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Reena Esmail Remains Busy in L.A.

November 17, 2020

Composer Reena Esmail had a year of projects planned before the pandemic. She was joining the Los Angeles Master Chorale as composer-is-residence in the fall, and she was set to spend a season with the Seattle Symphony in that same position.

While the coronavirus, in theory, hasn’t stopped composers from composing, it has seriously limited the chance for new performances. Still, Esmail is making the best of an unlucky situation, taking the opportunity to share some recent work, online and in a new guise.

With the Master Chorale in the wings, Esmail has rescored TaReKiTa, a short work she wrote in 2016 for L.A.’s Urban Voices Project. This version, in a standard choral arrangement, updates the original, which was written with a flexible ensemble size in mind. But the concept stays the same: high-energy music, set to syllable patterns that emulate traditional Indian tabla playing.

The Master Chorale premieres the new arrangement as a music video, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m. PT on the chorus’s website. The production brings in elements of Indian classical dance, performed by Shalini Haupt. Jenny Wong, the Master Chorale’s associate artistic director, oversaw the music.

Meanwhile, Esmail is wrapping up another online project this week. For the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, the composer has been walking listeners through the four movements of her Piano Trio, on a program at The Wallis earlier this year. It’s a piece that gets to the essence of Esmail’s style, Indian and Western classical music put together.

That performance — by violinist Vijay Gupta, cellist Peter Myers, and pianist Suzana Bartal — was recorded in February 2020. The first three parts are archived on The Wallis’s YouTube channel, and the fourth premieres Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. PT (register for that here).

Peter Feher is an editor at SFCV. He can be reached at [email protected].

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