Arts & Events

Mirabai Ensemble at Takara Sake

By Ken Bullock
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM

Mirabai Ensemble, the remarkable vocal group, performing an original blend of a wide variety of musical styles, will sing this Saturday at 8 p.m. in the tasting room of Takara Sake (Addison at Fourth Street). Tasting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 at the door. 

Founded in 1993 by Michael Smolens and “recently reinvented after a seven-year break,” the Mirabai Ensemble features sopranos Pollyanna Bush and Becca Burlington, mezzos Valentina Osinski and Alexis Lane Jensen, alto Jessica Rice, tenors Daniel Tucker and Michael Smolens, and basses David Worm and Brian Dyer, with Dyer also singing tenor, and Smolens and Worm, vocal percussion. 

Running a gamut of sounds from vibratoless “neo-medieval” polyphony to jazzy acappella, hip-hop and art rock cabaret, Mirabai maintains a constantly changing, eclectic mix of vocal improvisation, voice percussion and instrumental imitation, a full choral sound which soloists rise out of. They’ve collaborated with Dave Brubeck, Yo-Yo Ma, Meredith Monk, Booby McFerrin, SoVoSo, Keith Terry, the New York and San Francisco Operas, the Martha Graham Dance Co. and appeared live on KPFA, at the Whole Life Expo in San Francisco and the Harmony Sweepstakes (the “acappella summit” at the Marin Center).  

Mirabai’s been hailed by jazz writers and commentators like Bud Spangler (“treasure trove of musical riches”) and Lee Hildebrand (“No ordinary composer, [Michael] Smolens gives a broad palette to paint luminous ... textures”).  

Smolens—Mirabai’s founder, composer, music director and Ensemble member—shares, with several other Ensemble members, the influence of Terry Riley and Pandit Pranath and Allaudin Mathieu (composer-pianist associated with Mills College), as well as having studied or collaborated with Mark Murphy, Art Lande and Paul McCandless, Kenny Werner, and early music specialist Bruce Wetmore.