyment.  The genre-bending compositions performed by Eighth Blackbird accomplished a similar feat.  They weren’t thematic in the usual sense – they were compositions by young composers and their fresh visions of classical music defy being shoved into a box.  Just as in the Seurat painting, it would be useless to try to pick apart each tiny color.  You simply have to take in the whole and just enjoy.  (I did wonder if others in the audience felt as chilled as I did during “The Clarity of Cold Air” or experienced the rocks and water tumbling in “Eroding.”)  The compositions crossed one genre line after another from jazz to blues to where-did-that-come-from to harmony to discord, from noise to barely perceptible whispers, from expected to totally amazing.  These talented musicians also managed to express humor and pathos with their varied instruments; it was apparent they richly enjoyed what they were creating. 

The compositions crossed one genre line after another from jazz to blues to where-did-that-come-from to harmony to discord, from noise to barely perceptible whispers, from expected to totally amazing.

You may have observed there was very little in the way of sheet music in front of these guys and only after hours and hours of practice and trust in one another can a group improvise in the way they did.  Not that everything they performed was improvisation – far from it – but there were definite areas of pure “winging.”  I guess that’s the blackbird in this group. Returning to the expected (but, of course, also performed with the expected perfection), the last concert of our season is the Finckel/Han/Setzer Trio, a true standard-bearer for classical trios.  Come hear this beautiful performance April 28 at Temple Beth-El, 3:15 p.m.  Remember, students and active duty military are admitted free. – E Doyle

Eighth Blackbird Concert

Eighth Blackbird Concert

March 10, 2019

Eighth Blackbird

Eighth Blackbird, hailed as “one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet” (Chicago Tribune), began in 1996 as a group of six entrepreneurial Oberlin Conservatory students and quickly became “a brand-name defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality” (Detroit Free Press). Over the course of more than two decades, Eighth Blackbird has continually pushed at the edges of what it means to be a contemporary chamber ensemble, presenting distinct programs in Chicago, nationally, and internationally, reaching audiences totaling tens of thousands. The sextet has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by composers both established and emerging, and have perpetuated the creation of music with profound impact, such as Steve Reich’s Double Sextet, which went on to win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. The ensemble’s extensive recording history, primarily with Chicago’s Cedille Records, has produced more than a dozen acclaimed albums and four Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance, most recently in 2016 for Filament. Longstanding collaborative relationships have led to performances with some of the most well-regarded classical artists of today from heralded performers like Dawn Upshaw and Jeremy Denk, to seminal composers like Philip Glass and Nico Muhly. In recent projects, Eighth Blackbird has joined forces with composers and performers who defy the persistent distinction between classical and non­classical music, including works by The National’s Bryce Dessner and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Perry, and performances with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, My Brightest Diamond frontwoman Shara Nova, Will Oldham aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Iarla Ó Lionáird of The Gloaming, among others.

Eighth Blackbird first gained wide recognition in 1998 as winners of the Concert Artists Guild Competition. Since 2000, the ensemble has called Chicago home, and has been committed to serving as both importer and exporter of world class artistic experiences to and from Chicago. A recent year-long pioneering residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, during which the ensemble served as a living installation with open rehearsals, performances, guest artists, and public talks, exemplified their stature as community influencers. Receiving the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, Chamber Music America’s inaugural Visionary Award, and being named Musical America’s 2017 Ensemble of the Year have supported Eighth Blackbird’s position as a catalyst for innovation in the new music ecosystem of Chicago and beyond.

Eighth Blackbird’s mission—moving music forward through innovative performance, advocating for new music by living composers, and creating a legacy of guiding an emerging generation of musicians —extends beyond recording and touring to curation and education. The ensemble served as Music Director of the 2009 Ojai Music Festival, has held residencies at the Curtis Institute of Music and at the University of Chicago, and holds an ongoing Ensemble-in-Residence position at the University of Richmond. In 2017, Eighth Blackbird launched its boldest initiative yet with the creation of Blackbird Creative Laboratory, an inclusive, two-week summer workshop and performance festival for performers and composers in Ojai, CA.

The members of Eighth Blackbird hail from the Great Lakes, Keystone, Golden, Empire and Bay states. The name “Eighth Blackbird” derives from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens’s evocative, imagistic poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird: “I know noble accents / And lucid, inescapable rhythms; / But I know, too, / That the blackbird is involved / In what I know.”

“One of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet.”

Chicago Tribune

“A brand-name defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality.”

Detroit Free Press

Members:

Nathalie Joachim (flutes)
Michael J. Maccaferri (clarinets)
Yvonne Lam (violin & viola)
Nick Photinos (cello)
Matthew Duvall (percussion)
Lisa Kaplan (piano)

Program

NINA SHEKHAR
ice ‘n’ SPICE

FJÓLA EVANS
Eroding 

ANGÉLICA NEGRÓN
Quimbombó 

HOLLY HARRISON
Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup

-Intermission-

NATHALIE JOACHIM
Madam Bellegarde

JONATHAN BAILEY HOLLAND
The Clarity of Cold Air

VIET CUONG
Electric Aroma 

JULIUS EASTMAN
Stay On It

Venue

Temple Beth-El
Address: 211 Belknap Place
Time: 3:15 PM

Cavatina Duo Outreach Event

Cavatina Duo Outreach at UTSA on January 26, 2019

The Cavatina Duo outreach took the form of two simultaneous masterclasses at the UTSA Department of Music on Saturday afternoon, January 26, 2019.

