ClarinetFest® 2023 in Review
ClarinetFest® 2023 Day 5
by Joanna Wiltshire
The Tarjama Ensemble, led by clarinetist Meg York, put on the ClarinetFest® 2023 closing concert at 2:15 on Sunday afternoon in Salon D in the Marriott. Tarjama, which means “translation,” plays folk music from Mediterranean, Near East and Eastern European musical traditions. The group invited all audience members to sit in the front amongst the ensemble because it was more like a participatory workshop as opposed to a traditional concert. The other members of the ensemble are Nabin Shrestha – Hindustani tabla and vocals, Arthur Lefebure – cajon darbuka, and Eric Koenig – Turkish/Arabic folkloric dance. As the audience walked in, there was a shimmery drone that played in order to set the mood. Each piece Tarjama Ensemble played was played over the same drone–York said this was because their bass player was unable to be with them that day. Shrestha sat on a table with the tabla, which were amplified with a microphone. He demonstrated the alphabet of syllables that is combined to create the rhythms that are then played on the tabla–getting comfortable with that alphabet is the first step to learning the tabla. The left hand drum, he said, has the vocal quality and can create nearly a full octave in its range depending on where and how it is struck. The left hand drum often mimics the melody played by the clarinet. After the band played an introductory piece, York had everyone stand up and hold hands in order to dance a Balkan line dance around the circle, led by Koenig. Koenig, who was barefoot and dressed in a beautifully colorful outfit, was a highlight of the performance. He employed scarves and even a dress shirt to supplement his graceful dance movements throughout the performance.
After the line dance, York had the three participants in the circle with clarinets take out their instruments so that they could play an ostinato and take solos. She taught the clarinetists the ostinato by ear and taught them how to end their solos by using a descending tetrachord back down to the tonic which cues everyone to start their ostinati again. Everyone that did not have a clarinet in the circle was able to play a drum and learned a ostinato rhythm to perform. Participants started out a bit shy, especially those that were improvising on clarinet, but as they got to the second song, which was in 9, they were obviously much more comfortable, even standing up to take their solos. The workshop/performance was a joy to behold and was greatly appreciated by all that participated.