By Jason M. Rubin
This writer heartily recommends a trip up north to hear a fascinating range of concerts featuring artists, ensembles, and repertoires of remarkable diversity.
Since 2012, the Monadnock region in New Hampshire has been home to a small but potent classical music programming organization called Electric Earth Concerts (EEC). Based in Peterborough, NH, the nonprofit has announced its ninth season will begin on March 20. As usual, events will be held in various venues in Keene, Jaffrey, Harrisville, Peterborough, and other locales in the region. Having seen two prior EEC concerts over the years, this writer heartily recommends a trip up north to hear a fascinating range of concerts featuring artists, ensembles, and repertoires of remarkable diversity.
Given its breadth, an equally apt name for the organization would be Eclectic Earth Concerts. The name, however, comes from a quote by that most iconic of old masters, Beethoven himself: “Music is the electric earth in which the spirit lives, thinks, invents.” Co-artistic directors Laura Gilbert (a New York City-based flutist) and Jonathan Bagg (a violist based in Durham, NC) bring this idea to life through a two-fold mission of presenting “affordable concerts…that will animate, elevate and educate both mind and spirit,” as well as performing free of charge at places where people may not otherwise get to hear live classical music, such as schools and homes for people with disabilities.
During a previous affiliation with Monadnock Music, Gilbert and Bagg became attached to the area and decided to break off and form their own organization. “We were under constraints at Monadnock Music and felt we couldn’t do what we wanted,” says Gilbert. “Our hearts are in the programming, but then our outreach work is very important to us, and the connections we make in the community are amazing.”
“Programming music that is largely out of the mainstream comes naturally to us,” says Bagg. “We love chamber music, which makes up a lot of what we present, and our audience responds to it very strongly. Of course, we also feature really excellent musicians, some of which are from our own networks and others are players who find us because there’s a common thread in what we do.”
The 2020 season comprises 15 events, including the opening “Love Songs From Around the World,” which features compositions from Eastern Europe and other countries performed by accordion player Merima Ključo and singer Jelena Milušić; the Verona String Quartet presenting a program that mixes Beethoven and Dvorak with contemporary composer Donnacha Dennehy; a nature-inspired program featuring Gilbert, Bagg, and pianist Mimi Solomon; and a program of Bach solo works for violin performed by David McCarroll. In addition, two concerts are specifically devoted to Beethoven because 2020 marks his Sestercentennial (250 years).
A particular highlight of the upcoming season is a four-concert series called Changing the Conversation, which spotlights music composed by women, African-Americans, and others who have worked outside traditional parameters. According to Gilbert, “We’re always looking to discover new composers and mix things up a bit. As it turns out, the NEA Art Works grant criteria this year covered two specific areas: a continuing tribute to 1619, when African slaves were first brought to this country; and a celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage. We thought it was a great opportunity to take these themes and develop a series of concerts as part of our season.”
The four Changing the Conversation concerts are: “Spiritual Voices,” featuring Olly Wilson’s “A City Called Heaven” as well as spirituals and other pieces; “American Mavericks,” featuring New Morse Code, a percussion-cello duo performing works by innovative contemporary composers; “Ladies on the Move,” featuring pieces by composers Amy Beach, Marion Bauer, Undine Smith Moore, and Margaret Bonds; and “Catalyst Quartet, Uncovered,” featuring compositions by African-American composers Florence B. Price and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Mexican composer Javier Álvarez, and the Catalyst Quartet’s own Jesse Montgomery.
“We both have had experiences playing little-known music and wondering why people don’t know about it,” explains Bagg. “Often the reason is because it was written by a woman or a minority composer. So many great composers and works are unjustly forgotten or never known. We like to play contemporary music and feel very committed to unearthing important repertoire.”
“We’re not looking to be overtly political,” adds Gilbert, “but you can help people to think about things in what you present and how you present it. We always try to do that with our programs.”
All Electric Earth Concerts performances are $30. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door, and school-age children are admitted free of charge. For more information, go to https://electricearthconcerts.org/ or email them at email@example.com.
Jason M. Rubin has been a professional writer for more than 33 years, the last 18 of which as senior creative associate at Libretto Inc., a Boston-based strategic communications agency where he has won awards for his copywriting. He has written for The Arts Fuse since 2012. Jason’s first novel, The Grave & The Gay, based on a 17th-century English folk ballad, was published in September 2012. His current book, Ancient Tales Newly Told, released in March 2019, combines in a single volume an updated version of his first novel with a new work of historical fiction, King of Kings, depicting the meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Jason holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.