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Arts & Culture

Surel’s Place is presenting some of the planet’s best performance artists, together for one night only

Ourself Behind Ourself Concealed.jpg
Surel's Place
"Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed" will be presented at the Morrison Center Thursday, May 26.

The timing of “Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed” is more than kismet or serendipity. In fact, the showcase will “circle back on itself,” not unlike the human experience as we emerge from a pandemic.

“People are in different phases. And even in our title, we’ve been “concealed behind masks for quite a while … and interacting with the arts through our computers instead of in person," said Jodi Eichelberger, program director at Surel’s Place. “And with this performance, we're kind of hoping to get people back together in person.”

“This performance” will showcase some of the best musical, dance and visual artists on the planet, and Boise will be only the second city in the nation to hear the new compositions performed live.

Eichelberger joined Surel’s Place executive director Greg Hahn and virtuoso musician Tasha Warren, producer of “Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed,” to visit with Morning Edition host George Prentice to preview the one-night-only performance on May 26.

“Exploring… exploring really who we are in an honest way, in a very visible way on the classical music stages, is what I had in mind.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Rarely do I read my emails on air, but in this case… well, here's an exception: “We have a show coming up on May 26th that is so big….”. Well, in short order, this has my full attention and hopefully yours as well. And we're going to talk about that show that is “so big on May 26th.” Greg Hahn is here, executive director at Surel’s Place, celebrating its 10th anniversary. And Surel’s Place is showcasing a performance titled “Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed” on the 26th. Jodi Eichelberger, program director at Surel’s Place is here, as is Tasha Warren, acclaimed clarinetist and producer of this show. Good morning to you all.

TASHA WARREN: Good morning.

JODI EICHELBERGER: Good morning.

GREG HAHN: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Tasha Warren, let me start with you. Talk to me about the inception of this and how it came into being.

WARREN: Sure. Well, thank you so much for having this conversation, for inviting me to be a part of it. It's really an honor and I'm so excited about this collaboration and this show. It really it became something much bigger than it started out as it started from Dave and I really wanting to do something together - Dave Eggar, the cellist - he and I are the performers, the core performers on this recording. And through our conversations over a couple of years, we shared a desire to bring new music or new sounding music, new voices to the classical stage and specifically to our repertoire for the clarinet and bass clarinet and the cello. And so we decided it really when I applied for a grant, which I got, luckily I was very, very fortunate to get a grant through Michigan State University where I teach. And the proposal for the grant was centered around this notion of identity and who we are and how do we bring ourselves as performers of Western classical music to the classical stage, and how that is shifting over time and how that has especially shifted in recent years and to better reflect the current musical landscape that we actually live in right now. So Dave and I both decided to come up with names of composers that we were friends with, that we really admired their music and approach them to write a piece for us for this recording. And then we came together with our list of names, and miraculously, some of the names that we came up with were on both lists for both of us, and they really represented the music that we love that is not classical music, but is amazing music. And we approached each of these composers and they really to our great fortune. They said yes, and they agreed to write this, these pieces for us. Then what happened was the grant I got notification of this grant that enabled me to commission the works and then record and release a recording of these works. I got notification of that in February 2020, so when we finally had the chance to approach these composers, we were actually in lockdown and global pandemic and performances had stopped. None of us were performing. None of us really knew what the next week or month, especially year. I don't think we thought it would go on that long, but we really didn't know what kind of abyss we were looking at in terms of performance and being able to share music with the world. So it became that notion of identity that started this whole idea, really took on a new life. And so when speaking with the composers, each one, it became more and more important that it become the piece, the resulting piece become a narrative of that composer at that time. What do you want to say right now? What is the story that you want to tell? It resulted in in quite different pieces. So each piece is extremely different, extremely unique, extremely personal. And there is so much in in that collection of these six pieces there. We didn't know if we were going to get a lot of despair, if we're going to get a darker side of this because of the time that we were in. But we actually got we did get a mix of that, but we got a lot of joy and hopefulness and beauty. The title of the recording is called “Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed,” which comes from the Emily Dickinson poem: “One need not be a chamber to be haunted.”. And it really does get to that essence of. Who we are and; do we actually bring that who we are, that whole self to the classical stage in Western classical music?

PRENTICE: I want to talk about how you weave that together in a moment. But Jodi Eichelberger, how do you turn this concept album… how does it manifest on the stage?

