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Flute-marimba duo to perform at ETSU

Contributed • Mar 4, 2019 at 11:49 AM

Flutist Zara Lawler is known for her innovative performances that meld music, dance, theater and poetry including staging a suite for 104 flutes at the Guggenheim Museum. As co-artistic director of the educational ensemble Tales & Scales, Lawler connected with percussionist Paul Fadoul, an award-winning solo and chamber performer and graduate of Yale School of Music.

They combine to perform as Lawler + Fadoul on flute and marimba – and various other instruments for fun and effect. With Tales & Scales, Lawler and Fadoul toured the country performing works that integrated contemporary classical music with dance and theater, for children and family audiences. Lawler + Fadoul continue that tradition for audiences of all ages and abilities.

“Paul and I both have deep roots in classical music, but we also both have theater in our backgrounds and I have dance as well,” Lawler says. “It has seemed natural to combine them. We met playing in a quartet that specialized in creating new music and new theater for children and family audiences, where the musicians were also the actors, so from the very beginning we have been ‘mixing and matching’ our art forms.”

Their concoction of movement, singing, virtuosity, humor and drama “mix pop culture, indie rock sensibilities and high art,” says the Albany Times-Union.

Lawler + Fadoul will perform its “cocktail” – of classical, new and newly arranged music for flute and marimba, complete with choreography and commercial breaks – at East Tennessee State University’s Mathes Recital Hall Thursday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m.

This tasteful, eclectic mixture – their debut album was even titled ‘Prelude Cocktail’ – is what attracted Anita DeAngelis, director of event-sponsor Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, to schedule the duo. “The Martin School of the Arts is known for its eclectic seasons, and this spring, we are featuring some remarkably innovative artists,” DeAngelis says. “Lawler + Fadoul fit that perfectly. They are not creating in that typical box that you might wrap around musicians. Art is not created in a vacuum, and they are a good example of that outside-of-the-box creativity.”

Their unique combination of sights and sounds has been called “collaborative artistry at its finest,” on the I Care If You Listen music blog, and “delicate and beguiling, even whimsical, but seriously musical,” by Chamber Music Magazine.

Lawler + Fadoul’s performance at ETSU will exemplify the duo’s interdisciplinary work, integrating performance, drama, singing, movement, literature and audience participation – in three pieces, together called Dust Jacket.

“Each piece is written by a different composer and the words are directly from the dust jackets of actual books,” Lawler says. “Each dust jacket is set with its own feeling: ‘Sense & Sensibility,’ by Jane Austen, uses music by Handel and the kind of dancing that often happens in Jane Austen's novels. ‘LIARS’ is based on a young adult novel, and is full of mystery, lies and true love, and ‘Power Money Fame Sex,’ a how-to book, is staged to be like a cross between a self-help infomercial and a TED Talk.

“Interestingly, one of the pieces we will play at ETSU contains both the joy of a communal experience and the virtuosity of the soloists. It’s ‘LIARS,’ one of the dust jackets, in which the audience accompanies us by singing and chanting along while we play all sorts of fancy notes and act things out.’

Since 2003, Lawler + Fadoul have taken their concert cocktail to many of the country’s most prestigious venues, including The Kennedy Center, Strathmore, the Cerritos Center, the Kravis Center, Trinity Wall Street, Vermont’s Yellow Barn and the Tribeca Performing Arts Center.

Separately, Lawler, who studied at The Juilliard School, made her concerto debut with the Houston Symphony and her recital debut at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall and has been called “an engaging, fluent, mellifluous soloist,” by the Houston Chronicle. Fadoul, a Yale music graduate, has given solo and chamber performances across North America and Spain and is percussionist with Dark by Five, ensemble in residence at the Gros Morne Summer Music Festival.

As a duo, these musicians are dedicated to increasing the repertoire for their unique instrumentation. Their ongoing Gronica Project features the duo’s own transcriptions of works by Bach, Chopin, Shostakovich, Debussy and Gershwin and new preludes commissioned from American composers. “In addition to creating new music, we are also expanding the sound scape of our duo to include piccolo, alto flute and vibraphone,” Lawler says.

“We love our performances to have both high [brow] and low [brow] combined,” Lawler says. “So we might be doing a chamber music recital with sublime music by Debussy and Chopin and Scriabin, but we will crack a few jokes in between to keep things light and personal, or, in our theatrical show ‘Clickable,’ we very purposely combine high art (newly written classical music and spoken word) with pop culture (jingles, sing-alongs and more).”

Dedicated to education as well, Lawler + Fadoul is an in-school ensemble for the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.

No matter the venue, there is plenty of classical culture, pop culture and sense of fun to go around. At some point, the shoes will come off, Lawler says, and the dancing will begin.

“Expect a combination of classical recital and interdisciplinary extravaganza, and an opportunity to sing along,” Lawler says. “There will be beautiful music! There will be dancing! It will be fun and you can sing along! It will be unlike your ‘average chamber music recital.’

Lawler + Fadoul wants its music to speak to all audiences. “We have to find a way to make the music speak to people who haven’t gone to music school or had a music appreciation class, so finding other ways to make the whole thing feel approachable [is important],” Lawler says.

“I think virtually every person has the capability of listening to music and understanding and getting something from it, but a lot of people think they don’t. They think they need to know something first, so a lot of the vibe we try to create in our performances is a way of getting past that feeling of it being on a pedestal.”

For more information about the duo, visit http://lawlerandfadoul.com. Lawler writes a blog on practice techniques at www.thepracticenotebook.com, and more about her work can be found at www.zaralawler.com. More on Fadoul can be found at http://www.paulfadoul.com/.

For information about ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts or to purchase tickets, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-TKTS (8587). Tickets are $15 general admission, $10 for seniors 60+ and $5 for students of any age with ID. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.

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