Quite a weekend! David here, reporting back from the field, doing my American Kirtan thing in Utah for 50,000 screaming Mormon kids at the Holi Festival of colors, a hindu holiday celebrating my namesake, lord Krishna. Evidently the church tolerates this sort of thing, who knew!?
I performed with some dear friends and very talented musicians: the group, Mukti, which is a Sanskrit word meaning liberation. Mukti is led by Kirtan singer Prajna Vieira, who has done a lot of notable work in this fast growing genre. We performed together for this amazing crowd–quite a sight to behold.
Check out the Turtles performing with Michael Doucet at the KTVQ Studios in Billings, Montana!
You Really Got Me
ENSEMBLE TO PERFORM WORLD PREMIERE AT WSU
by Shelley Williams | February 21, 2013
In a world premiere starting at Weber State University, the Turtle Island Quartet is pairing up with Michael Doucet. Doucet is a Cajun artist who has been recognized by the National Heritage Fellowship and National Endowment for the Arts for earmarking classic folk music, incorporating Western swing, 1930s string band music and bluegrass, as well as Creole and Cajun gypsy jazz styles together.
This world premiere ensemble will explore even more, including Afro-Cajun and Cubano influences. The Turtle Island Quartet is no stranger to combining styles or awards: two Grammy nominations and awards for Best Classical Crossover Album for “4 + Four” (2006) and “A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane“ (2008).
Doucet has his own touring band named BeauSoleil. Mark Summer, one of the founding members of the Turtle Island Quartet, said the actual commitment to doing a tour with Doucet started about a year and half ago. READ MORE
Turtle Island Quartet is debuting a new collaborative program with the amazing dance company Luna Negra. We met up recently for some rehearsals in advance of the show at the Harris Theater in Chicago on March 9.
Luna Negra and Turtle Island Quartet
Turtles on West Coast Live with Sedge Thomson On the day of the Turtle Island Quartet’s performance at the Freight & Salvage Coffee House, the Turtles stopped by Yoshi’s Oakland to be featured on West Coast Live. Hear them perform live, and talk to Sedge Thomson about ice cellos, Stéphane Grappelli, and more!
Turtle Island Quartet is featured on North Country Public Radio! David Balakrishnan talks about Jimi Hendrix, being “alternative” and TIQ’s collaboration with Luna Negra. Listen Here!
“Turtle Island Quartet. dance theater plan world premiere performance in Potsdam”
POTSDAM – Community Performance Series is set to present a weekend of arts innovation, as two world-renowned ensembles join forces for a world premiere blending live musical performance and dance, followed by an exploration of Jimi Hendrix’s music — by a string quartet.
Luna Negra Dance Theater will collaborate with the Turtle Island Quartet for a world-premiere performance at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.
The Turtle Island Quartet will then perform their “Have You Ever Been…?” program celebrating the music of Jimi Hendrix, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 in Crane’s Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall. The pre-concert lecture for this event features a member of the quartet, and will begin at 6:30 p.m.
The Jan. 31 performance will feature a world-premiere piece by Spanish choreographer Fernando Hernando Magadan, with an encore performance on Feb. 1. Magadan’s newest work will be accompanied by live music by the Turtle Island Quartet. Additional dance pieces will include “The Naked Ape,” also choreographed by Magadan, and “18+1,” which was choreographed by Luna Negra Artistic Director Gustavo Ramírez Sansano.
Founded in 1999 by Cuban-born dancer and choreographer Eduardo Vilaro, the Luna Negra Dance Company celebrates the rich Latino culture and is well known for its exceptional choreography, intensive educational programs and electrifying performances. Based in Chicago, Luna Negra calls the Harris Theater in Millennium Park home and has become an integral part of Chicago’s cultural community. The company has toured both across the U.S. and around the globe. According to the Boston Globe, “the troupe’s nine members dance as if it’s the last night on Earth.”
