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Highlights Include: 

  • Workshops and Rehearsals for New Program Circus – Wandering City, Ahead of World Premiere at The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida in January 2018
  • Performances of The River, a Collaboration with GRAMMY®-Winning Taos Pueblo Flutist Robert Mirabal
  • Performances of ETHEL’s Documerica, a Multi-Media Concert Featuring Thousands of Images from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Project Documerica, Accompanied by a Live Original Score
  • Performances of Blue Dress, an Evening-Length Concert That Pays Special Homage to Women Who are Making their Musical Mark on the 21st Century
  • Continuing Residencies at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balcony Bar and at Denison University

ETHEL, the musically omnivorous string quartet The New York Times has described as “indefatigable and eclectic” and the Boston Globe called“a genre unto itself,” announces its upcoming fall 2017 season. In addition to touring three of ETHEL’s signature works ­– The River, ETHEL’s Documerica and Blue Dress – the ensemble will hold rehearsals and workshops for their newest work, Circus – Wandering City, which makes its premiere January 2018 in Sarasota, Florida. In addition, the ensemble will also continue its residencies at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Denison University.

The season leads up to the unveiling of 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, and featuring direction by Grant McDonald (The Official Prince Tribute, Esperanza Spalding’s Emily’s D+ Evolution World Tour, Stars On Ice US & Canada Tours), 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. Though the quartet and their collaborators have been developing Circus since 2015, the project gained urgency with the recent closure of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, whose final performances took place last May. Wandering City makes its world premiere on the 250th anniversary of the modern circus. The ensemble will be in residence at the Hudson Opera House in Hudson, NY September 4-17, and will perform excerpts from the program on September 16 & 17.

ETHEL will tour its acclaimed live show The River, in support of its 2016 NAMA-nominated release of the same title (Innova Recordings). The River continues ETHEL’s wildly successful nine-year collaboration with Native American musician, instrument builder and three-time GRAMMY® Award-winner Robert Mirabal. The live performance immerses the audience in a flow of music, narrative and ritual, created by ETHEL and Mirabal exclusively for this program, evoking timeless Native American traditions re-imagined through the contemporary ear. The project has been featured by PRI’s The World, NPR’s Native America Calling, and, after making its premiere at the University of Washington, the Seattle Times wrote that the live show, “resides somewhere beyond the intersection of ceremony and show biz, at a place where multicultural collaboration becomes sacred art.” As delivered by these master performers, the effect is breathtaking, even ecstatic.

ETHEL and Mirabal will perform The River this season:

  • September 23 at Hillsdale College’s Markel Auditorium in Hillsdale, MI
  • October 3 at Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, NM
  • November 9 at Louisiana Technical University’s Howard Auditorium in Ruston, LA
  • November 15 at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Miller Auditorium in Daytona, FL

ETHEL’s Documerica (Innova Recordings) was released in November 2015. The program has been presented in live performances across every region of the U.S. Directed by OBIE Award-winner Steve Cosson, the show incorporates thousands of the NEA’s Project Documerica images into a projection design by renowned artist Deborah Johnson, and features new works by ETHEL members and commissioned composers Mary Ellen Childs, Ulysses Owens Jr., Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate and James Kimo Williams. Reviewing the show’s world premiere at BAM’s Next Wave Festival, The New York Times described ETHEL’s Documerica as “new music bonding with old images in rich, provocative and moving ways.”

Upcoming performances of ETHEL’s Documerica include:

  • September 28 at Castleton University’s Fine Arts Center in Castleton, VT
  • November 17 at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, FL

This season also features a performance of Blue Dress, ETHEL’s latest signature evening-length program, honoring women who are making their musical mark on the 21st century. Blue Dress features music by Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Award-winner Julia Wolfe, Missy Mazzoli, Anna Clyne and ETHEL’s own Dorothy Lawson, as well as ETHEL treatments of the music of legendary artists Aretha Franklin, Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin. The centerpiece of Blue Dress is the new work, Blue Dress for String Quartet, composed by Julia Wolfe and commissioned by ETHEL. The piece celebrates the passion and energy of bluegrass in the context of a grand soundscape of ecstatic organ-like string sonorities. Blue Dress made its world premiere at National Sawdust, where I Care If You Listen wrote of its “more relaxed and playful playing style of which ETHEL has previously established themselves as masters.”

