Albuquerque has a unique musical program, Sunday Chatter, that takes place most Sunday mornings in the Wells Park neighborhood. Started by the late Felix Wurman, who was a cellist with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, the weekly program features chamber music and poetry/spoken word, mixed with a few minutes of silence. It's an alternative program that is nothing short of extraordinary.
Sunday Chatter was once performed at the Kosmos on 4th Street NW. Its new home is Las Puertas, located at 1512 First NW.
Tickets can be purchased at the door. Online tickets are available only for Sunday Frequent attendees; buy ten and get one free. Admission is $15, or $9 for anyone 30 and under/full time students with ID; $5 for kids 12 and under. Frequent attendees get to sit in a special section in the front which is saved for them until 10 a.m.
Music and Poetry
Once inside, visitors take their seats. Each program lasts one hour, and is made up of ensemble music and poetry/spoken word. The music changes, with special guests featured, or special groups, such as the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. Many weeks, the music is played by local classical musicians. David Felberg and James Shields are co-artistic directors of Sunday Chatter.
The weekly program changes, with a variety of musicians and poets in addition to the two minutes of silence. Sunday Chatter has been described as a church-like experience for non-churchgoers. The large warehouse has a high, curved wooden beamed ceiling, warm red brick walls and even a few stained glass windows. Chandeliers add a touch of quirky elegance. Vintage lamps dot tabletops. Couches and chairs line one wall, giving the space a homey and comfortable atmosphere.
Baristas Make Coffee Drinks
The program begins at 10:30 a.m., but it's best to get there early enough to enjoy the coffee. Coffee at the complimentary espresso bar gets served up before the show. Baristas will make audience members espresso and other drinks, asking only for tips.
There are also baked goods to enjoy. Volunteers offer up everything from cheesecake to chocolate chip cookies.
Music with Sybarite 5
On this particular day, the music was performed by Sybarite 5. These classically trained musicians perform crossover music, performing everything from Mozart to Radiohead. The quintet features Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney on violin; Angela Pickett on viola; Laura Metcalf on cello; and Louis Levitt on bass. The well known quintet has made an annual visit to Sunday Chatter for years. In November 2012, they make their Carnegie Hall debut.
Music in the first half of their set included pieces by Samuel Barber and Piotr Szewczyk. Their second set included remixes of Radiohead songs, to include 15 Step. For an encore, they performed Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. Their performance was eclectic and electric, and a great way to start the day.
Each week, the musicians change. Sometimes musicians are local, sometimes they are visiting or specially asked to perform. The first performance of Sunday Chatter, then called Church of Beethoven, was February 10, 2008. Felix Wurman was a cellist and composer and founded of Church of Beethoven, now known as Sunday Chatter, as a place to feel spiritual and to celebrate music.
Poets Perform at Sunday Chatter
Between musical sets, representatives from the ABQ Slam Poetry team performed. Here, Damien Flores and NJ Austin act out a piece.
Each week, a poet is invited to perform between musical sets. Past performers have included Albuquerque poet laureate Hakim Bellamy, Lisa Gill, Erin Adair-Hodges, Demetria Martinez, Tony Mares, Margaret Randall and V. B. Price. Sometimes talks or performances are given in lieu of poetry. Past non-poetry events have included the talk Dark Matter by Dr. Dinesh Loomba, a performance by the Tricklock Company actors, and essayists.
After the performances, there is a two minute period of silence, a kind of celebration of silence. Then the second set of music comes on, with a substantial chamber work.
After the hour is up, visitors have the opportunity to visit the art gallery next door, the 5G Gallery. The Far Flung show was there on this Sunday, featuring art by Cedra Wood, Lauren Greenwald and Brooke Steiger.
Sunday Chatter is a great way to hear music on a Sunday morning, and enjoy the company of others. In addition to Sunday Chatter, there Chatter 20-21, which features compositions from the 20th and 21st century, and Chatter Cabaret, an evening program held at the Hotel Andaluz.
Visit Chatter online.