Native American musician, string quartet to collaborate on ‘The River’

Native American musician Robert Mirabal (kneeling) will join forces with the string quartet ETHEL to present “The River” on Thursday, Oct. 24. The musicians that make up ETHEL are (standing, from left) Ralph Farris, Corin Lee, Dorothy Lawson and Kip Jones. (Photo by Tim Black)

“The River,” a collaboration between the critically acclaimed string quartet ETHEL and Grammy Award-winning Native American musician Robert Mirabal, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at Western Carolina University’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Continuing a six-year collaboration that was inspired by ceremonies dedicated to the sun, ETHEL and Mirabal have created the next evolution of the cross-cultural concert experience. The inspiration this time is water as the embodiment of spirit, and its essential role in life on Earth.  “The audience is immersed in a flow of music, narrative and ritual that evokes timeless Native American traditions through contemporary musical artistry,” said Jill Jacobs, marketing manager at the Bardo Arts Center. “As delivered by these master performers, the effect is breathtaking, even ecstatic.”

The program presented by ETHEL and Mirabal is a journey in instrumental virtuosity, song and storytelling created uniquely for this event, Jacobs said. In retreat together at Mirabal’s home on the Taos Pueblo, each of the artists brought original musical or poetic works with special significance to the group. Influences were drawn in from Hawaii, Arizona, Mexico, Ecuador, Morocco, Nigeria, India, Mongolia, Tibet, Japan and the country of Georgia.

The musicians that make up ETHEL are Ralph Farris (viola), Kip Jones (violin), Dorothy Lawson (cello) and Corin Lee (violin). Established in New York City in 1998, ETHEL quickly earned a reputation as one of America’s most adventurous string quartets. The ensemble has been described as “indefatigable and eclectic” (The New York Times), “vital and brilliant” (The New Yorker) and “infectiously visceral” (Pitchfork). Since its inception, ETHEL has released nine feature recordings and won a Grammy with jazz legend Kurt Elling.

Mirabal, Native America’s best-selling artist, also is a writer, singer, storyteller, painter and playwright. He is author of “A Skeleton of a Bridge,” a book of poetry, prose and short stories. Honors he has received include a National Endowment for the Arts Award, three Grammy Awards and the New York Dance and Performer’s “Bessie” Award for composition.

Tickets for “The River” are $15 for adults; $10 for WCU faculty and staff, and seniors 65 and up; and $5 for students. Ticket purchases and other information are available at arts.wcu.edu/theriver. Tickets also may be reserved over the phone at 828-227-2479 or in person at the Bardo Arts Center box office. Box office hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday until 7 p.m.

The box office and WCU’s Fine Art Museum will be open one hour prior to the Oct. 24 performance.