Bringing Cornfields to Greenland 

click to enlarge art33_music_milpa_100.jpg

In late August, Richmond becomes the galactic epicenter of summer funk, and its sweaty inhabitants crave physical and psychic relief from heat and humidity. Some dive into pools and vow to stay submerged until October. Others crank up the AC, eat Italian ice and watch penguin documentaries.

The more musically inclined might look forward to next week's concert by Trio La Milpa, part of the August Musicales series at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. The trio -- Katherine Needleman, Sandra Gerster and Michael Lisicky — plays oboes, whose high-pitched, penetrating, slightly tart tones are about as cool and unclammy as musical sound gets.

The threesome formed their ensemble four years ago when they were performing in the Richmond Symphony. They named their group after a Mexican restaurant on Hull Street Road. "La Milpa is where we hung out after work," Lisicky recalls, "and since that's where our trio was born, that's the name we decided on." Never mind that it translates to "Trio of the Cornfield."

Trio La Milpa is now based in Baltimore, where Needleman is principal oboist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Lisicky is the orchestra's second oboist and also plays English horn, the tenor of the oboe family, and the alluringly named oboe d'amore, the family's alto voice. Gerster, Lisicky's wife, is a teacher and freelance musician.

The trio is on tour in Greenland, where you don't find cornfields — 80 percent of the land lies under ice — and where the local language, Inupik, doesn't have a word for oboe. (The Inupik word for "bird song," used to describe the flute, will have to suffice.) Booked for the tour by the Danish Embassy in Washington — Greenland is a self-governing dependency of Denmark — the group is playing eight concerts in five days.

Finding appropriate music for the gig has been a challenge. "We've done an arrangement of 'Song of the Greenland Whale Fisheries,' the only place-specific piece we've got so far," Lisicky says. "But we're used to having to develop new repertoire. Not many pieces have been composed for oboe trio."

The bigger challenge, he says, "could be finding food for Katherine, who's a vegetarian. The local veggies are potatoes and turnips. The normal Greenlander's diet is heavy on caribou, musk ox and fish. There's only one Chinese restaurant in the country. She's packing plenty of ramen noodles, just in case." S

Trio La Milpa performs Aug. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. Donation requested. 359-2463.

Style Weekly music critic Clarke Bustard produces Letter V: the Virginia Classical Music Blog, at www.letterv.blogspot.com.

  • Click here for more Arts & Culture
  • Tags:



    Subscribe to this thread:

    Add a comment

  • Re: Updated: Local Musician Jonny Cecka Dies at 53

    • I work at the Byrd Theatre and remember Jonny and his family as regulars. He…

    • on May 26, 2017
  • Re: Interview: Gregg Allman

    • Real love spell to get ex back and Stop a Divorce or Break-Up !!! This…

    • on May 25, 2017
  • Re: Halcyon Days

    • I have always had such positive experiences at Halcyon with the owner and the delightful…

    • on May 23, 2017
  • More »
  • Latest in Music

    More by Clarke Bustard

    • Ear for Design

      Acoustics at the new CenterStage promise to be more bright and clear. But the true test will come with an audience.
      • Aug 26, 2009
    • A Fox in the Henhouse

      Musicians from all over the world gather at a small farm in rural Virginia, seeking opera from a venerable conductor.
      • Jul 8, 2009
    • You (Still) Spin Me

      The vinyl record refuses the trend toward obsolescence that certain other media are fighting.
      • May 6, 2009
    • More »

    Copyright © 2017 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation