Saturday, March 16
Our riveting season closer, Revel welcomes University of Texas alum and award-winning composer Rob Smith from the University of Houston. The Zenith Quintet will premiere his new work for piano and saxophone quartet, Tangram Music, based on the ancient Chinese tangram puzzle, which some say is the world's earliest psychological test.
Blackerby Stage & Studio,
1111 W. Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78757
Doors & Social: 6:00pm • Pre-Show with invoke: 6:45pm • Show: 7:00pm-8:15pm
$10 Student Tickets available at the door with valid student ID.
The Zenith Quintet (ZQ) is an electro-acoustic project created by award-winning saxophonists Rami El-Farrah, Sunil Gadgil, Michael Hertel, and Spencer Nielsen of the Bel Cuore Quartet (BCQ) and pianist Carla McElhaney. BCQ and McElhaney first came together as featured guest artists with The University of Texas at San Antonio Wind Ensemble, performing Indian-American composer Asha Srinivasan’s Janani for saxophone quartet and piano — appropriately, a piece celebrating birth and new life. They quickly saw the endless possibilities surrounding a quintet for the 21st Century, an ensemble whose mission would be to engage composers and audiences on an ascending trajectory, moving upward in opposition to the gravitational pull of tradition. It was out of this collective imagining of artistic celestial heights that ZQ was born, a sky’s-the-limit collaboration between forward-thinking artists from two of Austin’s most beloved and original chamber ensembles.
The innovative and highly energetic music of Rob Smith is frequently performed throughout the United States and abroad. His music has received numerous awards, including those from the Aaron Copland House (Residency Award), Minneapolis Pops Orchestra New Orchestral Repertoire Project, ASCAP and the National Band Association. He has received commissions from the Texas Music Festival Orchestra, Soli Chamber Ensemble (San Antonio), the American Composers Forum (Continental Harmony), the New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music Program, and several nationally renowned university wind ensembles, among many others.
In 1997, he was the recipient of a Fulbright Grant to Australia to study with Peter Sculthorpe, which led to a teaching position at the University of Wollongong in 1998. Commercial recordings of his music are available by the Society for New Music (Syracuse, NY), Rutgers University Wind Ensemble, University of Houston Wind Ensemble, saxophonist Jeremy Justeson, Austrian toy pianist Isabel Ettenauer, and the University of Houston and Texas Christian University Percussion Ensembles. Boosey & Hawkes, Carl Fischer, Southern Music, C-Alan Publications, and Skitter Music Publications publish his music.
Currently, Rob teaches at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music where he is Professor of Music Composition and director of the AURA Contemporary Ensemble. During his tenure at UH he has been formally recognized for his teaching twice: in 2013 Outstanding Faculty Award (Moores School of Music) and 2014 UH Faculty Recognition Award (College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences). From 2003-2014 he served as one of the artistic directors of Musiqa, a Houston-based contemporary chamber ensemble. In addition to programming and presenting 6-8 concerts a season, Rob also created three children’s programs with his colleagues at Musiqa, two of which continue to be presented annually for hundreds of public school students.
Described by one pretty important radio guy as “not classical...but not not classical," invoke continues to successfully dodge even the most valiant attempts at genre classification. The band’s other not-nots encompass traditions from across America, including bluegrass, Appalachian fiddle tunes, jazz, and minimalism. invoke weaves all of these traditions together to create truly unique contemporary repertoire, written by and for the group.
invoke’s 2015 debut release “Souls in the Mud” begins with original works that conjure images of America, including the fast-paced opening track Travesty and The Trace (inspired by bourbon whiskey). The third and title track, Souls in the Mud, is an American transformation of a 16th century motet featuring banjo, mandolin and a bluegrass-influenced boot-stompin’ finale. The EP is rounded out by invoke accompanying a historic recording of a haunting traditional English ballad and two compositions by prolific American composer Danny Clay.
Most recently the Young Professional String Quartet in Residence at the University of Texas at Austin, invoke has also been selected to participate in the Emerging String Quartet Program at Stanford, Artists in Residence at Strathmore, the Emerging Young Artist Quartet at Interlochen, and the Fellowship String Quartet at Wintergreen Performing Arts. In 2018, the band won First Prize in the Open Category of the international chamber-arts competition M-Prize, in Ann Arbor, Michigan as well as First Prize in the Coltman Competition in Austin, Texas.
invoke has shared the stage with some of the most acclaimed chamber groups in the country, including the Enso Quartet and the U.S. Army Field Band. Other highlights include a week-long residency at the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Institute, and appearances as part of the South Florida Symphony’s Summer Chamber series and the NextNOW Festival at University of Maryland.
In addition to “Souls in the Mud”, invoke has performed and recorded numerous world premieres, including works by Joseph C. Phillips Jr., Armando Bayolo, and Geoff Sheil. The quartet’s recording credits appear on bassist/composer Ethan Foote’s solo album “Fields Burning”, singer/songwriter Marian McLaughlin’s “Spirit House”, and jazz/soul singer Rochelle Rice’s EP “Wonder”, and many more.
Equally at home in a collaborative setting, invoke has appeared with musicians from genres at complete opposite ends of the spectrum - from chamber rock powerhouse San Fermin, to indie sensation Never Shout Never, to DC beatboxer/rapper/spoons virtuoso Christylez Bacon.
invoke endorses the Buffalo Trace line of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Soda Shaq cream sodas, and Kirkland brand everything.
Carla McElhaney is the pianist, co-founder, and Artistic Director of Austin’s innovative music and arts collective, Revel. Her playing has been recognized by the Austin Critics’ Table with multiple nominations for performance awards in the “Best Instrumentalist” and “Best Chamber Music Performance” categories, praised by the Austin-American Statesman as exhibiting “infectious enthusiasm,” and commended by the Austin Chronicle as delivering “an exciting mix of focus and passion.”
Carla’s passion for music became evident early on; she gave her first public recital at the age of 3, and was a top prize-winner in numerous competitions throughout her youth. She went on to earn performance degrees at the Eastman School of Music and The University of Texas at Austin, where she also served on the piano faculty for a year after completing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree. She went on to a garner a tenured faculty post at Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory in Ohio, before returning to Austin to co-create Revel.
Carla is energized by creative partnerships, as demonstrated by her active performing schedule and ongoing collaborations with many of Austin’s favorite musicians. She currently teaches at Texas Lutheran University, and you can hear her nightly on KMFA Classical 89.5 as the host of Night Music.