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Chamber group draws audience into musical contrasts

Sonic Escape will perform mostly original music in its show in Corrales. (Courtesy of Josh Cutillo)

Sonic Escape will perform mostly original music in its show in Corrales. (Courtesy of Josh Cutillo)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — You’ll find the words “engagement” and “contrast” embedded in Sonic Escape’s vocabulary.

“We build a program to keep the audience engaged from start to finish,” violinist Maria Millar said in a phone interview.

The young chamber group’s programs are lessons in musical contrast.

Except for a Franz Joseph Haydn trio, Sonic Escape’s program in Corrales, Sonic Escape will be all originals.

Millar’s piece “Walking the Woods in Twilight,” an instrumental, tries to convey the emotions of what it was like (for slaves) to escape via the Underground Railroad.

“I personally love the challenge of writing music without words to depict a certain emotion or story,” Millar said.

The ensemble has also grafted folk music of various countries onto some its own compositions.

Other issues influence the small ensemble’s program.

“I, myself, have a short attention span, so the pieces aren’t very long, but they’re super-virtuosic and have a lot of different moods,” Millar said.

Further heightening the contrasts, Sonic Escape incorporates vocals, storytelling and movement. The audience is usually invited to show its own moves.

And the trio gets physical in its playing; the musicians aren’t sitting and staring at music stands.

“These (efforts) are tools to achieve the ultimate goal to connect with the audience and have a good time,” Millar said.

Formed in 2009, Sonic Escape is “the brainchild and love child” of Millar and flutist Shawn Wyckoff.

In recent years, they’ve brought in cellist Nan-Cheng Chen as they will do for the Corrales concert. All three are graduates of The Juilliard School.

The cello, a bass instrument, felt like a nice complement for the unusual duo of flute and violin, Millar said.

In November, the trio branched out from its role as music makers for a concert at the New York City Vegetarian and Vegan Meetup. Millar came up with two vegan offerings for the concert.

“It was an experiment in the purpose of meeting new people,” she said.