Upcoming performances of Blue Dress include:

  • September 21 at the Museum of Fine Arts’ Remis Auditorium in Boston, MA

ETHEL will again perform new music and all-time favorites at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Great Hall Balcony Bar, where the quartet is the Resident Ensemble and programs the weekly series ETHEL and Friends. Upcoming appearances include September 1-2 & 8-9, October 6-7, December 8-9 & 15-16. For additional dates, please visit the MetLiveArts page on the museum’s website.

ETHEL continues as Ensemble-in-Residence at Denison University, in a collaboration between the Department of Music and the celebrated Vail Series. As Ensemble-in-Residence, ETHEL engages the entire campus and the greater Denison community in an exploration of connections between music, arts, academics, social sciences and more. ETHEL will be on campus October 9-14 and November 27-December 3. The ensemble’s commitment and contributions to the Denison community were recently recognized with honorary degrees, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, conferred on each member, as part of the college’s Commencement services last May.

ETHEL Fall 2017 Season Performances at a Glance

September 1-2
New York, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Greatest Hits

September 8-9
New York, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Greatest Hits

September 15-16
Hudson, NY
Hudson Opera House
Wandering City preview

September 21
Boston, MA
Remis Auditorium ­– Museum of Fine Arts
Blue Dress

September 23
Hillsdale, MI
Markel Auditorium – Hillsdale College
The River

September 28
Castleton, VT
Fine Arts Center – Castleton University
ETHEL’s Documerica

October 3
Santa Fe, NM
Lensic Performing Arts Center
The River

October 6-7
New York, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Greatest Hits

October 9-14
Granville, OH
Denison University

November 5
Germantown, MD
Black Rock Center for the Arts

November 9
Ruston, LA
Howard Auditorium – Louisiana Tech
The River

November 15
Daytona, FL
Miller Auditorium – Embry-Riddle Univ
The River

November 17
West Palm Beach, FL
Rinker Playhouse – Kravis Center PAC
ETHEL’s Documerica

November 27-December 3
Granville, OH
Denison University

December 8-9
New York, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Greatest Hits

December 15-16
New York, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Greatest Hits


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 ETHEL as “indefatigable and eclectic,” and The New Yorker has deemed the group“vital and brilliant.” Nearly two decades into its 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. In addition to premiering 21st century works by a broad range of groundbreaking composers, the quartet creates and tours rich, often multimedia, productions in which community engagement is a key element.

ETHEL is currently touring the evening-length ETHEL’s Documerica, inspired by the tens of thousands of images shot as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1971 Documerica Project, a decade-long initiative that commissioned photographers across the land to document the state of the environment and its impact on society. Directed by OBIE Award-winner Steve Cosson, with projection design by Deborah Johnson, ETHEL’s Documerica features new work by ETHEL members and music the quartet commissioned from other uniquely American artists. The quartet released a Documerica album in 2015. Other current evening-length programs include The River, a collaboration with Taos Pueblo flutist Robert Mirabal (album released June 2016), and Blue Dress, which pays special homage to women making their musical mark on the 21st century.

ETHEL has collaborated with artists including David Byrne, Bang on a Can All Stars, Kaki King, Todd Rundgren, Carlo Mombelli, Ursula Oppens, Juana Molina, Tom Verlaine, STEW and Heidi Rodewald, Ensemble Modern, Jill Sobule, Dean Osborne, Robert Mirabal, Howard Levy, Simone Sou, Andrew Bird, Iva Bittová, Colin Currie, Thomas Dolby, Jeff Peterson, Oleg Fateev, Stephen Gosling, Jake Shimabukuro, Polygraph Lounge 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, Mary Ellen Childs, John King, Raz Mesinai, John Zorn, Missy Mazzoli, Anna Clyne, Steve Reich, Kenji Bunch, 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.

ETHEL is Ralph Farris (viola), Kip Jones (violin), Dorothy Lawson (cello) and Corin Lee (violin).

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