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february, 2020

09feb7:30 pm9:30 pmTTU Celtic Ensemble | ESO Winter 2020 Concert | Texas Tech University School of Music @ Hemmle Recital Hall @ 7:30pm

Event Details

TTU Celtic Ensemble | ESO Winter 2020 Concert
Texas Tech University School of Music
Hemmle Recital Hall
2624 W. 18th Street on the Texas Tech Campus

Sunday, February 9th
7:30 – 9:30pm

Free and open to the public



Program includes dances, listening tunes, processionals, and songs from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Bassanda, with original choreographies and social dances, French Balfolk, tales of heroes, poachers, maids, gypsies, and witches. #notyourclassicalorchestra!

About the Music
The Elegant Savages Orchestra is a “folk chamber orchestra” of winds, brass, strings, percussion, folkloric instruments, voices, and dancers, focusing upon the dance music and song of northern and western Europe and of the mysterious country of Bassanda. A major resource is the cluster of music and dance styles known, in contemporary Western Europe, as “BalFolk” (literally, “folk-dance”). BalFolk is a modern phenomenon, part of a new wave of European “revivals” which has transformed expectations about who plays which regional folk styles and what that playing means. At the center of the revival is the dynamic interplay between musicians and dancers, and the emotional community created by the dancing.

The Elegant Savages Orchestra
Dr Christopher Smith, director
Lauren Allen (clarinet); Noel Bartniski (flute); Brynn Bednarz (trumpet); Heather Beltz (flute [winds section leader, straw boss]); Levente Bordas (percussion); Jaclyn Bush (voice, dance [dance captain]); Tabbi Carey (horn); Olivia Currier (voice, dance [dramaturge]); Anna Delay (voice, dance); Garrett Franks (bassoon); Jessica Fuentes (flute); Karson Goggans (ASL interpreter); Hannah Gossett (voice, dance [section leader]); Courtney Gragson (trumpet [high-brass section leader]); Tess Greenlees (flute); Quinton Greschuk (guitar); Grey Haberl (flute, dance); Madison Haberl (horn, dance [dance captain]); Stephen Harrington (horn); Dalton Huebner (trombone [euphonium]); Fallon Huff (horn); Lizzie Jackson (oboe); Katie Jander (horn); Gavin Kohlenberg (saxophone [baritone]); Noelle LaGrone (voice, dance); Lilah Ma (double bass, acrobatics) ; Clinton McDuff (voice, dance); AJ Musella-Gonzales (trombone [low-brass section leader]); Jamie Nielson (horn); Christian Pennington (saxophone [tenor]); Lilian Pham (flute, piccolo); Diaz Rachel (clarinet); Cedrik Rau (cello); Maria Rodriguez (fiddle); Marshall Rogers (tuba); Esteban Romero (guitar); Allison Sessom (flute); Stephanie Shelton (fiddle); Austin Spencer (trumpet); Jaxon Stallings (clarinet [bass]); Steve Stallings (guitar [rhythm section leader]); Jacoby Stephens (cello); Christopher Stockdale (saxophone [soprano]); Clayton Thomas (trombone); Aissa Torres (saxophone [alto] [section leader]); Greg Tsalikis (drum-set [percussion captain]); Callie Watson (fiddle, voice); Nick Watson (trombone [euphonium])
websites: a/k/a

About Bassanda and the Elegant Savages Orchestra
Major inspiration for the Elegant Savages Orchestra, the “big band” version of the TTU Celtic Ensemble, comes from the fictional country of “Bassanda,” a creation of Taos-based musicians and VMC partners Chipper Thompson ( and Roger Landes (, who for purposes of our January 2014 debut assumed their Bassanda personae (“The Rev” and “The General”) as guest performers. We imagined the fictional “Elegant Savages Orchestra,” in which, as part of an “alternate-history” frame, it’s alleged that a Soviet satellite’s official state folkloric ensemble (the “Bassanda National Radio Orchestra”) mutates, after the fall of Communism, into a free-lance ensemble engaged in a Never-Ending Tour. The BNRO/ESO has thus been heard in many permutations and with widely variegated personnel, including “The Classic 1952 Band,” “The 1962 ‘Beatnik’ Band” (which nearly appeared on the cover of Life magazine under the headline “New Currents from Behind the Iron Curtain”), “The 1965 Newport Folk Festival Band,” who helped jump-start Bob Dylan’s notorious switch in that year from acoustic folk to electric rock & roll, “The Mysterious 1885 Victorian ‘Steampunk’ Band,” and “The Great Southwestern Desert post-Apocalyptic ‘Sand Pirates’ Band.” In the 2018-19 season, we bring you “L’orchestre ‘vodun’ créole de la Nouvelle-Orléans 1912.”

