“We’re not just raising the issues,” says Englewinds founder Sarah Davol. “We give the audience solutions.”
Davol’s wind quintet, which she founded in 1998 to help preserve land near Teaneck Creek in New Jersey, offers solutions through music. She calls Englewinds an “eco-music” ensemble, and the group not only performs programs that cast light on environmental issues, they commission new works to focus those concerns.
Lots of commissions. More than 60 to date, works by composers like Joan Tower, Herbie Hancock and Gunther Schuller.
Davol started Englewinds as a response to the development of what is now known—thanks in part to her music—as the Teaneck Creek Conservancy. A hotel had just been built nearby, and adjoining land was promised to the public. But that land was being filled in and destroyed, until Davol and a group of activists went to work.
“We gave a concert to call the community’s attention to it,” she says. “I played a lament, and said, ‘This is how I feel.’ That started it. People got on board.
“Now 20 years later it’s the Teaneck Creek Conservancy, and the last of the invasive species have been removed. It’s a wonderful place to go.”
Englewinds didn’t stop there though. The quintet—“we are not just woodwinds; we add piano, and percussion,” she says—sometimes perform site-specific programs for a cause; other programs are more esoterically conceived.
“Music for Monarchs.” “Bees Please!” “The Heart of the Wood.” “Music of the Wetlands.” These are some of the programs that Davol has curated, incorporating Englewinds’ many commissions—including her own compositions—with music from a wildly broad spectrum.
“We cross genres, and play music inspired by Native Americans and by jazz,” Davol says. “Our audiences are very informed, and our intent is not always just an environmental issue. We promote beauty and intrigue as well.”
“I feel like we do reach beyond the average western chamber music audience,” Davol says. “Our program are multifaceted, like the ecological issues; and you can experience them on different levels, depending on your passion.”
Englewinds is a consortium of some of the New York–area’s finest freelancers—Davol herself has been principal oboist of the VoxAmaDeus orchestra for more than twenty years, and is a founding member of American Classical Orchestra. Performances have taken Englewinds to Mount Holyoke mountain in Massachusetts, to the Brandywine River Museum, to Trinity Wall Street and the Ellis Island Museum. This season marks the group’s 20th anniversary.
“We’re touring more in recent years, some concerts in New England too,” Davol says. “Branching out a little further. Some are in concert venues that you’ve heard about, but others are residencies, or just pop-up music at a farmer’s market.
“I hope that all of our concerts have beauty and intrigue, and virtuosity,” she says, “and a small amount of angst. It’s not all negative though. We aim to inspire, and bring positive solutions to the issues we raise.”