ETHEL String Quartet Partners with Ringling Museum for CIRCUS - WANDERING CITY
ETHEL, the renowned New York City-based string quartet, has announced Circus - Wandering City, an evening-length multimedia performance that explores the phenomenon of circus through the eyes and insights of people who have created its special thrills and illusions.
Commissioned by The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (The Ringling) in Sarasota, Florida, the immersive work combines projections of stunning images, films and interviews from the Museum's archives, the words of circus performers past and present, and original music composed and performed live by ETHEL. While the quartet and their collaborators have been developing Circus since 2015, the project gains urgency with the recent announcement of the end of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, whose final performances take place in May of this year.
Circus - Wandering City makes its world premiere in January 2018-the 250th anniversary of the modern circus-at The Ringling, a distinct non-profit entity that celebrates the history and the continuing evolution of this thriving art form.
Under the direction of virtuoso projection designer Grant McDonald (The Official Prince Tribute, Esperanza Spalding's Emily's D+ Evolution world tour, ETHEL's Documerica), Circus - Wandering City juxtaposes music, words and images to convey the spirit of the individuals who have brought excitement and mystery to one of America's most iconographic popular culture experiences. With their singular acts of daring and feats of strength, circus artists have given countless audiences the opportunity to desire and dream.
The genesis of Circus lies in the collaborating artists' exposure to the vast resources of The Ringling, into which they have plunged as they have developed the production. They have also sought input from contemporary circus artists. The human stories of the circus, which suggest the stuff of dreams-to fly, to move mountains, to dance on air, to tame nature and to defy death-moved them to tell these stories in a way that will carry forward the anticipation, sweat, fortitude, joy and transcendence that characterizes the lives behind the Big Top.
Preserving and sharing the history and spirit of the American circus is part of the mission of The Ringling. Steven High, executive director at The Ringling, says of Circus, "It is wonderful to see these artifacts being used in such an innovative and creative way."
Ralph Farris, co-founder and violist of ETHEL, says, "ETHEL is honored to partner with The Ringling in creating our newest, most thrilling, most death-defying, most never-before-attempted-by-a-string-quartet-anytime-anywhere show!"
ETHEL has garnered immense praise not only for their musicianship, but also for creating rich, often multimedia, stage productions such as ETHEL's Documerica, inspired by the tens of thousands of images shot as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's decade-long Project Documerica, launched in 1971; The River, a collaboration with Taos Pueblo flutist Robert Mirabal; the introspective Grace, featuring ETHEL's arrangements of music by Ennio Morricone and Jeff Buckley; and Blue Dress, which pays homage to women making their musical mark on the 21st century. The ensemble is also in residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Denison University, where they'll culminate their three-year collaboration by receiving honorary degrees at the University's commencement ceremony in spring 2017.
Composed and performed by the members of ETHEL, Circus - Wandering City features direction and projections by Grant McDonald, scenic design by Jason Ardizzone-West, costume design by Beth Goldberg, lighting design by Bradley King and sound design by Stowe Nelson.
Watch a trailer for the show below!
Established in New York City in 1998, ETHEL quickly earned a reputation as one of America's most adventurous string quartets-heirs to the likes of the Kronos Quartet and Soldier String Quartet, and part of a generation of young artists blending uptown, conservatory musicianship with downtown genre-crossing-by playing with the intensity and accoutrements of a rock band. The New York Times has described them as "indefatigable and eclectic," and The Village Voice has called them"a genre unto [themselves]," Nearly two decades into their singular career, ETHEL has in turn become seminal in its own right, a path-breaker for countless younger genre-spanning ensembles and a prolific commissioner of new music.
At the heart of ETHEL is a collaborative ethos-a quest for a common creative expression that is forged in the celebration of community. The quartet's original stage productions exemplify this aspect of the ETHEL's artistry.
ETHEL has performed and/or recorded with artists including David Byrne, Bang on a Can All Stars, Kaki King, Todd Rundgren, Ursula Oppens, Juana Molina, Tom Verlaine, STEW, Simone Sou, Andrew Bird, Iva Bittová, Colin Currie, Thomas Dolby, Jeff Peterson, Stephen Gosling, Jake Shimabukuro and Vijay Iyer.
The quartet regularly performs works by all of the members of the ensemble, alongside music by Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe, Phil Kline, David Lang, Dan Friel, John Zorn, Missy Mazzoli, Anna Clyne, Steve Reich, Don Byron, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Marcelo Zarvos, Pamela Z, Evan Ziporyn and Terry Riley. Over the past five years, ETHEL has premiered 150+ new works, many of them commissioned by the quartet.
ETHEL is the Resident Ensemble at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Balcony Bar and Ensemble-in-Residence at Denison University.
Grant McDonald is the Artistic Director of the techno-centric Production Company Rescue Agreement, where he has collaborated as Director or Projection Designer on dozens of concerts, theatre productions, installations and live events across the US and internationally. Current and recent projects include The Official Prince Tribute (Xcel Energy Center), Esperanza Spalding's Emily's D+ Evolution (World Tour), Black Mountain Songs (The Barbican/BAM) and Dolce & Gabbana's Tirelli Tribute (NYC). McDonald has served as projection consultant on hundreds of productions across the globe, most recently Mariah Carey's Number One to Infinity (Caesar's Palace residency), De Materie (Park Avenue Armory) and Alt-J's This is All Yours (World Tour). More on his collaborations can be found at www.GrantMcDonald.com.
The Ringling is a center for art, history and learning situated on 66 acres on Sarasota Bay. It is built on the legacy of circus entrepreneur, collector of art and financier John Ringling and his wife Mable.
The Ringling inspires visitors with an acclaimed collection of Old Master paintings, explores with them the diverse cultures and art of Asia, delights them with the story of the American circus, and transports them to the Roaring Twenties during a tour of the magnificent Ca' d'Zan mansion.
The Ringling is also committed to exhibiting the work of an emerging community of living artists that moves beyond traditional practice and features dynamic and engaging contemporary visual and performing arts, including a diverse roster of theater, music and dance.
The Ringling is the State Art Museum of Florida. Affiliated with Florida State University, it is one of the largest university art centers in the nation. More information can be found at www.ringling.org.