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Chatter Cabaret’s ‘Bach Visits Appalachia’ has hard-edge rock feel

SHIELDS: Clarinetist received clips from fans

SHIELDS: Clarinetist received clips from fans

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Chatter’s cabaret next Sunday at the Hotel Andaluz will open with a tune more familiar to horror movies than drinks and nibbles.

The hybrid chamber group will perform Bach’s organ-rattling “Toccata and Fugue,” arranged for two bass clarinets in their “Bach Visits Appalachia” concert at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Clarinetist James T. Shields decided to tackle the quirky arrangement with the Rochester Philharmonic’s Andrew Brown after fans kept sending him clips of the original basso duo Sqwonk performing the piece in a San Francisco church for Halloween.

“I thought it was great,” Shields said in a telephone interview from Toronto, where he plays principle clarinet for the Canadian Opera Company. “To some degree, I thought it was funny. It was interesting and it was new.”

Shields, who also plays with the New Mexico Philharmonic, sees Chatter as both a critical creative outlet and a musical grindstone to polish his craft.

“We’re like a chamber music collective,” he explained. “We like our music to be driven by what kind of music we want to play. I love orchestral music, but you don’t have as much ownership. To be honest, Chatter is bringing me most of my artistic fulfillment these days.”

The musicians will head south after the Bach mash-up with the traditional Celtic/Appalachian folk tune “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.”

Shields will introduce two relatively unknown contemporary eastern European composers with Ernst von Dohnányi’s “Serenade for String Trio Opus 10” and “Serenade for 2 Clarinets and String Trio” by Bohuslav Martinu. Martinu is a Czech composer, while Dohnányi was born in Slovakia.

“It’s kind of this rock ‘n’ roll version of minimalism,” he said of the Dohnányi serenade.

David Lang’s “Killer for Violin and Tape” will feature Chatter violinist David Felberg on the electric violin with a kick drum and tape. Once again, the tone is hard-edged with a rock feel.

Chatter first performed Chicago composer Marc Mellits’ “Black for 2 Bass Clarinets” two years ago. The group is bringing the minimalist piece back after repeated requests.

“It’s a familiar tune with an unfamiliar combination of instruments,” Shields said.

Formed 11 years ago, Chatter consists of a rotating lineup of about a dozen classical musicians scattered across the United States. The group performs Sunday cabaret concerts at the Andaluz from six to seven times a year, and in the 5G Gallery space for regular concerts at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. The musicians will perform a four-concert series at the Albuquerque Museum in August.

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