Shearer Energy

At NMSU, trio debuts new musical works


Modern music with a local vibe will once again fill NMSU's music halls this weekend.

As middle and high school students from all across the country gather for a weekend of high intensity learning, Las Cruces’ own musical couple, Jim and Celeste Shearer, will take the stage for a free tuba, french horn and piano concert at Atkinson Recital Hall on Sunday, April 21.

Joining them for this performance will be NMSU pianist-in-residence Laura Spitzer, with works including the world premiere of a new piece commissioned by the Shearers – “Two Suite,” by Memphis composer Tom Clary.

Also included will be an encore performance of another commissioned piece – “Suite for Horn, Tuba, and Piano,” by noted Arkansas composer Lester Pack, which originally appeared on the “Haunted America Suite” album released in 2015. Both composers will be in attendance as part of a weekend of events with NMSU students and faculty.

Tom Clary’s “Two Suite” is an extension of a previous piece titled “Two Lovers Dream,” which the Shearers and Spitzer recorded and released last year on Summit Records. How that extension came about is a story unto itself.

“Tom wrote ‘Two Lovers Dream’ a couple years ago and we recorded it at the same time we did Celeste’s solo album, ‘Sultry and Eccentric,’” Jim explained. That might have been the end of the story, but then, while on sabbatical in Pittsburgh last fall, the Shearers were at one of their favorite taverns when they were introduced to a drink called the Fallen Angel.

So taken were they by this drink that they immediately texted Tom to tell him about it. As the night wore on, and the texts mounted, the creative bug struck. “That’s how we came up with ‘Two Fallen Angels (A Night at the Bar),’ and ‘Two As One,’” Jim explains. “Tom ended up writing two more movements, and now it’s a three-movement suite.”

The other suite in the program, “Suite for Horn, Tuba, and Piano,” is the first of two commissions of the Shearers by Lester Pack, who is currently on the music faculty of the University of Arkansas-Monticello. The movements within that suite are “Chaconne Mulata,” “Hope is the Thing…,” “Santa Fe Fantasy” and “March.”

“Lester’s piece started with the ‘Haunted America Suite,’” Jim said. “We were commissioning pieces to flesh out the album, and I’ve known Lester for years. We’ve done several gigs together, and he wrote a piece for the ‘Tuba Strings Quartet’ album, too. These are all really deep cuts, man. Both Tom and Lester are buddies of mine I’ve known since my college days.”

The final two pieces rounding out this performance are “Perpetual Providence,” by Joseph T. Spaniola, and “Big Sky,” by Frank Gulino, both living composers. They also happen to be friends of the Shearers.

“Joseph’s piece was actually written for euphonium, tuba, and piano,” Jim said. “When we started putting this program together, I contacted him and asked if he would consider a French horn, tuba, piano version. Literally a day later, he had a French horn part arranged and in my email for Celeste. So, that’s our opener.

“Frank Gulino, same thing,” he continued. “He’s written several pieces for various instruments and tuba, with piano. We used to do a French horn, trombone, piano piece for which I reworked the trombone parts for tuba. This one we’re doing over the weekend, ‘Big Sky,’ was originally written for another group called Eastern Standard, which is another horn, tuba, piano trio.

“I don’t know either one of those guys in person, but we know each other pretty well because we spend a lot of time emailing back and forth, and we do each other favors. We’re just good friends in the music business, man.”

All of which makes this particular concert a very personal one for the Shearers. “It was all written for us, arranged for us, or was written for our type of trio, so it is very personal,” Jim said. “It’s also very accessible music. It’s all music you can really listen to and enjoy. There are some toe tappers, but there are also some slow and pretty pieces, like love music, as well.”

The Shearer/Spitzer Horn, Tuba and Piano Trio Concert will take place at Atkinson Recital Hall on the New Mexico State University campus, on Sunday, April 21, 2024, at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. More information is available via the music department at 575-646-2601.

Modern music, NMSU's music hall, Shearers