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Annual Contemporary Arts Festival to feature works from Stravinsky to a world premiere

Leora Zeitlin

This year’s 9th annual NMSU/Warner Hutchison Contemporary Arts Festival will be a two-day celebration of contemporary music, dance, drama, and narration, and will feature music ranging from Stravinsky to a world premiere. The festival is named for the long-time composer-in-residence and NMSU music department chair Warner Hutchison, himself a great champion of contemporary music and art who moved from Las Cruces to Albuquerque many years ago.

“We have almost every applied faculty member in the department playing: voice, winds, percussion, brass, everybody’s participating,” said percussion professor Fred Bugbee, who has coordinated the festival since its inception. Several students and a number of professional musicians, actors, and a dancer from the area will also participate. Bugbee came to KRWG with current department chair and composer Lon W. Chaffin to talk with Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin about the variety of works and performers to be featured.

The earliest work on the program is Igor Stravinsky’s  masterpiece “L’Histoire du Soldat,” featuring music, dance and narration, while the newest work is “Psalm,” by El Paso composer Robert Lethermon, which will receive its world premiere. Lethermon, an NMSU alumnus, studied with Warner Hutchison. Chaffin will be the narrator in a composition called “Judas” that he wrote as a master’s degree student in 1981.

“I made a few changes, but for the most part, it’s the piece I wrote as a graduate student,” he said. The work has only been performed once before, by Chaffin’s graduate school friends. Now, 38 years later, “it’s going to be nice having professional faculty performers on stage.”

The festival concerts also include music by Vaclav Nelhybel, and a work written by Lester Pack and Monica Mojica called “Grave,” which dramatizes the legend of a murder that took place at the Double Eagle Restaurant in Mesilla. Concerts are Tuesday, Feb. 26 and Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Atkinson Recital Hall. To hear more about all the music and performers, click here:

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