Faculty Artist Recital Series – River Town Duo:  Philip Alejo, double bass & Claire Happel, harp

Sep 21 7:00 PM


Holsclaw Hall
1017 N Olive Rd
Tucson, AZ 85721-0004



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The University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music presents a Faculty Artist Series recital featuring River Town Duo with Philip Alejo, double bass and Claire Happel, harp. The free-admission recital will take place on Thursday, September 21, 7:00 p.m. in Holsclaw Hall.

Presenting mostly original works commissioned in the past three years, River Town Duo will share a musical experience that is beautifully complementary – the bass is free to explore intimate dynamics and lyrical phrasing, while the harp provides wonderful resonance and rhythmic vitality. Composers will include Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw, Evan Premo, UA alumnus Frederick Evans and a transcription by Benjamin Britten.

About the Artists:

River Town Duo
Since its formation in 2012, River Town Duo (Philip Alejo, double bass and Claire Happel, harp) has performed at the University of Arizona, Valparaiso University, Kerrytown Concert House, University of Illinois, Mackinac Island Music Festival, Notre Dame University, and the University of Wisconsin, among other venues. During recent summers, River Town Duo has performed recitals as invited artists at the International Society of Bassists Convention in Fort Collins, Colorado and the American Harp Society Summer Institute in Logan, Utah.

To date, River Town duo has commissioned six composers to write works for double bass and harp. “For Claire and Philip” is a 2014 work by Pulitzer Prize and Grammy winning composer Caroline Shaw. Hannah Lash, who teaches composition at Yale University, wrote “Leaves” and “Space” in 2015. River Town Duo received generous support from the American Harp Society Grants Program to fund both commissions. Frederick Evans, a graduate from the MM in Composition program at the University of Arizona, composed “On Lotusland” in 2015. Composers Evan Premo and Whitney Ashe have recently written new compositions for River Town Duo. Premo is a composer, bassist, and former member of The Academy, an esteemed partnership between the Juilliard School and Carnegie Hall. Ashe isa  composer whose classical and jazz compositions have been recorded for television (Warner Bros.) and theater (The Public Theater, New York City). This concert will feature the world premiere of “Oxygen,” a new five movement work from Stephen Taylor, professor and chair of composition-music theory at the University of Illinois.

Philip Alejo is the assistant professor of bass at the University of Arizona. Previously he performed as associate principal bass in the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, taught at St. Ambrose University, and served as visiting professor of bass at the University of Michigan. A former member of the Chicago Civic Orchestra and an orchestral mentor with the Detroit Civic Orchestra, Philip has played with the Phoenix Symphony, Tucson Symphony, Ensemble Dal Niente, Flint Symphony, and Ann Arbor Symphony. As a chamber musician, Dr. Alejo collaborates regularly with harpist Claire Happel in River Town Duo. Philip has performed at numerous music festivals, including Spoleto Festival USA, Lucerne Festival, Swannanoa Chamber Music Festival, Mackinac Island Music Festival, Oaxaca Instrumenta, Aldeburgh Festival, Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival, Pacific Music Festival, and Aspen Music Festival. He teaches at the Milt Hinton Institute at Oberlin College, AZASTA Bass Jam, and the Richard Davis Bass Conference at the University of Wisconsin.

Claire Happel is a versatile performer in music and movement. As a harpist, she has performed with the St. Louis Symphony and Civic Orchestra of Chicago among others and formed chamber projects with oboist Karisa Werdon, bassist Philip Alejo (River Town Duo), guitarist James Moore and mandolin player Jeremy Harting (Noble Fowl Trio), and violist Kim Uwate and flutist Kathleen Winters (Trio 114). An advocate of new music, she has performed with contemporary ensembles such as Ostravská Banda, the Chicago Composers Orchestra, International Ensemble Modern Academy, and on the Pulitzer Series of St. Louis, curated by David Robertson. While in graduate school, she founded and directed the group, Yale Movement Improvisation and Composition, and collaborated with choreographer Jennifer Monson to perform live harp with electronics by Zeena Parkins for the dance work, “La Merita.” She has received two City of Chicago Cultural Affairs Grants, an American Harp Society Grant, an Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grant, and an Urbana Arts Grant, and has performed at American Harp Society Conferences in Chicago and Tacoma, presented at the World Harp Congress in Dublin, and was a Fellow at the Saratoga Harp Colony. She received a Fulbright Grant in 2007-2008 to study with Jana Bouskova in Prague and holds degrees in music performance from Yale University and the University of Illinois, where she also received a BFA in Dance. She currently teaches harp, Alexander Technique, and movement at Valparaiso University and Olivet Nazarene University.