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The members of Aureole are Laura Gilbert, flute, Mary Hammann, viola, and Stacey Shames, harp.Their concerts and recordings also include a wide variety of popular and folk music from the Celtic, Latin, Indian, Baroque and Classical traditions. Inspired by the combination, some of the most imaginative and creative musicians and composers of our time -- Ravi Shankar, George Tsontakis, Jacob Druckman and Roberto Sierra-- have masterfully composed and arranged for Aureole. The repertoire also includes many significant and powerful works by Twentieth Century composers, including Claude Debussy, Sofia Gubaidulina, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Sir John Tavener, Toru Takemitsu, Harrison Birtwistle and Kaiji Saariaho.

Chamber moms

  • by CLAIRE WHITCOMB | Victoria magasine
    december 2002

    In the recording studio in Astoria Queens, a Mexican love song by classical composer Roberto Sierra has just breathed its way up to heaven. Take thirty-nine is over.The flute, viola and harp are low- ered. Three pairs of eyes-those of Laura Gilbert,
    Mary Hammann and Stacey
    Shames-turn to the glass- walled sound booth. Insides surrounded by a spaceship's worth of buttons, sits producer
    Susan DelGiorno. She switches on her mike and relays the news that in the second measure, indiscernible to most of humankind, a triplet played by the flute and the viola wasn't in time.
    Three takes later, Susan's voice again issues forth from the booth: "That was great'' she says. "But if l wanted lobe picky, I'd say it's too carefully The sound she is striving for is that of a performance- a performance with intimacy and emotion, a performance that expresses all the illumination these amazing musicians can lend a piece of music, in this case a song of forgotten love the trio has commissioned for its forthcoming, yet- unnamed Latin-inspired album. Its subtle tangos and Caribbean riffs are sung by one of classical music's great talents, soprano Heidi Grant Murphy "With a group like aureole," says Susan, who produces twenty-five albums a year for Koch International Classics, ''my-job is a pleasure.
    These three women are just so incredibly talented.''

    Take forty-three ends. All eyes again turn to the sound booth. Susan switches on her mike and salys "I think we've got it."in an instant the cell phones are out. Laura calls her baby-sitter and arranges to have her kids go to Mary's apartment. Mary checks the plan with her husband. And Stacey? Pregnant with twins, she's escaped to the bathroom.
    Over the last ten years, through six pregnancies, eight albums and countless performances-including one for A&E's Breakfast With the Arts" Holiday in New York's 2001show-this trio of friends has performed the rarest of feats: They've become a success. Not a quit-your-day-job success.
    Laura still teaches at a number of schools, including tile Mannes College of Music; (Mary phlays in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; and Stacey has been a fixture on Broad- way with the Beauty and the Beast orchestra (by years. But in the classical music world, recording contracts-especial- 1). ones that let the artists commission works and shape their albums-are rare. Even the Metropolitan Opera does not have a recording con- tract" explains Mary great makes Aureole a critical success, aside frown an obvious abundance of talent.
    is the lyrical quality of its sound-chamber music is typically performed by strings and piano. By shilling the instrumentation to viola, flute and harp-all sweet and melodic-the sound becomes.
    as one critic has written, ''a thing of haunting beauty''
    Not surprisingly Aureole's signature pieces come from French Impressionists like Claude Debussy. M aurice Ravel and Gabriel faults.
    But the group's tastes are broad; they enjoy traveling to the far corners of what is considered classical.
    To find material for their unusual combination ofinstruments, they often commission works. Ecuadoran composer Dicgo Luzuriaga supplied a tango after Laura worked with him on a September 11 benefit. ("I went home" she says, ''and bought his CD, Once Canciones, sung by Dana Hanchard, and just flipped.'') For Aureole's previous top-seller, Dreamscape Lullabies From Around the World (Koch, 7433), the group commissioned Greek and African lullabies and rearranged everything from "Mighty Like a Rose" to a Yiddish lullaby "Ver Hot A za Yingele'' that Stacey sang to her daughter.
    Motherhood is never far from their minds. It's not just that being together is the most restful part of their days ("I love performing'' says Mary. ''You get to sit down-there's no baby to chase"). It's not just that they've had to learn to do concerts without warming up-or sleeping. Or that they practice amid top and chaos. "As a musician,'' says Mary "you're always taught to size up your career, to see what you should be doing to grow. That's hard when you have so many demands on your time.''
    Being in Aureole means burdens are shared right down to the carrying of the harp, which Stacey has been forbidden to lift due to her pregnancy. "We've played together for so long'' says Stacey.
    "Someone told me, "What you do seems so effortlessl" In some ways it is, because when I see Laura take a breath or Mary move her bow a certain way, I know what's next. You become one".
    Their children too have become a clan. Rehearsals segue into rollicking play dates. as old flutes, drums and trumpets are played by the kids. "None of us puts music on a pedestal", says Laura. Which is not to say that they don't go out of their way to cultivate a child-friendly relationship with music.
    When her son was four, Mary would get out fire trucks and play the opening of the third act of Wagner's Lohengrin.
    Or she'd send a caravan of toy trucks up a pretend hill while "The Ride of the Valkryies'' played in the background.
    Laura says that as a teacher-one of her gigs is working at St. Ann's, a private school in Brooklyn Heights-she's constantly wrestling with the question "How can kids find the stillness within them? " She says, "I don't think any music-classical, jazz, whatever-can be appreciated unless you acquire a certain stillness. You have to learn to sit quietly and take something frown the music".
    Not that her children have a problem. "I knew when they were in utero they were musical", says L aura. "I can't tell you how many kicks I got when I was playing". "Eli was most active when I played Mozart", adds Mary. Stacey chimes in with a story about her daughter, now eight. who recently heard a piece of music on National Public Radio. "She turned to my husband and said, 'I know that piece-Mommy plays it'. I hadn't played it since I was pregnant" As she talks, her twins are soaking up memories. Perhaps the'll come out humming "A La Nanita Nana,'' the Mexican lullaby the group is scheduled to record in just a few minutes.

     

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