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Program for Ensemble for These Times – CelesTrios

Friday, October 21, 2022 at 8 pm

download a copy of this program here.

Ensemble for These Times

Nanette McGuiness, soprano
Mia Nardi-Huffman & Otis Harriel, violins
Abigail Monroe & Doug Machiz, cellos
Margaret Halbig, piano


Elena Ruehr (b. 1963)
Celebration 15 (2022) World Premiere
             Nardi-Huffman, Monroe, Halbig

Arthur Gottschalk (b. 1952)
Beat (1998, rev, selections)
     Chorus 172, Chorus 34, Chorus 49
             McGuinness, Monroe, Halbig

Tina Davidson (b. 1952)
Tremble (2013)
             Nardi-Huffman, Monroe, Halbig

Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959)
Piano Trio No. 2, H. 327 (1950)
     Allegro moderato
             Nardi-Huffman, Monroe, Halbig


Yaz Lancaster
Shed Velvet (2021)
             Nardi-Huffman, Monroe, Halbig

Jonathan Bailey Holland (b. 1974)
Trio (2006)
             Nardi-Huffman, Monroe, Halbig

David Garner (b. 1954)
Piano Trio (2007, rev. 2017)
     Giocoso bizarro
     Adagio misterioso
     Allegro molto e con brio

E4TT’s 2022/23 season is sponsored by a grant from The Ross McKee Foundation and made possible in part by grants from San Francisco Grants for the Arts, the San Francisco Arts Commission, and the California Arts Commission. Learn more at

Song texts

Arthur Gottschalk (b. 1952) Beat (1998, rev, selections)
texts from Mexico City Blues by Jack Kerouac

172nd Chorus
When I hear that
             serenade in bleu,
OO dee de ree,
     – a song I could sing
     in a low new voice
     to be recorded
     on quiet microphones
     of the Roman Afternoon,
     tape, a new kind of voice,
     sung for the self
     sung for yourself
     to hear in a room
     where you dont
     want to be interrupt

Or made to sing dirges
Of suicide & main
in the candle of the handle
of the coffin to blame

34th Chorus
“I have no plans
     No dates
          No appointments with anybody
So I leisurely explore
     Souls and Cities …

But I’m really a citizen
     of the world who …
     tolerates Democracy…
     the best form of bad government

I’m merely exploring souls & cities
From the vantage point
Of my ivory tower built,
Built with the assistance
     of Opium
That’s enough, isnt it?”

49th Chorus
They got nothing on me
     at the university
Them clever poets of immensity
     With charcoal suits and charcoal hair
And green armpits and heaven air
     And cheques to balance my account
In Rome benighted
     by White Russians
Without care who puke in windows

They got nothing on me
‘Cause I’m dead

They can’t surpass me
‘Cause I’m dead
And being dead
     I hurt my head
     And now I wait
     Without hate
     For my fate
     To estate

About the music

To celebrate Ensemble for These Times’ 15th anniversary, we open our season with a program of music for three instruments—one for the group’s core ensemble of soprano, cello, and soprano, and the remainder for piano trio, i.e., incorporating violin, the instrument we have most often added in concerts. Featuring an intergenerational range of 21st century styles and timbres, the program opens with a fanfare, Celebration 15 by Elena Ruehr, whose music we frequently perform, followed by works by Arthur Gottschalk—whose music E4TT first encountered in our 2016 Call for Scores and will also be on our Feb. 25, 2023 Call for Scores piano recital—and another E4TT favorite, Jonathan Bailey Holland, who we interviewed for our podcast, For Good Measure.

Tonight’s program also features works by two new-to-E4TT composers, Tina Davidson and Yaz Lancaster. About Tremble, Davidson writes, “We shiver in delight or quake in fear. We shake in anger or pulse in love. We tremble in the act of knowing and not knowing.” In Shed Velvet, Yaz Lancaster addresses a different kind of unknowing, trembling change,” describing their inspiration for the work in this way: “When velvet shedding happens, it is the signal that rutting is about to begin. Over the weeks heading to the rut, antler velvet will peel off, usually around mid-August. It is during the peak of summer when the tissue in the antlers mineralizes and hardens as the blood flow is cut off.”

Finally, we paired these works with two larger ones for piano trio, Czech exile Bohuslav Martinů’s anxiously energetic second piano trio (written during his sojourn in the United States) and E4TT co-founder and Senior Artistic Advisor David Garner’s Piano Trio. Garner writes that the second movement is “in the form of a gavotte and trio, painted in a rather sardonic light.” The final movement ends by abruptly dissipating, much as described in Yeats’s The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”… sentiments befitting our fraught, uncertain era and very much “of these times.”

Tina Davidson, a highly regarded American composer, creates music that stands out for its emotional depth and lyrical dignity. Lauded for her authentic voice, The New York Times praised her “vivid ear for harmony and colors.” Opera News called her works “transfigured beauty.” She has been commissioned and performed by well-known ensembles, including National Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Delaware, Vocal Essence, Kronos Quartet, Cassatt Quartet and Grammy award winner, Hilary Hahn. Davidson’s talents have been recognized through the awarding of a number of grants and fellowships, including the prestigious Pew Fellowship, the largest such grant in the country for which an artist can apply. Her music is available on CRI, Mikrokosmik, Albany Records and Opus One. Recently, Hilary Hahn released a second recording of the work she commissioned from Davidson, Blue Curve of the Earth, on her new album Retrospective (Deutsche Grammophon).

