Ariel Artists

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The River Project

The Guidonian Hand, Eve Beglarian, and more

“Ms. Beglarian kayaked and bicycled the length of the Mississippi River [and] has translated her findings into music of sophisticated rusticity… [Her] earnest new Americana song cycle captures those swift currents as vividly as Mark Twain did. The works waft gracefully on her handsome folk croon and varied folk instrumentation as mysterious as their inspiration.”
– The New York Times

Project Description

Eve Beglarian’s River Project is part travelogue and part experimental Americana. Inspired by the economic meltdown of 2008 and the incipient changes of that year’s presidential election, Beglarian decided to improvise her own unofficial Works Progress Administration project (the original WPA project came on the heels of the beginning of the Great Depression) by charting a four-month trip down the Mississippi River by kayak and bicycle in 2009. Beglarian travelled slowly and with open-hearted imagination down the spine of the United States, uncovering sights, sounds, individuals and communities, each offering its own snapshot of modern-day America. In the years since this trip, she has mined the experiences of the initial exploration to develop a repertoire of original compositions, adventurous arrangements of traditional songs, as well as spoken, photographic, and video portraits of people and places along the river.

Every performance of the River Project is a unique array of individual works chosen from this large body of repertoire (currently approximately 200 minutes of material), and shaped into a steadily flowing evening of interconnected music, stories, images, and videos. The specific material to be presented in any given performance is agreed upon directly with each presenter and chosen to best suit the needs of the presenter and audience. The instrumentation for performances of “Songs from the River Project” is BRIM, the duo of Eve Beglarian (performing vocals, both sung and spoken, and keyboards and electronics) and Mary Rowell (on violins, both acoustic and electric, and mandolin), as well as the Guidonian Hand (trombone quartet) and Taylor Levine on guitars.

Some pieces take their inspiration from location recordings made along the river, while others are inspired by things people said to Eve along the journey (“I’m really a very simple person.”  “Did he promise you tomorrow?” “Not all luck is good, but all good is luck.”) Some pieces include references to the blues and New Orleans music, and many pieces grapple with death, faith, and politics. The overall experience for an audience is not unlike a journey down the Mississippi River (and perhaps through America) itself: both familiar and strange, friendly, full of warmth and playfulness, but with complexity and darkness threaded just beneath.

Beglarian writes, “I imagined myself following in the footsteps of the writers and artists who travelled the country during the Depression under the auspices of the WPA. The works those artists made changed our ideas of what America is… I do believe I am listening to the country – not to Fox News and MSNBC, but to individual people and specific places – and the real news is to be found there.”

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    Eve Beglarian, from The River Project

    In and Out of the Game

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    Testy Pony

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    Well-Spent

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    Brownie Feet

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    I am really a very simple person

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    I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long

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    Wayfaring Stranger

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    The Flood

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    Additional Offerings

    • Participatory Workshops

      The River Project has been designed in accord with the idea that non-professional musicians can participate in performing some of the work. Eve has successfully created hands-on workshops for participants ranging from teenagers to retirees, many with ...

    • Master Classes / Lectures

      The performers of The River Project are all very experienced with the outreach activities that performers frequently offer in school or university settings. Similarly, Eve Beglarian is happy to offer master classes for composition students, and to le...

    • College Composers Forum

      One of the primary goals of the Guidonian Hand is to expand chamber music literature for brass instruments. One of the ways they achieve this goal is to collaborate directly with composers. The Hand can design a program that demonstrates specific techn...