The River is a journey in instrumental virtuosity, song, and storytelling, inspired by Water as the embodiment of Spirit and essential to life on Earth. This program continues an eight-year collaboration between ETHEL and Robert Mirabal, the renowned Native American flutist, instrument builder, and three-time GRAMMY® Award-winner.

May 18, 2023
7:30 pm
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“The River resides somewhere beyond the intersection of ceremony and show biz, at a place where multicultural collaboration becomes sacred art.” — The Seattle Times

The River is a journey in instrumental virtuosity, song, and storytelling, inspired by Water as the embodiment of Spirit and essential to life on Earth. This program continues an eight-year collaboration between ETHEL and Robert Mirabal, the renowned Native American flutist, instrument builder, and three-time GRAMMY® Award-winner. Presented by Chamber Music America in celebration of National Chamber Music Month.

Audiences are immersed in a flow of music, narrative, and ritual that evokes timeless Native American traditions through contemporary musical artistry. As delivered by these master performers, the effect is breathtaking, even ecstatic. From “An Kha Na” to “Peace Calls,” through rushing rapids and still, sacred spaces, ETHEL and Robert Mirabal evoke the magic and majesty of The River which connects us all.

The River was workshopped at The Hermitage Artist Retreat (FL) and at Denison University (OH). The project was brought to life on the Taos Pueblo, at Mirabal’s home. Each artist brought original music or poetry with special significance. These included Mirabal’s “An Kha Na” and his tribal “Wi-Wa”; Kip Jones’s “Jay-Red” and “TSOMA”; Dorothy Lawson’s “Gat’té”; and Ralph Farris’s “Rana Run” and “Tsintskaro Memory”; and the collective “Tuvan Ride.” 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. Influences were drawn from Hawai’i, Arizona, Mexico, Ecuador, Morocco, Nigeria, India, Mongolia, Tibet, Japan, and the Republic of Georgia.

In concert, the experience is dazzling and the spirit full of generosity, love, and gratitude as we find our hearts healed, and our hopes raised, by The River.

About Robert Mirabal

Robert Mirabal has been described as a Native American “Renaissance man”.  It is a fitting description for this musician, composer, painter, master craftsman, poet, actor, screenwriter, author, horseman, and farmer. But in Mirabal’s case, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

An accomplished, renowned Native American flute player and maker from Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, Robert’s flutes have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of the American Indian. An award-winning musician, Mirabal performs worldwide, sharing flute songs, tribal rock, dance, and storytelling. Mirabal is a two-time Grammy Award winner, has twice been named the Native American Music Award’s Artist of the Year, and has received the Songwriter of the Year award three times.  He is also an Album of the Year recipent from Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. His breakthrough PBS musical production, Music From a Painted Cave, remains a benchmark of Native American traditional/rock fusion and storytelling.​

Robert, like many of us, took a break over the past couple of years from the road. He spent the farming and cultivating the land in his beloved Taos, while working on new music woven together a timely message of agriculture, our relationship to the earth, food justice and the pueblo way. Following a jaw-dropping performance at New Mexico’s ¡Globalquerque! festival coupled with a daytime workshop that literally left the audience in tears, there is no doubt that Mirabal is ready to return to the world stage with a renewed urgency, a powerful presentation and a band that takes no prisoners.

Robert Mirabal came of age in a traditional family that was broken apart by government relocation policies. "I grew up with my grandparents and mom, an all woman family mostly. That was the classic thing in the '70s, a lot of relocation, children being taken from their homes by government and economics, marriages breaking up. I didn't have much connection with my father." 

Growing up, Mirabal spoke the Tiwa language at home and to this day participates in the traditional ways and rituals of his people.

Mirabal remained in Taos to help care for his aging grandparents and went to the Indian school at the pueblo, where he picked up on an array of instruments: ”I learned clarinet, sax, piano, drums, anything I could get my hands on.” he recalls. “But it wasn't till I started playing flute at 18 that music took me over.”

But Robert Mirabal is also a citizen of the world. He has performed around the planet with his band and solo.  He has collaborated with a diverse array of artists across a myriad of disciplines. 

Mirabal has composed music for Japanese avant-garde modern dancers Eiko and Koma, garnering New York's Dance and Performance Bessie Award for the score. He has had an ongoing relation with avant-garde string quartet ETHEL including collaborative tours, performances at BAM's Next Wave Festival and most recently the CD The River, a cross-cultural and cross-genre tour de force that All About Jazz called “tantalizing dialog… a fine creative music borne out of diverse cultural influences, artistic experimentation and mutual respect”. Along with fellow Grammy-winning artist and Mohican nation singer-songwriter Bill Miller, he created the innovative CD Native Suite: Chants, Dances and the Remembered Earth. The project was both experimental and traditional, featuring flute and percussion as well as pow-wow singing. His groundbreaking band Mirabal featured rock bassist Mark Andes (Spirit, Heart), traditional percussion master Reynaldo Lujan, guitarist Andy York (John Mellencamp, John Fogerty) and acclaimed drummer Kenny Arnoff.  Most recently, he has collaborated with Festival Ballet Albuquerque and their artistic director Patricia Dickinson along with legendary New York City Ballet dancer Jock Soto and, at Carnegie Hall, with German born multimedia environmental artist Sibylle Szaggars Redford in her ongoing work Way Of The Rain.

Robert’s music can be heard in a number of television and motion picture productions, most recently the films Prey where he added soundscapes, vocal chant, flutes and percussionist and George RR Martin’s short film adaption of the sci-fi classic Night of The Cooters.  

​As a theatrical performer, Robert is no stranger to transforming himself. He portrayed Tony Lujan (Taos Pueblo), the famed husband of Mable Dodge Lujan, in the movie Georgia O’Keeffe, starring three-time Academy Award nominee, Joan Allen. He has appeared on Japanese and Italian TV as well as several guest roles on Walker Texas Ranger. In August 2012, Robert premiered Po’Pay Speaks, his one-man show in Sante Fe about the leader of the Pueblo Revolt (1680).


Established in NYC in 1998, this quartet of composer-performers—Ralph Farris (viola), Kip Jones (violin), Dorothy Lawson (cello), and Corin Lee (violin)—fuses uptown panache with downtown genre mashup, ETHEL has released 9 feature albums; guested on 40+ recordings; won a GRAMMY® with jazz legend Kurt Elling; and toured internationally with Todd Rundgren & Joe Jackson.

Driven by a collaborative ethos — a quest for common creative expression, forged in listening and community, ETHEL has premiered over 250 works, Commissions include The Ringling Museum of Art, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the NEA. Collaborators include Julia Wolfe, Raven Chacon, David Byrne, Gina Gibney, Grant McDonald, Steve Cosson, and Annie Dorsen. Featured on TED Conferences, ABC Radio Australia, New Sounds, Performance Today, Person Place Thing, Weekend Edition, and on soundtracks Dan In Real Life and Deadwood.

ETHEL is in residence at Denison University, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Petrie Court Café.

May 18

Chamber Music America presents: ETHEL + Robert Mirabal: The River