The Turtle Island Quartet’s Feb. 2 performance of “Have You Ever Been…?” will feature the ensemble’s arrangements of works by legendary guitarist, songwriter and performer Jimi Hendrix. The program will also feature compositions reflective of and inspired by Hendrix’s music, including Turtle Island Quartet founder David Balakrishnan’s new composition, “Tree of Life.”
Turtles Vacation All Over The World
As the Turtles come together for another year of concerts, collaborations and extensive travel, we thought it would be fun to let you know what we’ve doing, and where we’ve been during the winter vacation between the end of our concert season mid-December until the beginning of the new year.
Mark spent the week of Christmas visiting with his entire immediate family of 13, while staying in a beautiful 3-story house in the idyllic town of Morro Bay, California. Morro Bay is a 4-hour drive south of the San Francisco Bay Area where the Turtles make their home. The week’s activities featured long walks to the beach, an adventure in first-time sea kayaking which included getting dunked in the cold Pacific Ocean, and eating breakfasts most mornings sitting outside at the local coffee shop. While walking to Morro Rock, He saw groups of Harbor seals sunning themselves in the bay, and kayaked close to a large group of California sea lions all hanging out together near the boats anchored out in the water. All in all, an extremely relaxing time connecting with family before returning to the upcoming concert season of 2013.
This is the front of the main meditation hall at Spirit Rock, in Woodacre, California, a little town in the outskirts of Marin County. I am always looking for time to do retreats there, which they offer primarily in the Buddhist vipassana style, basically means sitting and walking all day and night from 6AM until 10PM, no cell phones, no reading, no talking, no nothing! The perfect holiday antidote for the crazy life of a touring musician, and I do love it, I try to get here once a year if I can. This was a five-day retreat, on the short side, but nonetheless still a challenge for me. Seems like every time I do one of these, the first night I wake up in a panic, mind made up to jump in my car and split. But I get through it, and by the end, I get what I came for, which actually seems to change every time. I got down to La Jolla later to do a more traditional vacation with my father and his wife, that was more fun in the rich man’s sun, but I will probably be remembering my solitary grind more strongly, which will likely get more and more easy seeming as I remember it. Until the next time…
Mateusz’s Trip Home To Poland
Mateusz flew home to Poland to spend Christmas with his family. He spent almost 3 weeks in his home in Nieporet, 15 miles away from Warsaw. After half a year in wonderful California he finally could feel winter climate… In Mateusz’s home country it was cold, windy and snowy but in his house like always, everybody felt the really warm atmosphere. He had a great time with his parents, brother, grandma and all his cousins. They sang and played Polish Christmas songs together for hours. Mateusz’s mother prepared a delicious dinner with twelve traditional Polish dishes for Christmas Eve. Later all of them went to church for Midnight Mass.
One day before Mateusz was to leave Poland for San Francisco, he celebrated his Grandma’s 99th birthday. It was big, long party. One of his cousins composed a special fanfare for this occasion. Now they are waiting to celebrate her 100 birthdays next year!
Benjamin’s Trip to Switzerland
Benjamin spent his Christmas holidays with his family in Lantsch/Lenz, a very tiny mountain village in Graubünden, Switzerland. Although he is from Germany, he has spent almost every single Christmas at his family’s Swiss ski vacation hut, built by his grandfather in the early 70s.
Benjamin started to ski even before he started playing the viola. When he was three years old his mother was already racing down the slopes with him – his skis between hers – sort of how you’d imagine a kangaroo mum and kid skiing if they could do that. If Benjamin didn’t grow up in the flat lands of Bochum, Germany but in the mountains, he’d have probably become a professional ski racer. But faith apparently wanted him to become a jazz violist.
When Benjamin wasn’t on the slopes, he was either eating (Cheese fondue or Ulber Pommes preferably), playing games with his family (which are lot’s of fun but always tend to get extremely competitive for some reason) or playing the viola. And somehow he also managed to finish a Turtle Island chart for the upcoming collaboration with Michael Doucet.
