When Grammy-award winning cellist and composer Eugene Friesen visited the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough, N.H., last March, he found artist Rich Entel and a Mariposa team putting the final touches on the installation of Rich Entel’s Cardboard Menagerie, an exhibit of nine very large animals sculpted from corrugated cardboard, broken musical instruments, and hand printed text from Tibetan, Indian, and Hebrew traditions.
Friesen, whose work with the Paul Winter Consort and as an independent artist has long been attuned to the sounds of animals and nature, liked what he saw. On May 20th, at 7 p.m., he will be back at the Mariposa to perform an evening of original music selected specifically for the Cardboard Menagerie. Selections will be inspired by nature, jazz, world music, and J.S. Bach.
“Eugene was just visiting the Mariposa with his children and hadn’t heard about the Menagerie exhibit, so the timing was just serendipitous,” said Mariposa Executive Director Karla Hostetler. “After he and his children played with the musical instruments upstairs (a favorite section of the hands-on museum), they came down to look at the sculptures. Rich [Entel] was positioning text of the Carl Sandburg poem, Wilderness, that goes with the exhibit, And Eugene said, ‘I’ve been working on some music inspired by a different Carl Sandburg poem.’ The conversation turned to Eugene and his music with whales, and Rich said, ‘I’ve been working on a whale…'”
That whale has since been completed and will be at the Mariposa in time for Friesen’s performance, taking its place alongside the lion, warthog, buffalo, owl, pelican, giraffe, crocodile, elephant, and stag. A tiny female form, called the Little Conductor, rotates in their midst, conductor’s wand raised, stopping at each sculpture in turn.
“The humpback whale will rise as if breaching from the museum’s floor,” Entel said. “It’s significantly larger than other work I have done and stretches the limits of what I can do with cardboard. I enjoyed meeting Eugene, and I’ve been propelled in this work, knowing he is coming to play for this piece and the other sculptures in the Menagerie.“
While whimsical, Entel’s Menagerie is also oddly moving and mysterious, that evokes the themes of fragility, song, and resilience even as it makes visitors of all ages smile and marvel at its invention. A giraffe’s tongue is the head of a violin, a warthog’s teeth from tuning pegs.
Friesen’s music is equally evocative and free-ranging. As a Grammy award-winning cellist and composer with the Paul Winter Consort since 1978, he has performed worldwide. His music has been inspired by trips deep into the Grand Canyon, travels in Brazil and Siberia, eye-to-eye contact with whales, and playing in great cathedrals and concert halls. His openness to new experiences, revelations in nature, and his respect for and ability to connect with children and audiences of all kinds are clearly conveyed in his live solo performances that cross genres and move from improvisation to composition with energy and ease.
“We are over the moon that he will be playing here,” Hostetler said. “And I think we are all in for a special evening of beautiful music, fun, and surprise.”
Tickets for his performance at the Mariposa Museum are $15 or $10 for Mariposa members and $5 for children. Reservations are recommended. Call (603) 924-4555 or visit www.mariposamuseum.org.
The Mariposa Museum, located at 26 Main Street in Peterborough, NH, is dedicated to fostering peace, global awareness, and understanding across cultural borders. The exhibit, Rich Entel’s Cardboard Menagerie, will be up through May 30, 2016.