31 MayCelebrating 13 Years With ETHEL: A Letter From Mary
Let me begin by saying it has been an incredible honor to share the creation and nurturing of ETHEL with Dorothy, Neil and Ralph – and with all of you! So many dreams, hopes and wishes fulfilled. So much music created, both with and for the band. So many wonderful opportunities to travel, create, perform, teach, mentor and to learn. It doesn’t get much better than this!
We started out in 1998 with an open-minded goal of taking the art of string quartet playing into the 21st century. Thirteen years later, I’m proud of our success in raising the bar of performance of contemporary classical music and in making this music more accessible to all kinds of audiences. Our concerts, recordings and outreach activities represent our inclusive musical values, and I’m proud to say that we’ve never deviated from them.
All the passion and hard work have paid off in so many ways for ETHEL, which makes me extremely happy. I am grateful to all the presenters who took a chance on our hybrid group mentality – sharing us with their audiences and allowing us opportunities to open our sonic world to them. So many times after concerts I talked with people who had not expected to like a “new music group,” yet were delighted by ETHEL. One of the reasons we named our group ETHEL was to give an impression of comfort, openness and familiarity to an otherwise cutting-edge experience. Other than that, it was just fun calling ourselves ETHEL! Some of you might remember our very first performance, before we had a name, at Ed Montgomery’s Context Studios on the Lower East Side. The excitement and the ferocious commitment to playing music the way we wanted was exhilarating.
There have been so many other “firsts” for us since then. The first time we had management; the first time we played at Joe’s Pub; the recording of our first CD; the first time we played in a major music series; the first time we received a major grant; the first time we played with a nose-flute player; the first time we played with a drumline; the first time we played at a Tasmanian penal colony: the first (and maybe last?) time we played at a sewage-treatment plant.
And the firsts will continue to happen, even as I end my tenure with ETHEL.
It was not an easy decision for me to leave an aspiration with which I have been so deeply and passionately involved. Forming ETHEL was a culmination of various attempts to fuse the best elements of popular and classical music, and all that might entail. I can’t think of three better band mates to have done this with. I am truly blessed to have been able to share this experience with you all. I will continue to support Dorothy, Neil and Ralph – and now Jennifer Choi – as ETHEL continues on its remarkable path. I will also continue to create and perform in my own capacity, so do stay in touch.
My heart-felt thanks to ETHEL and to all of you who have made these past years so meaningful. May our paths cross again soon and often, and may ETHEL live long and prosper!
With love and gratitude,