Soft lights, an auditorium full of music aficionados and a stage. The Turtle Island Quartet was back for the third time at the Staller Center for the Arts on Saturday, Nov. 17 and this time, Grammy nominated jazz singer Tierney Sutton performed with the group.
As the murmurs died down, it was time to turn up the music as David Balakrishnan, Mark Summer, Mateusz Smoczynski and Benjamin von Gutzeit took to the stage. After a gentle bow, the group opened with its arrangement of “Wapango” by Paquito D’Rivera. The harmony of each stringed instrument and Summer’s improvisational mastery of cello—pizzicato, set the stage for what would be an evening of “Poets and Prayers.”
“String quartets are rather interesting in that unlike a mixed ensemble like a jazz ensemble-saxophone, piano, bass and drums, we all play the same instrument in different sizes,” Summers said.
The evening, aptly called “Poets and Prayers,” was a confluence of different jazz composers and their musical brilliance interpreted through the instrumentation of the violin, viola and cello and the vocal delivery of Sutton.
“As jazz string players we are often imitating the sound of a human voice and now while playing with a singer it gives us the opportunity to imitate how she does her phrasing,” Summer said.
Sutton’s unique jazz vocals lent a spiritual aura to the evening. Her often high-pitched songs, coupled with softer variations, effortlessly flowed with the musician’s bows.
From John Coltrane, Joni Mitchell and Bobby McFerrin arrangements, the quintet took each musical piece and put its signature spin to it. Sutton’s vocal variations mimicked the rapid transitions of the musical instruments, making her part of the music instead of a voice to the instruments.
The quartet’s newest members, Smoczynski and Gutzeit, were quick to match the expertise of Balakrishnan and Summers.
“Every time there’s a membership change, it brings fresh energy into the group but also a different perspective-each member has slightly different take on chamber music, and everybody’s got their own personal different loves and jazz musicians and style of music,” Summer said.
Smoczynski transformed his viola into a ukulele, and also re-arranged Sutton’s own musical piece by experimenting with harmonies and solos. Polished musician Gutzeit arranged “Softly as a Morning Sunrise” by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II.
“We are really the first string quartet to figure out how to be our own rhythm section so we can cover jazz, blues, fiddle music and be the band, create the rhythm internally very convincingly,” Summer said.
The evening’s musical journey imbued love, loss, hope and faith into each piece. Tierney’s heartfelt rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Little Green” was evocative of the lyrics that Mitchell had written about the daughter she had given up for adoption and later reconnected with.
Founding member David Balakrishnan’s original arrangement of “Voice of the River” was inspired by Sufi poet Hafiz. Balakrishnan’s Indian blood has inspired many of the quartet’s arrangements to uniquely interpret music, often times sprinkling the pieces with classical Indian notes and ragas. His work has won him two Grammy awards and accolades across the world. The quartet’s love for collaboration has sparked new ideas, creative techniques and lasting friendships. Tierney’s involvement with the quartet took almost seven years in the making.
“We are like a bipolar string quartet-trying to reach in equal parts to both sides of the brain,” Balakrishnan said about the musical collaboration with Sutton for “Poets and Prayers.”
Summer’s rocker past and love for the classics, like The Beatles, inspired him to arrange George Harrison’s “Within You Without You.” The classical Indian music rhythm and interpretations of the stringed instruments of the violin and viola were uniquely structured, and Sutton’s voice took on the melodic raga that largely make up the piece. From pizzicatos, vocal mimicry, rearrangements and harmonies, the Turtle Island Quartet brought unique musical treats to the two-hour event.
To be part of “Poets and Prayers” on this evening was to be part of classic chamber music interpreted in the 21-century parlance. Bobby McFerrin wrote in his piece, “Ladeo,” “A song becomes a thousand songs;” this evening was just that.