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Ethel’s Waters: Modern string ensemble meets Native American music master at Monmouth U

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ – As part of its 10th Anniversary schedule of events, The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University has announced that tickets are on sale for a March 4 concert featuring the string quartet ETHEL and special guest, Native American “Renaissance Man” Robert Mirabal.

Part of the 2016 Winter-Spring Performing Arts Series, the 8 p.m. show finds one of the most energizing ensembles in modern music returning to the Monmouth campus for the first time since a 2014 collaboration with Kaki King. They’ll also be performing for the first time in the recently renovated Pollak Theatre. Complete with new seating and an enhanced stage area, it’s a setting that promises to transport the audience to a place that’s as steeped in tradition as the ancient high desert of the American Southwest — and as contemporary as the most state-of-the-art performance space.

Joining the quartet in their “quest for a common creative expression forged in the celebration of community” will be Mirabal, a three-time Grammy® winner and globe-trotting musical ambassador. It’s a coastal New Jersey debut for the Taos, NM-based master musician, maker of instruments, storyteller (composer, painter, poet, actor, screenwriter, horseman and farmer) whose previous projects with ETHEL were highlighted by “Music of the Sun.” This time out, the inspiration is Water — its function as the embodiment of Spirit, and its crucial role in Life on Earth. Composed by Mirabal and the members of ETHEL, and augmenting the strings with traditional Native American flutes (Tdoop-Pootse) and drums (Mooloo), the music flows like an ecstatic river of ritual, history and mystery; bridged by Mirabal’s narration and the quartet’s contemporary artistry.

Surrounding the storyteller is a group of self-described “pollinators” that has made collaboration its calling card since 1998. In just the past few years, ETHEL — founding members Ralph Farris (viola) and Dorothy Lawson (cello), plus violinists Kip Jones and Corin Lee — has premiered more than 50 new works by contemporary composers, from luminaries like Philip Glass and John Zorn, to the students of the Native American Composers Apprenticeship Project, the vehicle by which the quartet first worked with Mirabal. Equally at home in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balcony Bar and the Grand Canyon Music Festival, the NYC-based quartet has brought its “collaborative discoveries” and “multi-dimensional repertoire” to diverse audiences, through partnerships with David Byrne, Todd Rundgren, Kurt Elling, Joe Jackson, ukulele ace Jake Shimabukoro, and many others.

In addition to the original music composed by ETHEL and Mirabal, the program also features a segment of Gabriela Lena Frank’s epic “Andean Walkabout,” as well as Phil Kline’s “The River,” an acclaimed piece that the collaborators have performed together for audiences across North America. Like the waterways that bring life and discovery to far-flung places, it’s an evening of music that explores connections between world cultures, and that touches something elemental in all who experience it.

Tickets for the March 4 concert by ETHEL featuring Robert Mirabal are priced at $28 and $38 (with a Gold Circle seating option available for $50), and can be reserved through the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at

Tickets for other upcoming Performing Arts events — including fingerstyle guitarist Laurence Juber at Wilson Hall (April 1), and Borealis Wind Quintet (April 10) — are also on sale now.

To schedule interviews, please contact Kelly Barratt at 732-263-5114.