Music

An often hidden history

Taos Chamber Music Group pays homage to women in the arts

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Some people hear the words “chamber music” and imagine formally dressed Victorians sitting stiffly in stuffy drawing rooms, yawning politely behind their handkerchiefs through a never-changing set list of Baroque compositions.

The Taos Chamber Music Group has been busting that stale myth since its inception, with a repertoire that spans from centuries-old to brand new, embracing works by Latin American, Spanish, Native American, Baltic and Middle Eastern composers.

Over the years, TCMG has brought guest artists from around the world to play in Taos. It also featured some of New Mexico’s own finest musicians and composers in a variety of genres, including several collaborations with Robert Mirabal of Taos Pueblo. The group has commissioned new works, hosted composers-in-residence, and co-created with writers, poets, dancers, visual artists, filmmakers, photographers and music historians.

In that vein of innovation and diversity, TCMG will present “Living Legacy: Women in the Arts,” a salute to women’s musical contributions. The concerts on Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 11-12), will offer an array of music composed and performed by women. The concerts will commence at 5:30 p.m. both days in the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux St.

TCMG is celebrating its 25th anniversary season this year, as well as 20 years of collaboration with the Harwood Museum. The group was initially inspired to do an all-women concert series as a complement to the Harwood’s upcoming winter exhibit, “Work by Women.” As the program developed, TCMG’s director and flutist Nancy Laupheimer found herself looking with appreciation to women like Lucy Harwood and Mabel Dodge Luhan, and especially to Grace Parr, who is a long-standing TCMG supporter and sponsor of these concerts. “Grace’s generosity and encouragement are behind not only TCMG’s ongoing success, but many arts organizations in Taos,” Laupheimer said. “It is a pleasure to honor her with this program.”

Laupheimer reflected on the Living Legacy theme. “As a young flutist, I felt like I was part of a changing dynamic when more women were starting to be accepted into orchestras. Doing a program by women fits right into my love of discovering new and often little-heard music that I feel deserves attention, and that I think our audiences will enjoy.”

The series’ title, Laupheimer explained, refers to “the often hidden history of female composers, as well as to the legacy of female artists and supporters who have made the arts, especially in Taos, so vibrant.”

The title is also an homage to composer Jennifer Higdon’s piece titled “Legacy,” which will be performed in the series. Higdon has been composer-in-residence at Music from Angel Fire. Her opera, “Cold Mountain,” was co-commissioned and premiered by the Santa Fe Opera. In Higdon’s words, “Legacy represents life’s wholeness, the good and the bad, and all of the learning and experiencing that goes with living. One’s life is a song, complex, ever-eventful. We share and we love and we lose, but we gain in the process. Everyone leaves a legacy.”

The Living Legacy repertoire ranges from Baroque to Romantic, and onward to living composers Higdon, Ingrid Stölzel, Missy Mazzoli, Shulamit Ran and Stacy Garrop.

Shulamit Ran is an Israeli-born American composer and pianist who wrote her “Sonatina” for two flutes in 1961, when she was just 12 years old. Its three short, melodic movements are informed by the Middle Eastern flavor of her homeland. Laupheimer will be joined by Mary Kay Robinson, a renowned flutist and the new executive director of Music from Angel Fire, for this piece and for a “Trio Sonata” by 18th century composer Anna Bon de Venezia. Music from Angel Fire is a renowned Northern New Mexico late summer classical music series.

Next on the program is Clara Schumann’s 1846 “Piano Trio in G Minor.” Although her work was praised by luminaries of the European music world, the demands of Schumann’s own family precluded further development. “I once believed that I possessed creative talent,” she wrote poignantly, “but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?”

Schumann might rejoice to know that in 2017, music is being written and performed by more women than ever.

Missy Mazzoli’s award-winning music combines indie-rock influences with formal classical training. TCMG cellist Sally Guenther suggested Mazzoli’s “A Thousand Tongues” for the program. Based on the Stephen Crane poem of the same name, the composition requires a solo cellist to sing as well as play, accompanied by pre-recorded electronics.

Elizabeth Baker — a former first violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic who is making her fifth appearance with TCMG — will be featured with pianist Debra Ayers in a piece called “here, there,” by Ingrid Stölzel.

Baker and her husband have recently become full-time Taos residents. “Taos has been drawing me ever since I attended the Taos School of Music in 1975,” she said. “Being a part of the TCMG has meant a lot to me. It has helped to ground me in the Taos music community. Like being a part of a family. I look forward to many more years working with the fine artists that Nancy brings to this innovative series. It is an interesting coincidence that, having just moved from L.A. to Taos, Nancy asked me to present Ingrid’s work, ‘here, there.’ For so many years, I considered that I lived ‘here’ in L.A .and traveled ‘there’ to Taos. Now that I am ‘here,’ L.A. has transformed to ‘there’ for me. This work beautifully reflects on this perspective, and I have enjoyed discovering what it has to say.”

Baker told Tempo she finds it heartening to see women composers coming into their own. “Concurrently, more women are taking up the baton and are appearing with major orchestras with great success. It is important to remember that it took over 200 years for women to make inroads in the orchestral world, and it has only been in the last 60 years that they have finally established their presence in that genre.”

The program concludes with Stacy Garrop’s piano trio, “Jubilation.” Garrop did her graduate work at the University of Chicago, which she chose so that she could work with a woman — a rarity on composition faculties in the 1990s. That woman was Shulamit Ran. “Shulamit was a wonderful role model,” says Garrop. “She was a woman who wasn’t afraid to look like a woman. Her hair was humongous and curly, and she was wearing a red dress! That was very striking in that era.”

“We are proud to be part of the ‘living legacy’ of world-class chamber music here in Taos,” Laupheimer said, “and to do it in a way that introduces audiences to vibrant newer works that often reflect the magical place in which we live. We have been committed to keeping our costs low so that we can pay our outstanding musicians decently, and to maintaining close and personable relationships, running TCMG ‘Taos-style.’ I think all these ingredients are part of our ongoing success, and will continue to inform our future performances.”

Tickets to individual “Living Legacy” concerts are $25, $12 for students. Dinner discounts are being offered to concertgoers after the performances at Doc Martin’s, Martyrs, the Gorge Bar & Grill and Lambert’s restaurants.

For information and advance ticket purchase, visit taoschambermusicgroup.org or call the Harwood Museum, at (575) 758-9826.

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