In a few days, the Briscoe Western Art Museum will kick off its inaugural music salon series, Sounds of the West. Three live performances that showcase the American West will take place over the next three months.
The intimate performances will be held in the Gloria Gaines Clingman Education Gallery, which seats around 70 people. Jenny Chowning, head of education and programs at the Briscoe, explained that the program was designed to be an intimate, warm experience and not a performance hall event. Indeed, attendees will have the privilege to see world-renowned musicians and scholars perform in an up-close and private setting.
Chowning hopes that the program continues after this initial series and that it continues to evolve to showcase even more music traditions. She and her colleagues want to show that the West is not solely in the past but "dynamic and contemporary" as well. Chowning explained what we can expect to see at each performance.
Settling The West in American Popular Songs, January 7 at 3 pm
Acclaimed music scholar Michael Lasser will be accompanied by pianist and vocalist Alan Jones and vocalist Cindy Miller to perform popular songs from Broadway and Tin Pan Alley about the American West. Lasser prefaces the musical numbers with a historical context and interjects with amusing tidbits of information. Together, the trio create an entertaining, cabaret-style performance.
Chowning explained that the focus will be on how Broadway musicals like Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun helped formulate the idea of the American West. She went on to say that, "it's not necessarily accurate, but it certainly addresses the stereotypes of the American West and the public consciousness about what it looks like, who lives there, and what it means to go West." They will also be performing songs specific to San Antonio. And rest assured, there would be no rendition of "Home on The Range."
Conjunto Meets Country Western, February 21 at 6:30 pm
For the second event, the Briscoe invited none other than "The Queen of the Accordion" herself to perform. A local San Antonio legend, Eva Ybarra's instrumental skill has astonished audiences and gained her national exposure for many years. Chowning said that asking Ybarra to be a part of the music salon series was an obvious choice because the opportunity to see her perform in such a small setting will be a powerful experience. She will weave together the music traditions of conjunto and country western, which is meant to engage the local San Antonio audience. Chowning explained, "we really wanted to create a suite of programs that would be appealing to people who lived here."
The Texas Woman, Her Heritage in Song, March 21 at 6:30 pm
The final event of the music salon series will take place in conjunction with National Women's History Month. Pianist Ruth Friedberg and soprano vocalist Flicka Rahn will perform songs, "that were either written by women or were intended to be sung by women from a whole range of people who lived here in Texas," according to Chowning. Their selections will cover a vast array of music traditions, including Native American, Spanish, Mexican, Latina, French, and German. Chowning said the goal was "to showcase the complexity of the American West and show it's not just this idea of cowboys and Indians, but it's actually much, much more deep in terms of the participants and people who live here and the cultural heritage that comprises this region."
Attendance is free, and guests are encouraged to explore the museum's galleries before and after the shows. For more information on Sounds of the West, please go here.