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Versipel New Music presents visiting pianist Mabel Kwan

Pianis Mabel Kwan plays Friday night.

Pianis Mabel Kwan plays Friday night.

Currently in its inaugural season, Versipel New Music is a budding classical music organization that aims to take on audience engagement in new and contemporary music in different ways. Dedicated to presenting works from the late 20th and early 21st centuries in New Orleans, Versipel offers performances of pieces by living composers from Louisiana and around the world.

On Friday, April 3, at Café Istanbul, Versipel New Music presents its third visiting artist of the season, Mabel Kwan, who will be making her New Orleans debut. Kwan is a Chicago-based pianist and champion of contemporary works by living composers. Friday’s concert will feature contemporary works by Rebecca Saunders and Evan Johnson alongside selections by Baroque composers. Also included in the program are two world premieres of compositions by Versipel director Kari Besharse and assistant director Philip Schuessler.

In addition to composing, with an emphasis on acoustic and electroacoustic music, Besharse and Schuessler are educators affiliated with Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, where they have resided for five years. Besharse explained how they first came up with the idea of starting Versipel New Music soon after moving to Louisiana.

“We saw a big potential for starting something that would basically compliment other organizations and events already happening in the New Orleans area,” said Besharse. “We wanted to primarily focus on brand new works and a multitude of contemporary classical styles.

So far this season, Versipel has put on three concerts, including a program in December that spotlighted music by Louisiana-based composers Stephen David Beck, Colin Kemper, Rick Snow, Mendel Lee, Greg Robin, Stephen Suber, Vanissa Law, Elliot Downey, and Nick Hwan. All works were performed by the Versipel Collective, an ensemble made up entirely of musicians from the New Orleans area.

“We’ve been really lucky to find a lot of great people to collaborate with—we’ve had the support from a number of different people and institutions,” said Besharse.

FOCI Arts is one such institution. Local composer Ray Evanoff, who spearheads the contemporary arts organization and online periodical, was instrumental in organizing concerts as well as bringing Mabel Kwan to the Crescent City. Kwan will also be performing a piano work by Evanoff on Friday.

Mabel Kwan has performed all over the globe, as soloist and as member of the celebrated Chicago-based contemporary music collective Ensemble Dal Niente. Her experience includes performing as part of the legendary Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music, UNRULY Music Festival, MusicArte Panama, and SALT Festival, among many others.

“Mabel Kwan is quite a virtuoso performer and her repertoire is very challenging but incredibly rewarding to listen to,” said Schuessler. “She is very precise with her playing, so the types of pieces that she chooses to program really compliment her abilities.”

Mabel Kwan performs Friday, April 3 at Café Istanbul as part of Versipel New Music’s Visiting Artist Series, presented in conjunction with FOCI Arts. The concert begins at 8:00 p.m. A suggested donation of $20 for adults and $10 for students will be collected at the door. For more information visit the official site.

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]