E4TT Senior Artistic Advisor and co-founder David Garner won The American Prize in 2015 for his String Quartet No. 2. Garner’s music has been reviewed as “alluring” and “a heady and touching revelation,” and his works have been performed nationally and internationally by artists such as Susanne Mentzer, Catherine Cook, Lisa Delan, Crystal Philippi, David Krakauer, and Matt Haimowitz. Garner’s opera, Mary Pleasant at Land’s End, is in the final stages of pre-production. A faculty member in composition, chamber music, music theory, and literature at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Garner is a member of BMI, American Composers Forum, and the American Music Center.

Arthur Gottschalk is a professor of Music Theory and Composition at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he founded the electronic music studios (REMLabs) and chaired the department until 2010. Among others, he’s won the First Prize of the VVX Concorso Internazionale di Composizione Originale (Corciano, Italy), and the 2017 Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Composition Award. He was awarded a Bogliasco Fellowship for work in Italy, residencies at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, and was Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome in 2016. In 2018 he was a featured composer for the Thailand International Music Festival, awarded a residency at The MacDowell Colony, and was a featured composer at the 2019 China-ASEAN Music Festival. His music is performed frequently, and is available on over 45 commercial recordings to date with orchestral works performed by the symphony orchestras worldwide.

Jonathan Bailey Holland has been referred to as “a craftsman with an ear for effective orchestration, a fine theatrical sense and real skill when it comes to formal layout” (Indianapolis Star). His works have been commissioned and performed by leading ensembles including the New World Symphony, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Eighth Blackbird,  Roomful of Teeth,  Los Angeles Philharmonic, and many more. Holland served as the first-ever composer-in-residence with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and he has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, American Academy of Arts & Letters, American Music Center, ASCAP, the Presser Foundation, and others. He currently holds the Jack G. Buncher Chair as the head of the School of Music at Carnegie Mellon University; previous faculty appointments include Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Berklee College of Music, and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Bohuslav Martinů was a prolific Czech composer of symphonies, ballets, operas, instrumental, and vocal music who blended the traits of Czech folk music into a modern, neoclassical sound that showed the clear and precise characteristics of French music. Born in the tower of the St. Jakub Church in Polička, he was a young violin prodigy, attending there Prague Conservatory in 1906 before he was finally dismissed in 1910 for “incorrigible negligence.” Martinů went on studied with Albert Roussel in Paris in the 1920s. Later, while still in France, he taught—and had a passionate affair with—young Czech composer Vitĕzslava Kaprálová. In 1941, he and his wife, Charlotte, fled the German invasion of France, settling in the U.S., where he taught at Princeton University, and at the Berkshire Music Center. After roughly a dozen years in the U.S., Martinů returned to Europe, going on to become composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome.

Elena Ruehr’s work has been described as “sumptuously scored and full of soaring melodies” (The New York Times), and “unspeakably gorgeous” (Gramophone). Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she has been a fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute and composer-in-residence with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, which recorded her major orchestral works (O’Keeffe Images, BMOP Sound) and the opera Toussaint Before the Spirits (Arsis Records). She has numerous recordings, on regular NPR playlists, including: Icarus (Avie), Six String Quartets by Elena Ruehr (Avie), Averno (Avie), Jane Wang considers the Dragonfly (Albany), Lift (Avie), Shimmer (Albany) and Shadow Light (Acis). Known for her collaborations with writers and poets, she has written five operas, five cantatas, as well as a great deal of orchestral music, chamber music and songs. She has also written for film and dance. Ruehr is an award-winning faculty member at MIT.

About the musicians

Winners of The American Prize in 2021 for Chamber Music Performance, Ensemble for These Times consists of award-winning soprano and Artistic Executive Director Nanette McGuinness, cellist Abigail Monroe, pianist Margaret Halbig, and Senior Artistic Advisor and San Francisco Conservatory of Music faculty member, composer David Garner. The group focuses on 20th and 21st century music that is relevant, engaging, original and compelling—music that resonates with today and speaks to tomorrow, that harnesses the power of artistic beauty, intelligence, wit, lyricism, and irony to create a deep understanding of our times and the human condition. E4TT made its international debut in Berlin in 2012; was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Budapest for a four-city tour of Hungary in 2014; and performed at the Krakow Culture Festival in 2016 and at the Conservatorio Teresa Berganza in Madrid in 2017. E4TT has performed locally at the German Consulate General, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Old First Concerts, JCC Peninsula, Trinity Chamber Concerts, and Noontime Concerts, among other venues.

