Lyon Leifer & Nancy Lesh | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Lyon Leifer & Nancy Lesh

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The classical music of northern India has been passed from generation to generation by gurus who teach directly rather than through a notational system as in the West. That's why much of it is improvisational, with performers embellishing on established ragas and talas or subtly inventing new ones. A raga is a melodic pattern that's associated with a time of day, a season, or any other noteworthy occasion; a tala is the rhythmic pattern of a raga, often determined in performance by a drummer's improvisational skills. While the three main styles of Hindustani music have common origins and can be played on the some instruments, the dhrupad, which flourished in the 1500s, is less ornamental, more austere and serene than the khayal and the thumri, which evolved about two centuries later; the thumri is the more romantic of those two. At this recital, two of Chicago's most learned exponents of Hindustani music will offer a sampler; both spent years in India at the feet of legendary gurus. Lyon Leifer, a flutist with Music of the Baroque, specializes in the khayal. He'll play mostly short pieces on a keyless bamboo flute called the bansuri. Nancy Lesh, a longtime devotee of the dhrupad, will improvise on a single raga for 40 minutes. Each will be accompanied by William Schwarz on tabla and Stephen Bero on tanpura (drone). Leifer promises to provide notes and running commentary. Sunday, 3 PM, Goodspeed Recital Hall, University of Chicago, 1010 E. 59th; 702-8068.

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