In The Press

Praise for the Taos Chamber Music Group!

"One of the great treasures of Taos" -The Taos News
"Big magic...silken ensemble playing"
-Albuquerque Journal
“A remarkable concert of juxtaposed styles”
-Horse Fly
“Depth, vitality and inventiveness”
-Spencer Beckwith, KUNM
Press Release
Taos Chamber Music Group Opens 26th Season with Common Ground!

The Taos Chamber Music Group’s 26th season of concerts at the Harwood Museum of Art will begin on Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23, 5:30 p.m. The program, called “Common Ground,” features Los Angeles Philharmonic violinist, Vijay Gupta, performing works by J.S. Bach and Handel-Halvorsen as well as a piano trio called “Saans” (the Hindi word for breath) by Reena Esmail. He will be joined by TCMG flutist and director Nancy Laupheimer, cellist Sally Guenther and pianist Kim Bakkum. In addition, Gupta will give the world premiere performance of “Darshan” for solo violin, also by Esmail.

Both of these extremely talented young artists (Gupta just turned 31 and Esmail is 35) are also ardent social activists and will speak about their work advocating for “the vital role of music to heal, shape and change the way we see ourselves and the world around us” during the concerts.

“This is a new direction for TCMG,” says Laupheimer, “in which we are featuring musicians who are also powerful and inspiring speakers. Their voices, as well as the music on the program, will draw attention to the ‘common ground’ that is shared by all humanity and the ways in which music can profoundly affect, uplift and bring people together.”

As a 2011 TED Senior Fellow, Gupta founded and began directing Street Symphony, a non-profit organization that engages homeless and incarcerated communities in Los Angeles through musical performance and dialogue. In 2017, Gupta was named a Citizen Artist Fellow by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and was just recently featured on NBC’s Dateline segment on homelessness in LA, “City of Angels.”

Gupta was one of the youngest musicians ever to be accepted as a violinist of the LA Philharmonic, which he joined at age 19. He made his solo debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Zubin Mehta at age 11, and has performed as a recitalist, soloist and chamber musician on an international scale since the age of 8.

Gupta serves on the faculty of the Longy School of Music of Bard College Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program, which prepares musicians to become agents of change through the study of performance, music pedagogy and social justice. He is also on the board of directors of the DC-based national arts advocacy organization Americans for the Arts and has just been appointed to the Colburn School of Music where he teaches a “Pathways to Citizen Artistry” class. Gupta was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of La Verne, and in 2017, at age 29, was awarded the Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society.

Like Gupta, Esmail is an Indian American who is working closely with Street Symphony as their composer-in-residence. She holds degrees in composition from The Juilliard School (BM’05) and the Yale School of Music (MM’11, MMA’14, DMA’18), and received a 2011-12 Fulbright-Nehru to study Hindustani music in India. In recent seasons, she has worked with the Kronos Quartet, Albany Symphony, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Salastina Music Society, SOLI, and American Composers Orchestra.

The following is from a recent email conversation in which Esmail answered Laupheimer’s questions about her new piece “Darshan” (the Hindi word for beholding the Divine or for witnessing God.)

L: How does Hindustani music play into the new work?
E: My writing style is essentially a blend of Hindustani (North Indian) and Western musical traditions. I am dual-trained both as a composer and pianist in Western classical music and as a singer in Hindustani music (for almost the past decade). There are so many places of resonance between the two traditions, and I am always trying to find ways to juxtapose concepts from both traditions and create a seamless blend that essentially becomes its own unique style. Of course, this is true of both Vijay and me as musicians and people as well: we've each created our own unique blend of what it means to be Indian-American, what it means to come from the lens of a Western classical training to rediscover our own culture.

L: How does the piece reference Bach's “Partitas”?
E: The work started off as a classic Partita - five movements using Baroque forms - and it evolved from there, At this point it draws as much from the Western influences of Bach as it does from the Ysaye “Sonatas,” which Vijay turned me onto through this process. This is a work that is designed to bring Indian elements into the western concert setting, using the form and sonorities of Bach and the characteristic violinistic passagework of Ysaye.

L: How were/are you influenced by Vijay and his playing in the process?
E: Most of the music I'm most proud of in my catalog has started from that place of deep personal understanding with the person I'm writing for. Vijay and I came up with the idea for this piece more than two years ago, and have worked on it on and off since then. We've worked on everything from the ideology of it, the performative aspects of it, and even spent a summer singing Hindustani music together, learning ragas, understanding the inner workings of ornamentation as they sit in the Western violin technique.

L: How do you feel about having the premiere in Taos?
E: I'm so excited to spend time in Taos! The last time I was there was as a child, and the beautiful artwork that has been in my parents' living room for my entire life was purchased in Taos. I would look at those beautiful paintings growing up as I practiced piano in the living room every day. They were so inspiring. It will be so nice to spend this time in the place of their origin.

L: Are there any connections to Street Symphony and the work you both do in LA?
E: We will certainly be performing this work in Skid Row many times! Everything we do has a deep connection to our Street Symphony family. The version of the piece you will hear in Taos will be completely musical, but we've thought about interweaving stories from our community members in between the movements for future performances. I want this piece to be as multifaceted as Vijay is as a musician and person.

Laupheimer added that she included the Bach “Trio Sonata” “because of the connection of the new work, ‘Darshan,’ with Bach and because of the universality of his music. The Handel-Halvorsen is a virtuosic piece that will show off the skills of Vijay and Sally. It is by the Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen and was written in 1894. His variations are based on a Handel Passacaglia, a set of variations over what is called a ‘ground bass,’ a repeating line in the bass, so I liked that connection to ‘Common Ground!’”

For tickets and more information, visit the Taos Chamber Music Group website at Tickets are also on sale at the Harwood Museum, 758-9826, where there is a discount for museum members. Make an evening of it and receive dinner discounts at Lambert's Doc Martin's, Martrys and the Gorge Bar and Grill restaurants after the performance.

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