E4TT has released four critically acclaimed recordings: The Guernica Project, (2022), commemorating the 85 anniversary of the horrific carpet bombing of civilians in the Basque town of Gernika and Picasso’s iconic masterwork in response; Once/Memory/Night: Paul Celan (2020), honoring the centennial of this seminal 20th century poet; Surviving: Women’s Words, (2016), new music to poetry by four women Holocaust survivors; and The Hungarians: From Rózsa to Justus (2018), which features a cello duo by Hollywood movie maven and Hungarian émigré Miklós Rózsa, along with works by three of his compatriots who perished in the Holocaust. E4TT’s four CDs have all medaled (two Gold and two Silver) in the Global Music Awards.

E4TT Pianist Margaret Halbig is in high demand as a collaborative artist in both the instrumental and vocal fields. On staff at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 2011, she regularly performs recitals, masterclasses, and lessons and has collaborated with many of esteemed Bay Area musicians including mezzo-soprano Frederica Von Stade, San Francisco Symphony Principal Trombonist Timothy Higgins, and SF Symphony’s principal tubist Jeffrey Anderson. An advocate of new and contemporary music, Halbig is the pianist for Ninth Planet, a San Francisco-based new music collective and a member of the wind-and-piano sextet Frequency 49. Halbig has been a Collaborative Teaching fellow at Interlochen Arts in 2017 and 2018 and the pianist for Young Women’s Chorus of San Francisco since 2014.

Guest violinist Otis Harriel earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in Spring 2013. He began his studies with Rob Diggins in his hometown of Arcata, CA. Under his teacher’s guidance he began performing with many local orchestras and chamber ensembles including the Eureka Symphony and Humboldt State Symphony. He attended the Sequoia Chamber Music Workshop, Idyllwild Chamber Music Program, Sphinx Academy of Music. Mendocino Music Festival and Castleton Festival. Harriel studied with Wei He at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has participated in master classes with the first violinist of the Shanghai Quartet, Weigang Li, William van der Sloot, and Pinchas Zukerman. While at the conservatory he developed his love of chamber music under the guidance of coaches including Mark Sokol, Jennifer Culp, Jean-Michel Fonteneau and Jodi Levitz.

Cellist Doug Machiz is in high demand as both a classical and contemporary musician. He co-founded the Friction Quartet, a nonprofit performing arts organization whose mission is to modernize the chamber music experience and expand the string quartet repertoire. The group has recorded two full-length albums and, through the Friction Commissioning Initiative, has funded the creation of 12 new works for string quartet. Machiz is on faculty at The Crowden School; with his quartet, he has also performed at every public elementary school in San Francisco through the San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures in Music Program. A native of Washington, D.C., Doug first came to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco Conservatory, where he earned his Professional Studies Diploma under Jennifer Culp. He also holds a Master’s Degree in cello performance from UT Austin, where he studied with Bion Tsang.

Soprano and E4TT co-founder and Artistic Executive Director Nanette McGuiness has performed in 14 languages on two continents in over 25 roles with the Silesian State (Czech Republic), Opera San Jose (Opera in the Schools), Società dei Concerti (Italy) and West Bay, Pacific Repertory, Trinity Lyric, and Livermore Valley Operas, among others. Hailed in the press as “magnificent” (The Whole Note) and “compelling” (San Francisco Examiner), for her “creamy golden tone” (Independent Coast Observer), she also was a Teaching Artist with the San Francisco Opera Guild. Solo concert engagements include Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, as well as Shéhérézade (Ravel), Nuits d’étés (Berlioz), Stabat Mater (Rossini), Requiem (Fauré), Gloria (Vivaldi), Lord Nelson Mass (Haydn), Vesperae Solennes (Mozart), and Handel’s Messiah and Solomon. Her CD of music by 19th and 20th century women composers, Fabulous Femmes was called “perfect for the song recital lover” by Chamber Music Magazine.

E4TT cellist Abigail Monroe hails from New Mexico and holds a Bachelor’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in cello performance under the instruction of Jennifer Culp. A member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, she has appeared as a soloist, chamber musician, and large ensemble musician in venues across the United States. As a San Francisco resident, Abigail performs frequently throughout the Bay Area as both a classical cellist. She has served as both Principal cellist of the SFCM Orchestra, as well as the Miami Summer Music Festival Symphony Orchestra. As the winner of the Jackie McGehee Young Artists Competition in 2019, Abigail was also featured as cello soloist performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the New Mexico Philharmonic.

Violinist Mia Nardi-Huffman has gained recognition as a versatile and dynamic performer in the San Francisco Bay Area since her arrival on the West Coast in 2010. She has performed across North America and Europe, in venues that include Carnegie Hall, SF JAZZ Center, Herbst Theatre, The National Arts Club, Shoreline Amphitheatre, and Castello di Introd. Ms. Nardi-Huffman is the first violinist for the string quartet ASTRAEUS and the resident violinist for the new music ensemble Ninth Planet. A dedicated violin teacher, she maintains a private studio in Oakland and is a Teaching Artist for Oakland Symphony’s MUSE Stringendo program. Ms. Nardi-Huffman received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she was the recipient of the Sergei Barsukov Violin Scholarship and concertmaster of the Conservatory Orchestra.

Please fill out E4TT’s audience survey—find it online using this link — to be entered in a drawing for a free copy of E4TT’s new CD, The Guernica Project.

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