The Art of Listening

PianoTaos teams up with Taos Art Museum for ‘Hearing the Collections’ presentation


How do you “hear” a painting? PianoTaos has joined with Taos Art Museum at Fechin House to answer that question. Six pianists from PianoTaos have each selected a musical composition that corresponds to a painting housed in the museum’s collection. Each musician will perform their piece and talk about how it relates to the artwork for an illuminating multisensory experience.

PianoTaos will present a program called “Hearing the Collections” Sunday (April 9), 1:30-2:30 p.m., at Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Admission is free. For more information, call (575) 758-2690.

Martha Shepp, organizer of “Hearing the Collections,” is no stranger to creating multidisciplinary performances. She has studied piano, publishing and art and holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Tennessee. As a musician, she has accompanied dancers, instrumentalists and vocalists. When she lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, Shepp created many multidisciplinary performances that included moving imagery, poetry, dance, visuals and music.

Shepp is excited to incorporate the visual arts into this PianoTaos performance.

“I’m excited about it because it’s my mode of operating,” Shepp commented. “I always want to add another discipline to [a performance] to make it rich. To me, it’s been very natural and lovely.”

Musicians for “Hearing the Collections” will be pianists Vickie Ford, Ginger Mongiello, Ana Borzha, Claire Detels, Martha Grossman and Martha Shepp and violinist Suzie Schwartz.

Ford will play “April” by Frank Bridge to illuminate a painting by Duane Van Vechten that depicts sailboats and a race. Mongiello will be improvising a piece to “Golden Oaks” by Gene Kloss. Borzha will perform Robert Schumann’s “Arabesk,” which is paired with Emil Bistrom’s painting “Autumn Oaks.” Shepp and Schwartz have paired a painting of a mother and child by Van Vechten with the first movement of Schumann’s “Fairy Tale Pictures.” In conclusion, Detels and Grossman will play from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Six Pieces for Piano, Four Hands,” which they have coupled with “Eya in a Peasant Blouse” by Nicolai Fechin.

Shepp described the painting she chose by Van Vechten, titled “Madonna with Child,” and explained that the way the paint was handled, in an impressionistic style, spoke to her. She described “the mother’s flame hands holding a child in her lap” and the “blues and pinks and purples swirling in an egg-like shape,” which reminded her of the special quality of relationship between mother and child.

Schumann’s “Fairy Tale Pictures” is a duet between violin and piano, where the two instruments “talk” together, Shepp explained. “To me, it felt like a symbiotic, sweet duet where each one takes turn embracing the other, and that’s what this painting looks like to me.”

Shepp said each of the pianists who has chosen to play a piece for the performance has been having fun with the assignment of matching a composition with a painting.

“The really interesting one will be Ginger [Mongiello] because she does improvisation,” Shepp commented.

Mongiello’s recent improvisational piece for PianoTaos’ “Great Women Composers” concert was a rich tapestry of sound that was greatly appreciated by the audience.

For more information, call the venue at (575) 758-2690. For more information on the presenters, visit