This month, Olmos Ensemble is hosting a three-week concert series at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church which will also air on KPAC 88.3 FM. Starting August 8, the group will invite talented artists from out of town to join the main group. Each performance starts at 3:00 p.m.
TPR’s Nathan Cone recently met Mark Teplitsky, flautist and artistic director of the ensemble. Below is an edited and condensed transcript of their conversation.
Nathan Cone: Mark, there has been a return to a gig in the last year, since January… in fact, February, when the San Antonio Symphony returned to the Tobin Center. Olmos Ensemble performed the entire pandemic live in a remote form. What will these concerts be like for audiences here in Laurel Heights this month? Some people may have concerns, of course, with the COVID variants occurring there.
Mark Teplitsky: Well, we’re excited to even be able to be here to play this coming August and do all three concerts… and to have an audience that we know, support. [us] and wants to see us on stage. We of course stay up to date with everything that happens. We will always encourage remote sieges and trust our audience, which is made up of people who are very attentive to the circumstances that are unfolding right now.
[NOTE: As of this writing, Olmos Ensemble is requiring unvaccinated audience members to wear a mask. For fully vaccinated individuals, masks are optional.]
As artists, however, how did it go during this pandemic to navigate the times we live in?
I think the musicians in Olmos Ensemble had a kind of double-edged sword when it came to this, because not only jobs and careers were affected… here at the Olmos Ensemble… we have had to take special precautions considering how we will face each other on stage. Now that things are a lot safer and people have taken care of themselves, and we’ve played quite a few gigs together, I think there is no more discomfort between us at all.
Well, the first upcoming gig introduces you! Play beautiful music by Debussy and François Devienne, and Gershwin. Is this Gershwin [you’re going to play] an arrangement by WC Handy “St. Louis Blues?”
It’s exactly that. This is one of Matt Cohen’s finds. It’s another wonderful thing to be able to work with people outside of the ensemble as they help choose a part of the repertoire or make suggestions and often something that I don’t know would come to my attention like this Gershwin, that we are delighted to play.
So tell me a little bit about how you put together this program, the classic hodgepodge program.
So the first program is going to have myself playing the flute, a good friend of mine, Matt Cohen, a violist who often plays with the New York Philharmonic on viola, and then Rachel Ferris of the San Antonio Symphony himself playing. of the harp. The instrumentation was chosen because it is a very popular ensemble. Composers throughout the centuries have indeed written for this trio of instruments, and yet it is different from the musical sextet of Olmos. We therefore wanted to take this opportunity to present another chamber ensemble using German, French, English and even American works.
What are you most looking forward to sharing with the folks in this program? What piece ?
On this program I can’t wait to share the Ravel. The last piece on the program is the “Sonatine” piano, written for flute, harp and viola.
The second gig is “Castles and Taverns”, and I guess we’re talking about baroque music that has been played in these places while people are doing other things, sometimes. Right.?
It’s just a part. The guest artist of a baroque program is therefore Jeannette Sorell, who directs as conductor and harpsichordist Apollo’s Fire, a group in Cleveland that she founded, a baroque ensemble. And we were delighted that Jeannette designed this program for us and called it “Châteaux et tavernes”. I spoke to her about it, asking her the same thing. Are these just two places where the music was played? And she said, no, I have to look past that. It is in everything that is baroque, architecture, art. And so I did a little more research and saw that she was absolutely right. You look at a lot of baroque paintings and if it’s not, you know, a severed devil’s head, it’s people getting drunk in a tavern with a slew of musicians there. Thus the program alternates between musics which would have been written for the court or for the peasants, so to speak. And I think it’s a really wonderful mix.
Now the third gig here is the one whose title might scare people off. “20e Avant-garde of the century.
Well, I think everyone needs to give contemporary music a chance. Contemporary music has a very bad reputation due to the very short period of time that people associate with all contemporary music. Everyone always thinks only of the second Viennese school, you know, your row of twelve tones … which some like! But nonetheless, everyone considers it contemporary music. And so, while we may create a surprise, it won’t take too long. And the program introduces audiences to the wide variety of music written in the last century, some of which sound quite romantic.
I think one of the great advantages of 20th century music concerts is [a concert] is the best way to introduce it, because when you’re in a performance environment, you know, you’re really not just rooted for gamers, but feeling open to listening to music.
I think this is a very valid point. Um, I would just add that Mozart’s contemporaries included a lot of composers that we don’t know, some who were probably very good and some not so well. And so I think it’s our responsibility, if you want this art form to continue, to eliminate what’s good and what’s not from the last century of music. And there will be a few more because it’s so close to our time.
As artistic director, what is your contribution? It’s like “OK, that’s what I think”, and then you still get the opinion of the performers in the band? How does the dynamic work?
I like to keep a revolving door where ideas can always come. We have group emails and individual emails, emails about each concert and the guests we want to invite. Sometimes you have songs that don’t go well together that a particular individual might want to play. And then I have to make a decision on what’s going on. But usually we don’t come across this. We find a theme for a concert. And in this theme, there is a work that someone really wants to play. And then we schedule the rest of the concert around this work or the guest that this work could choose.
Mark, is there anything else we haven’t talked about that you would like to add here?
We are so grateful to the community of San Antonio who helped us continue to pass our seasons during the pandemic. And for the past year and a half, we’ve been delighted to continue to be part of the community. And please come please stay after. Please talk to us. We love to see you.
The Olmos Ensemble performs at 3 p.m. on August 8, 15 and 22 at the United Methodist Church in Laurel Heights. Admission is by suggested donation. You can find out more about the group’s current season online at this link: https://www.olmosensemble.com/21-22-season