Collaborative pairing brings Spirit and Native American tradition to CSB

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January 29, 2020

By Connor Kockler ’22

Robert Mirabal

Robert Mirabal

Robert Mirabal says it’s a “unique flavor” to connect the music of Native Americans and the classical realm.

“Combining those two (elements) and having a bold effort to collaborate in a way that we do … I think we’re creating history,” Mirabel added.

Mirabal, an acclaimed Native American musician, has combined with ETHEL, a classically trained string quartet. Together, they will be performing their show “The River” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Gorecki Family Theater, Benedicta Arts Center on the CSB campus as part of the Fine Arts Series at CSB and Saint John’s University.

“The River” is based on Native American traditions of Water being the embodiment of Spirit and its essential role in Life on Earth. It uses the talents of ETHEL and Mirabal to create stirring, impactful music.

ETHEL hails from New York City and has performed across the country with its vibrant and adventurous style. The group has released six recordings and won a Grammy Award with jazz legend Kurt Elling, and have been described as “indefatigable and eclectic” by The New York Times.

Mirabal performs with his own traditional, handcrafted flutes. He has won three Grammy Awards and is also a celebrated painter, poet and playwright. He is the author of “A Skeleton of a Bridge,” a book of poetry, prose and short stories.

According to ETHEL’s website, much of the music for “The River” was developed on the Taos Pueblo, a historic Native American settlement in New Mexico and Mirabel’s home. “As the Rio Pueblo rushed past the door, and storms came and went, and coyotes howled in the night, the artist’s compositions grew in scope and depth as each player contributed layers and insights,” said the website.

“The River is fine creative music borne out of diverse cultural influences, artistic experimentation and mutual respect. The compositions — credited to Mirabal and ETHEL (individually and collectively) - are transformational and despite the variety of ways the pieces are rendered, there is a consistent and organic flow throughout,” wrote the website All About Jazz.

There’s also special significance to show because of the proximity of CSB and SJU to the Mississippi River and its headwaters near Bemidji, Minnesota.

“Given that we’re a community whose lives are steeped around the most significant river of our entire continent and the fact it goes through our world here, we felt like it was a really nice match,” said Tanya Gertz, executive director of Fine Arts Programming at CSB and SJU.

Expect to hear ETHEL’S strings and Mirabal’s flutes to be used in ways you haven’t heard before, exploring the heights of their respective genres to create something uniquely creative.

“The River” resides somewhere beyond the intersection of ceremony and show biz, at a place where multicultural collaboration becomes sacred art,” reported the Seattle Times newspaper.

There will be a free reception immediately following the performance in the Gallery Lounge, Benedicta Arts Center, CSB. Come and meet the musicians, enjoy each other’s company and snack on light appetizers. A cash bar available.

Tickets are $28 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $21 for CSB/SJU faculty and staff. Youth and students (with ID) get in for $15, and CSB/SJU student tickets are $10.

For tickets, call the Benedicta Arts Center Box Office at 320-363-5777 or order online.

This performance is sponsored in part by EL-JAY Plumbing.

The activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

ETHEL + Robert Mirabal is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts with additional contributions for the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Crane Group. Additional support from the Western Arts Alliance is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

ETHEL + Robert Mirabal are made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.