EICHELBERGER: Well, it was a conversation with Dave Eggar and also us considering our ten year anniversary, thinking like, well, speaking of identity, like who is Surel’s Place? What does our past bring? And certainly Dave is one of our former artists and residents who had a huge impact on our community and continues to and we brainstormed with him like, hey, if we brought you back for, let's call it a legacy residency, what would you want to do? And he said, “Well, you know, I'm working on this album with Tasha Warren. Maybe we do a live performance of that. So that's about 45, 50 minutes of music.” So we thought, “Well, what do we do with the rest of our time on stage?” And rather than introducing a lot of new elements, we kind of played with the title Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed, and thought, “What would it mean to reveal something in the second act or have a deepening experience?” And in the spirit of Surel’s Place and collaboration and even some of the past partners Dave has worked with, we thought, “What if we did new… and we repeat the music with new interpretations from other community members?” So for instance, bringing LED back to set a premiere dance on one of the pieces, continuing his work with the Idaho Fine Arts Academy. And interestingly, another performer that's being brought flown into the Boise martial mixed martial arts performer Len Cook. Well, performer, teacher, master, who's working with the choreographer and these students to introduce mixed martial arts into an interpretation of another piece from the album. Former resident Andrew Nemir, who worked with Gregory Hines, a protege of Gregory Hines, and has since moved to Boise after doing a residency with Surel’s Place back in 2015 and collaborates with Dave when he's in town too is going to do a setting with tap dance. And then Tasha also arranged for a video, a creator of animation and video work to create a piece that will provide a projection during one of the other pieces. And so that's going to be on stage as well. And then after intermission, we start this deepening experience. But we have this amazing artist is going to introduce our ears into a new palette to hear the music in a new way. And that's to Tiokasin Ghosthorse,, who will be doing a performance on red cedar Lakota flute. And he's coming in from upstate New York just to add this new setting as part of our ten-year anniversary. Also, it's like what's you know, normally we perform with partners like the Visual Arts Collective, the Riverside Hotel, which is one of the sponsors of this show as well. How can we get to the Morrison Center? And that's when it was super helpful to have our executive director, Greg Hahn, who was able to get foundational support in order to bring this for us, really a chapter in our history to be able to produce a show on the stage of the Morrison Center.

PRENTICE: So, Greg Hahn, given all of the wonder that Searles Place has given us over these years, can I assume that this is one of your most ambitious challenges and offerings?

HAHN: Terrifyingly so, I would say it, and as Jodi says, we're very thankful, especially to the Morrison Center. They've really taken a really serious and significant look at local arts and how do they can support more of the local arts scene. And you'll see, of course, the Phil on the big stage and led on the big stage. And just the other day, the Open Arms Dance Project, it was on the big stage, which is really great. And so that's that's been a big help because we couldn't, you know, we could do a nice little chamber music experience in the Sapphire Room at the Riverside. It would be beautiful or at the back or even a very small thing in our in our space in Garden City. But really to kind of bring the community out, the community of dancers, the community of interpreters, as Jody said, I mean, that's only possible on the stage. And then now the challenge is on us to to try to connect with folks in a new way. You know, what what was really important to me and to Jody and certainly to the board is bringing these voices really to Idaho's most premier stage. Right. I mean, the Morrison Center is it. And so if we can bring Martha Redbone, who's one of the composers, singer, songwriter, musician, you know, she's written this piece and it's now going to be performed on Idaho's biggest stage. Same is true for the other composers who are all really fascinating folks, a Haitian flutist and a Japanese-American jazz violinist.

EICHELBERGER: And she'll be with us in person. That's Meg Okura, who we're also flying in to perform both in her piece and. So she's with you in another piece, too, isn't she?

WARREN: We'll be playing some other music as well. Yes.

PRENTICE: So, Tasha, does the theme weave these together? Because I'm now getting a sense that this is one big canvas, if you will.

WARREN: Yeah, I think so. When I started to get the pieces, when Dave and I started to receive the pieces, we kept making the comment that this is this piece is like a short story. Well, this piece is like a short story. So it feels like a collection of short stories and short stories of each of these composers. So that notion of identity and that notion of personal narrative is really the unifying factor.

PRENTICE: When you say “Concealed” as in “Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed,” is this an exploration of that? Or is this some type of revelation where we open all that up and deconstruct it.

WARREN: Maybe both at the same time? Exploring… exploring really who we are in an honest way, in a very visible way on the classical music stages, is what I had in mind.

