The Collins Center for the Arts hosted “Music of the Sun” with ETHEL the pioneering string quartet and Robert Mirabal, a Grammy-winning Native American flutist.
Mirabal is a musician, writer, singer and storyteller. He has won two Grammy awards for his unique Native American theatrical expression. The night’s performance was inspired by the sun mythology of the Native Americans.
Mirabal and the string quartet group ETHEL joined forces to create a truly exceptional listening experience. The combination of traditional Native American flutes and drums were fused with the modern sounds of the violin, viola and cello.
According to ETHEL’s website, the group “invigorates contemporary concert music with exuberance, intensity, imaginative programming and exceptional artistry.”
The collaboration between the two started from a project called “TruckStop,” which they first performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2008. The “TruckStop” project “explores, unites, and honors indigenous communities, cultures, and music,” according to the ETHEL website.
After the “TruckStop” performance, the two entities continued to collaborate on the innovative fusion of musical styles.
The performance at the Collins Center showcased a wide variety of pieces, each mimicking the sights and sounds of nature.
“Arrival” was the first piece played by the ETHEL before Mirabal was introduced to the stage. “It [is] a piece intended for string quartet,” Dorothy Lewis, cellist and artistic director for the group, said.
ETHEL is comprised of four musicians, including Lawson, Artistic Director and violist Ralph Ferris, and violinists Kip Jones and Tema Watson.
When Mirabal entered the stage, the group performed a piece together called “Chant.” It was a traditional Hawaiian chant, which they worked on as a group to perform in their own style.
The evening also showcased each member of ETHEL playing a piece they had either conducted or experimented with on their own. Each of the musicians introduced their piece to the audience and explained the elements that stood out and were most important to them.
“Run to the Sun” was another piece performed in which Mirabal told the audience it was a song about being initiated into his Native American culture. According to Mirabal’s website he lives with his family at the base of the Taos Mountain in Northern New Mexico.
Mirabal described his heritage to the audience, saying that, as a Native American being initiated into the culture, one must bless those who have passed away. The focus of the song was to remind him of those who have passed, honoring their traditions.
“Run to the Sun” featured many imitations of sounds found in nature. The members of the string quartet used their bows to draw a high-pitched noise from small chimes. The high-pitched sound was reminiscent of the high pitch buzz of the cicada, which can be heard on hot summer days.