ETHEL, the musically omnivorous string quartet The New York Times has described as “indefatigable and eclectic” and The New Yorker has deemed“vital and brilliant” is pleased to announce a 2015-16 season that epitomizes the group’s artistry. The ensemble will offer a singular array of original live productions and concerts, recordings and residencies forging and celebrating community, artistic and otherwise.

The season features the world premiere of Blue Dress, November 4 at National Sawdust, the heralded new non-profit music venue in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. ETHEL’s newest signature evening-length program, Blue Dress pays special homage to women who are making their musical mark on the 21st century, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Wolfe, Missy Mazzoli, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Lainie Fefferman, Mary Ellen Childs, Anna Clyne, Pamela Z, Paola Prestini and ETHEL’s own Dorothy Lawson. The concert features a visual montage by projection designer Grant McDonald (Esperanza Spalding’s D+ Evolution world tour, Black Mountain Songs at BAM and the Barbican). The centerpiece of Blue Dress is a quartet of the same name, composed for ETHEL by Julia Wolfe. The piece, which makes its world premiere in the National Sawdust performance, delves into the passion and energy of bluegrass.

On November 13, Innova Recordings, the label of the American Composers Forum, releases ETHEL’s Documerica, an album inspired by the tens of thousands of images shot as part of Project Documerica, a decade-long initiative the Environmental Protection Agency launched in 1971, commissioning photographers across America to document the state of the environment and its impact on society. Documerica features new work by ETHEL members, and music the quartet commissioned from four other uniquely American artists: the acclaimed composer Mary Ellen Childs; Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer Ulysses Owens Jr.; Chickasaw Nation’s Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate; and James “Kimo” Williams, recipient of West Point’s bicentennial composer commission. Hailing from different regions, backgrounds and generations, each composer contributes his or her distinctive voice to a score that represents the diversity of America. The music explores a range of American genres—blues, jazz, Native American traditional, bluegrass, and old-time string band—filtered through a distinctly 21st-century lens.

The multimedia concert version of the work, ETHEL’s Documerica, will tour throughout the season. Directed by OBIE Award-winner Steve Cosson, the show incorporates thousands of Project Documerica images into a projection design by renowned artist Deborah Johnson.Reviewing the work’s world premiere in BAM’s Next Wave Festival, The New York Times described ETHEL’s Documerica as “new music bonding with old images in rich, provocative and moving ways.”

Upcoming performances of ETHEL’s Documerica include:

  • October 2 at the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, LA
  • October 23 at Sorenson Center for the Arts, Babson College, Babson Park, MA
  • November 6 at Rozsa Center for the Arts in Houghton, MI
  • February 20, 2016 at Lund Auditorium, Dominican University, River Forest, IL
  • April 16, 2016 at Swasey Chapel, Denison University, Granville, OH

ETHEL will this fall debut and tour its newest live show The River, which the ensemble plans to release as an album in February 2016. The Rivercontinues ETHEL’s deeply successful six-year collaboration with Native American musician, instrument builder and three-time GRAMMY® Award-winner Robert Mirabal. This program and recording feature music created by ETHEL and Mirabal together, making truly a quintet for the ages. The live performance immerses the audience in a flow of music, narrative, and ritual that evokes timeless Native American traditions through contemporary artistry.

ETHEL and Mirabal will perform The River this season:

  • October 8 at Meany Hall at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA (World Premiere)
  • March 4, 2016 at Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ
  • April 6, 2016 at Beach Schmidt Performing Arts Center in Hays, KS
  • April 8, 2016 at Seretean Center Concert Hall, Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK

This season, ETHEL will also perform its acclaimed program Grace, featuring the ensemble’s arrangements of music by Ennio Morricone and Jeff Buckley. The centerpiece of the concert is ETHEL’s own adaptation of Morricone’s moving score to the 1986 film The Mission, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1986 and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score. ETHEL juxtaposes Morricone’s music with special quartet treatments of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Vul’Inizhiyo and Jeff Buckley’s Grace. ETHEL composers and collaborators Mary Ellen Childs (USA), Marcelo Zarvos (Brazil), and Carlo Mombelli (South Africa), along with original music by members of ETHEL, fill out the program with works both searching and deeply joyful.