About the 1928 “Carnivale Incognito” Band
Not much is known of the rag-tag 1928 American Southwest collective called, in the Bassanda corpus, the “Carnivale Incognito” Band. Drawn from an especially wide but very poorly-documented range of prior experiences, its members were, in their threadbare costumes and vehicles, perhaps less impressive than better-known or -paid contemporaneous circus organizations. But occasionally, beneath the dust and burlap and canvas, the deferential mannerisms and body language, a glint of something more powerful would shine forth. James Lincoln Habjar-Lawrence, writing about the wandering Bassandan folk-theatrical troupes called Mjekë sia Trego (Eng: “medicine show”) which were one influence upon the Incognito Band, has this to say:

The Mjekësia Trego, in its brightly-painted pony-drawn caravans and featuring small traveling casts of multi-talented singers, players, dancers, acrobats, magicians, and comic actors, was a beloved feature of rural life which provided multiple generations their first performance training. Small hints of its vibrancy are captured in the first Tableau of Stravinsky’s Petrushka (set in “primitive Russia,” but containing key elements, and not a few tunes, “borrowed” from Bassandan tradition) and in the folkloric elements of his L’histoire du soldat and in Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. In turn, its improvised musical/theatrical elements, decades later, informed the BNRO’s collaboration on a 1961 Ballyizget production of The Tempest, set in the Gulag, in which many Band luminaries appeared. But there are other, possibly more fanciful tales told about the 1928 Band, and about their rather more far-flung sources, inspiration, and recruiting…

In the magic-realist Bassandan literature of the 1930s, often published in samizdat (semi-secret) form by underground authors, and reflecting the influence of sardonic and ironic anti-totalitarian works like Bulgakov’s masterpiece The Master and Margarita (known in fragments as early as 1930, though not published in full until 1966), the Depression-era Trego is also symbolic of a certain response to the gray mundanity and conformity of either bourgeois or proletariat life. It seeks to inject into these urbanized and “modernized” contexts something of the light, color, and vitality of the folkloric traditions which, in precisely the same period, were being coopted and standardized as stiff theatrical representations of the “workers’ paradise.” Just as its improvised folk-puppetry and theatricals had mocked Tsarist-era class and pretense, in the fashion of the commedia dell’arte, so in the underground literature of the Stalinist period the Trego symbolized an anarchic, comedic spirit. Thus, despite outward appearances, the 1928 “Carnivale Incognito” Band did in fact carry its own cargo of hidden disruptive power. Its visual aesthetic and performative ethos established the “Big Top” as a place within which things were not always what they seemed; in which individuals might reimagine or reinvent themselves; behind the scenes of which curious, inexplicable, and powerful transformations of power might be occurring; a place of infinite, exotic attraction—and enticement to wanderlust. Finally, the Carnivale Incognito Big Top was a place in which—so it was inferred—the cast of characters themselves were “incognito,” but might in fact be figures of considerably greater power than outward appearances first suggested.

Related correspondence, personal biographies, timelines, galleries & archival commentary can be found at:; likewise search Facebook for “Elegant Savages Orchestra.”

Special thanks as always to Director Kim Walker, and the students, faculty, and staff of the Texas Tech University School of Music.

The Journal of the Vernacular Music Center, a partnership of the VMC, the Texas Tech University Press, and the TTU Libraries, is an online, peer-reviewed, biannual periodical whose thematic focus is vernacular music and dance research and pedagogy, particularly in the context of university education. The Journal is available for online reading and for free download at

You can always check in on Vernacular Music Center events at the live Google calendar:

VMC photographer: Melissa Arnold
Videographer: Tess Greenlees
Marketing Intern: Mikayla Van De Waal
Brewmasters: Milhouse Brewing Co.
ASL interpreter: Karson Goggans
Unit patch designer: Payton Massey
VMC Movement Director: Anne Wharton


The Vernacular Music Center Scholarship at Texas Tech University
The competitive Vernacular Music Center Scholarship at Texas Tech University, which provides financial assistance to a student in the College of Visual and Performing Arts who is a practitioner of one or more traditional performance idioms. For more information, please be in touch with Dr Christopher Smith at [email protected]

The VMC Outreach Scholars Program helps fund young performers of great promise for attendance at workshops, summer camps, and festivals, in order that they may develop teaching skills to share in future with their communities. To find out more about the Outreach Scholars, and for news & information on VMC events: visit

Can I participate?
Yes! If you are interested in participating in one of the VMC ensembles (TTU Celtic Ensemble/ESO, Collegium Musicum, Mysterium (free improvisation), TTU Balkan Ensemble, Caprock English Bagpipe Consort), feel free to contact their respective directors (see Auditions typically occur in the first weeks of each academic semester.

VMC Staff
Founding Director: Dr Christopher J Smith
Associate Director: Roger Landes
Administrative assistant: Heather Beltz

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Radio Broadcast & Television Recording

We are recording live today, and we appreciate your participation and your patience! However, because of this, we ask you to power-down (e.g., completely shut-off) electronic devices including cell phones, and to avoid any extraneous noise during the performance.

Notice Regarding Electronics
Please refrain from use of flash photography during this concert. Such use is an infringement of TTU copyright policy and represents a safety hazard for performers. Thank you for your consideration.

The Vernacular Music Center at the TTU School of Music
The mission of the Vernacular Music Center is to provide a center for in-depth and comparative research, study, teaching and advocacy on behalf of the world’s vernacular musics and dance—their construction, history, and role in defining cultural life in human communities—in all cultures and historical periods. The VMC is dedicated to the study of the process by which music is taught and passed on within a community, as well as assisting in the ongoing cultivation of arts on the South Plains. The VMC partners with its 501c3 partner, the Roots Music Institute (

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(Sunday) 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm


Hemmle Recital Hall

18th Street and Boston Avenue