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New Dada Cabaret quartet seeks to ‘push boundaries of classical music’

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JOHNSON CITY (March 26, 2014) – "China Rabbit and Other Tales," the inaugural recital by the Tri-Cities' newest contemporary chamber ensemble, Dada Cabaret, will be held Saturday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m. at Nelson Fine Art Center in downtown Johnson City.

Dada Cabaret is inspired by literary nonsense; transgressive cinema, which uses shock value and humor; the early 20th century artistic movement of Dadaism, which illustrated absurdity through paintings of purposeless machines and collages of discarded materials; and the avant-garde movement, which featured experimental, innovative art that went beyond what was accepted as the norm. This experimental ensemble seeks to push the boundaries of classical music and transcend the divide between audience and performer.

Dada Cabaret is the brainchild of Dr. Heather Killmeyer, a double-reed musician and assistant professor in the East Tennessee State University Department of Music, who describes herself as an advocate of contemporary music and making new music accessible to audiences.

"I'm always looking for new methods of performance and expanding our notions of 'classical' music performances," Killmeyer said. "Forcing the audience to sit as passive observers will not sustain our art form long-term, and I think it allows too many people to miss out on a more compelling experience if we don't challenge their perceptions of classical music."

To form Dada Cabaret, Killmeyer, who plays oboe and bassoon, teamed up with her fellow ETSU Department of Music faculty members Dr. Stephanie Frye, tuba and euphonium instructor and brass area coordinator, and Dr. Alan Stevens, tenor and associate director of choral activities, along with local writer and pianist Andrew Ford.

In the March 29 recital, the ensemble will perform movements from "Galgenlieder (Gallows Songs)," based on the nonsense poetry of Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914), written for tenor, tuba and piano; "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane," a duet for oboe and tuba that is based on the book of the same title; a movement for solo oboe portraying Aesop's fable about the grasshopper and the ant; and a piece for solo tuba that celebrates the tuba's long association with beer. Ford will narrate the performance.

"The general theme of the recital is the loss of innocence as we move from childhood to adulthood and the hard lessons we learn along the way," Killmeyer said. "The Tulane piece, for example, tells the story of a china rabbit that is tossed away by an ungrateful child and travels on a series of adventures."

The ensemble chose Nelson Fine Art Center, 324 E. Main St., for its first recital because its members "intentionally wanted a performance space that seemed less formal and traditional, and more inviting to people who normally are turned off by classical music," Killmeyer said, adding that they hope to perform the program later this year at other locations both in and outside the Tri-Cities region.

The Dada Cabaret recital is free and open to the public, and donations are welcome.

For more information, call the Department of Music at (423) 439-4276. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at (423) 439-8346.