ETHEL will perform Grace:

  • October 27 at West Social Center in Green Valley, AZ
  • November 19 at Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda, MD

On November 13 at The DiMenna Center in New York City, ETHEL will take part in a two-day, multi-artist celebration An American Maverick: Jerome Kitzke at 60, performing the composer’s Winter Count.

ETHEL will continue to perform new music and existing repertoire at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balcony Bar, where the quartet is theResident Ensemble. Upcoming appearances include October 30 & 31, and November 20 & 21. For additional dates, please visit the MetLiveArts page on the museum’s website.

ETHEL also continues to be the Ensemble-in-Residence at Denison University, in a collaboration between the Department of Music and the Vail Series. The Ensemble-in-Residence engages the entire campus and the greater community in an exploration of music and other academic disciplines. ETHEL will return to the campus December 2-6, 2015, and February 22-25 and April 12-17, 2016.

ETHEL 2015-16 Season Performances at a Glance

October 2, 2015                 New Orleans, LA                      Contemporary Arts Center               ETHEL’s Documerica

October 8, 2015                 Seattle, WA                             Meany Hall, Univ. of Washington    The River (World Premiere)

October 23, 2015               Babson Park, MA                     Sorenson Center for the Arts            ETHEL’s Documerica

October 27, 2015               Green Valley, AZ                      West Social Center                        Grace

October 30, 2015               New York, NY                         Met Museum                                Balcony Bar Performance

October 31, 2015               New York, NY                         Met Museum                                Balcony Bar Performance

November 4, 2015             Brooklyn, NY                          National Sawdust                           Blue Dress  (World Premiere)

November 6, 2015             Houghton, MI                          Rozsa Center for the Arts                 ETHEL’s Documerica

November 13, 2015            New York, NY                         The DiMenna Center                      An American Maverick:

                                                                                                                                      Jerome Kitzke at 60

November 19, 2015            Bethesda, MD                          Strathmore Music Center                 Grace

February 20, 2016              River Forest, IL                        Lund Auditorium, Dominican Univ. ETHEL’s Documerica

March 4, 2016                   West Long Branch, NJ               Pollak Theatre, Monmouth Univ.     The River

April 6, 2016                    Hays, KS                                 Beach Schmidt PAC                      The River

April 8, 2016                    Stillwater, OK                          Seretean Center Concert Hall            The River


Established in 1998 and based in New York City, ETHEL is Ralph Farris (viola), Kip Jones (violin), Dorothy Lawson (cello), and Corin Lee (violin). At the heart of the group is a collaborative ethos—a quest for a common creative expression that is forged in the celebration of community. ETHEL performs adventurous music by Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe, Phil Kline, David Lang, Mary Ellen Childs, John King, Raz Mesinai, John Zorn, Missy Mazzoli, Anna Clyne, Steve Reich, Kenji Bunch, Don Byron, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Marcelo Zarvos, Pamela Z, Evan Ziporyn and Terry Riley among others, much of it composed for ETHEL. ETHEL has premiered more than 100 21st-century works by groundbreaking composers, and has collaborated with an extraordinary international community of artists including David Byrne, Bang on a Can, Kaki King, Todd Rundgren, Carlo Mombelli, Ursula Oppens, Juana Molina, Tom Verlaine, STEW, Ensemble Modern, Jill Sobule, Dean Osborne, Robert Mirabal, Howard Levy, Simone Sou, Andrew Bird, Iva Bittová, Colin Currie, Thomas Dolby, Jeff Peterson, Oleg Fateev, Stephen Gosling, Jake Shimabukuro, Polygraph Lounge and Vijay Iyer. Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling’s album featuring ETHEL, Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman, won a GRAMMY Award.

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