The flute masterclass conducted by flutist Eugenia Moliner began with group exercises for the ten students from the studio of UTSA flute professor Rita Linard.  She positioned them in a semi-circle and worked with them on the art of breathing- air flow and control. Rapport was quickly established between Eugenia and the students: she spoke to them in Spanish to help clarify certain points, after discovering that most of them spoke Spanish at home. Then individual students played their prepared solo pieces, after which Eugenia gave each one constructive critiques and helpful pointers on air support, rhythm, dynamics, and tone production. She also gave each student a “prescription” for fixing specific problems – exercises to handle technical challenges. She impressed on them that only 10% of the flute’s sound is produced by the instrument, the rest is coming from inside the performer’s body – the “sound box”. Seeing that many of the students were nervous about playing solo in front of the class, Eugenia told the students that they need to believe that the audience always wants the performer to do well – knowing that will help them relax and keep their anxiety under control.  After a brief Q & A session, Eugenia showed the students the score of Matt Dunne’s “Three Artisans” – a tour de force for flute, and demonstrated how she practiced it when she was learning the very difficult piece: using the same methods that she had taught them earlier.

The guitar masterclass had about twenty attendees, some of whom came from out-of-town. Guitarist Denis Azabagic worked with five students from the studio of Matt Dunne, director of the Guitar Program at UTSA. Similar to the format of the flute masterclass – each of these five students performed a solo piece and then had a discussion with Denis about the fine points of tone production, how to get different colors out of the instrument, phrasing, pacing,  and subtle variations in how the fingers can make contact with the strings. Denis had these one-on-one sessions videotaped on his cell phone, and each student was given a copy of his/her session to keep for future reference – all agreed that this was a great idea.  During the Q & A session, the class learned that technique is only important because it enables one to do the job of expressing fully what the music is saying, thus concentrating only on technique is not enough – one must understand the composer’s intent before starting a new piece.

Both Eugenia and Denis emphasized the paramount importance of listening: not just to music for one’s own instrument, but to all forms of music – instrumental, and vocal. Students were encouraged to attend as many concerts as they possibly can, and to never stop learning – “look to the masters for guidance and inspiration”. The masterclasses went on for almost three hours, and by the end there were only smiling faces.

Submitted by Pauline Glickman

Connections

It was all about connections, this Cavatina concert.  Only two instruments, both relatively simple but with a storied history:  an acoustic guitar and a golden flute – what could be simpler?  But what melodies and historical connections they produced! 

There were two musicians, connected by their countries’ surprisingly interwoven histories and cultures.  Eugenia Molinar, flutist extraordinaire, explained to us that her husband’s Slavic aunt spoke archaic Spanish and that her own Spanish grandmother lit a Shabat candle every Friday evening; she didn’t even realize the significance of the candle but, like the music her own granddaughter now performs, the candle was engrained in her cultural memory from centuries past.  The richness of this program (which included music from the Seventeenth Century to modern music) kept the audience captive in its mastery and, more importantly, its warmth.  The Temple was the perfect venue for exploring heritage.

Denis Azabagic, despite his self-deprecating humor about his status as second fiddle to his wife’s golden flute, is quite obviously a master of the kind of quiet, lyrical and utterly magical guitar music this audience greatly appreciated.  The two musicians together were able to spin a mystical web of swirling cadenzas, irresistible tangos and superb sound.

The two musicians together were able to spin a mystical web of swirling cadenzas, irresistible tangos and superb sound.

This concert was unique in that it presented the premiere of a work by Matthew Dunne.  The connection between Mr. Dunne and the Cavatina is a close one and the duo had the pleasure of meeting the person in honor of whom Mr. Dunne composed his Three Artisans, flutist Tal Perkes.  Matthew Dunne is also a well-known guitarist and has composed music for some of the best guitarists now performing; but this composition came straight from the heart.  His good friend, Tal (a flutist with the San Antonio Symphony), was posthumously honored as artist, architect and flutist and his tribute was flawlessly performed by the Cavatina Duo.

This was a different chamber music concert: only two musicians filling Temple with amazing technique and connecting with the audience in a particularly heartfelt way.  I noted as well one more connection:  when the Cavatina performed Isabel, by Joseph Williams, a piece inspired by Sephardic Jews who were driven from Ms. Molinar’s homeland of Spain in the Sixteenth Century, I remembered I had heard that this date, January 27th, marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  And just as the ugliness of the death of Isabel, this young Jewish woman in Spain, the beauty of the music endures.  Just as the sorrow for the death of a good friend and fellow artist saddens, he is immortalized in music.

– E Doyle

Pin It on Pinterest