Cellist Mariel Roberts presents the world premiere of composer Jason Eckardt’s Red Oak for her House Music Series video. The piece is inspired by Eckardt’s home in the Catskills and is part of his ongoing series of works, A Compendium of Catskill Native Botanicals. The two artists met in 2011 and have remained friends and collaborators since, working on pieces like A way [tracing], which Roberts performed at Spectrum in 2014.
Roberts first became acquainted with Metropolis Ensemble through their performance space at 1 Rivington. It was there that she and her quartet would play concerts, and eventually, she met Metropolis there, too. One of her favorite performances with the group was an outdoor concert as part of Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, where Metropolis played with singer-songwriter Emily Wells.
The House Music Series presented itself this year as the perfect place to give the world premiere of Red Oak. Roberts and Eckardt had been talking about creating a piece together for years, and it was finally finished this past summer. Because it wouldn’t get an in-person premiere in the near future due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Roberts thought a video was the perfect place to bring it to life.
In addition to the musical nature of their collaboration, both Eckardt and Roberts have particular interest in the environment, advocating for wildlife and forest preservation in their spare time. Red Oak is an ode to nature and dedicated to Eckardt’s beloved dog, Gretel, who recently passed away. — Vanessa Ague