PRENTICE: So Jodi and Greg, let's talk a little bit more about that. We cannot not be influenced by how the human experience was pretty much upended by the pandemic. So where is Surel’s Place in 2022?

HAHN: I think we've been really lucky. I think we got a lot of support and now we're kind of pivoting back. And it is a weird time, right? Because we're still sort of transitioning. But I think people are thirsty for events. They're coming out. The city has grown so much. You know, we have so many new people and I think they're thirsty to figure out how to get involved and engage in the arts. So I actually feel pretty good about it. I think that at least it's Earl's place and I think arts in general and Boise are really doing great and it's going to be a fun summer.

EICHELBERGER: You know, it's a little bit “come out, come out wherever you are,” and people are in different phases of that. And even in our title, we've been concealed behind masks for quite a while. We've been in our homes, we've been concealed behind cameras, doing web meetings and interacting with the arts through our computers instead of in person. And with this performance, we're kind of hoping to get people back together in person, and that's still a challenge. And it does seem as if the performing arts may be the last group or certainly among the last parts of our culture to recover. Just getting back into the rhythm of, “Oh yes, I go and do this with other people in person and we experience it together.” And part of that experience is feeling the reaction and emotion from the people around me. So we're still trying to find that again, reconnect that line of communication to our community to say, let's get back together and let's do it safely, but let's be in the same room at the same time and experiencing emotion collectively.

PRENTICE: So, Tasha Warren as an audience member, I know I immediately took for granted this experience. But I'm curious… as a producer, as a performer, where are you as far as your level of anticipation to return to all of these stages… or any stage that has been dark for way too long?

WARREN: Well, very excited to be on the stage. Every chance I have to be on on the stage or even just to be in a room playing with other people. And it's certainly something that I don't take for granted. And I just wanted to touch on one thing before I get forget to mention another aspect of this collaboration and this performance that's coming up with Surel’s Place that I find so fascinating and really and I treasure it. It goes back to chamber music and the idea of chamber music, and we can't play chamber. I teach chamber music, but my students couldn't even get together to rehearse there. There was a lot of Zoom in our little boxes, our little zoom boxes. So that became its own sort of chamber. We're all in our own little chamber boxes, you know, on the screen. Then to be able to actually be in the same space to make that chamber music now to be on in such a amplified space, the more Morrison Center, and then to have it choreographed and interpreted and danced and expressed by someone other than ourselves in such and such a large production. It's almost like turning that notion of chamber music that's normally an intimate and smaller experience. Now it's almost like turning it inside out, and it's just it's really, really meaningful.

EICHELBERGER: We're amazed and humbled that this performance with Surel’s Place in Boise will be the second live performance in the world.

WARREN: Yes, that's true.

PRENTICE: Wow. So, Jodi and Greg, could you just take that a step further and talk a little bit more…because what I'm hearing from Tasha is how personal this instantly becomes.

EICHELBERGER: Yeah, and I think that's part of the reasoning behind the way we've structured the show, where each audience member gets to experience the music from their own perspective personally first before they then experience it through another level of interpretation.

HAHN: I go to a lot of live music when I can, right? And there's a different experience when you've heard something, even if you've heard it just once, I will say, folks can listen to this. You can stream it on your streaming service, you can find it, you know, it's out as a as a as a CD and a released album. So I encourage people to do that. And I have sat at home a few times and really it's trying to get a handle on it and then listening and again, you know, live and then the reinterpretation. I think Jody is right. It's going to be. You know the whole thing. You've hinted at it, George. It's taking these individual identities and laying them out, you know, sort of how we are in society, right? It's a little bit of like, we're all here, we're all we all have our own perspectives, our own experiences, our own way of of sort of getting through what we've gotten through. But we have to sort of do it together at the same time. So I really like that sort of that message and that feel. I think it's just going to be really moving to Asia.

PRENTICE: Give me the inspiration again.

WARREN: It's a line in the poem “Ourself Behind Ourself Concealed” is a line from the Emily Dickinson poem. “One not need be a chamber to be haunted.”

PRENTICE: Well, great good luck to all of you. This sounds extremely unique and something not to miss. It is Thursday, May 26th on the stage of the Morrison Center. “Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed.”. Good luck with this. Safe travel to Boise, Tasha and have a grand time here  And in the meantime thanks for giving us some time this morning.

WARREN: Thank you. Thank you so much.

EICHELBERGER: Thank you, George.

HAHN: Thank you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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