FLYER Q&A: Violinist Er-Gene Kahng brings Khemia Ensemble to Fayetteville

Khemia Ensemble (Courtesy photo)

Violinist Er-Gene Kahng kicks off a week of free performances at the Fayetteville Public Library with her group Khemia Ensemble when she performs a Trillium Salon Series as part of the Mountain Street Stage concerts Sunday, June 23.

This is an amazing opportunity to hear contemporary chamber music in an intimate setting. Ahead of Kahng’s performance, we caught up with her about the intimacy of chamber ensembles, what drew her to the violin and more.

Details for this free performance are available here.

Describe Khemia Ensemble for us – what makes it a distinct ensemble?

We are an 8-member ensemble whose members live across three time zones, and six different states! Eight people really combine the versatility and power of a larger ensemble with the intimacy of a smaller chamber ensemble.

What will you be performing for Trillium? Describe the works and what you’re excited about.

A subset of our members will perform solo and duo works. We’ve themed the concert “Inner Dialogues” and will feature the works of Melissa Dunphy, Luke Carlson, Eve Beglarian, Alonzo Alexander, Kevin Good and Arkansas composer Marco-Adrian Ramos. The performance will explore multimedia soundscapes made possible with dialogues between performer, radio, looper pedal electronic tracks and interactive electronics, as well as the traditional acoustic works.

Playing in a chamber ensemble requires a lot of understanding between players since there’s no conductor. How does that work in Khemia and describe playing this way vs as a soloist or in a large orchestra?

Communication is always key, and chamber music is a special kind of language we’re constantly learning to fine tune together. Like any kind of relationship, we’re always striving to add value to the group by showing up as our best selves while also helping others do the same and create a unique ensemble culture together. There is an interesting tug-of-war between familiarity -being able to arrive at rehearsals with some assumptions, anticipations, allowing us to become more efficient- and novelty, acknowledging that the group, and the people in it, are constantly evolving, changing and growing. I like the comfort and safety that comes from knowing everyone fairly well, but am always excited by seeing how seemingly small ways that we continue to change and grow as artists create interesting and significant shifts in the group’s culture.

What drew you to the violin? Do you remember how it felt when you first began playing?

I was a Suzuki kid! Suzuki group classes were held as part of my afterschool program and upon hearing a group of other violinists play “Twinkle twinkle” I was hooked. It looked like so much fun and I wanted to make those sounds with my own hands. It’s been a rollercoaster – starting at age 5 means that you must learn to navigate a long-term commitment which deepens and shifts as you mature and grow up with the violin. I didn’t know that I’d become a professional musician back then, but 30-something years later, I’m grateful that I’m still playing and am able to have music be a major part of my life.