Issue 13.1

Sunday, September 16, 2018 - Issue 13.1

It looks like it's about that time. September means a new season for Fifth House Ensemble (the 13th new season as a matter of fact)! We hope you all had a nice summer and that you're ready for some exciting new content from your friends at the Augmented Fifth and Fifth House! Alright, before we get to the fun stuff, we have some business to go over:

  • It's with a heavy cliche that we say goodbye to our Director of Operations, Danny Cohen. Thanks for all of the years of indentured servitude valuable service! You will be missed and try your best to enjoy being a straight rockstar.

  • We've got some new faces at Fifth House! We're super happy to welcome our new Director of Operations and Production, Alex Olsavsky, our new Marketing Manager, Karen Cubides (who will certainly be reading this. HI KAREN!), and last but not least, our new Violist, Sixto Franco!! I'll do my best to keep the jokes at your expense and sarcastic comments at a minimum for as long as possible...

  • I know we advertised some changes to the Augmented Fifth and don't worry, this blog is on the cusp of a makeover that RuPaul would be proud of. Some exciting things are coming now that we hired someone who actually knows what they're doing when it comes to marketing.



Studebaker Theater, 410 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605




2:30pm (Central)




Point of View: Fifth House Ensemble in Tuva - written by Eric Heidbreder

What does a chamber music group do in Tuva, a location known for its unique musical style? Any time we visit a new location or work with new collaborators, our goal is to learn as much as we can in the short amount of time we have—to give our brains some new wrinkles. I went into this trip knowing that music was important to Tuvan people, but I had no idea how imbedded music is in the culture.

Our first day: Meeting Alash!

After an eventful time at Abakan Airport and some much needed sleep in a location that was not hurtling through the air or zooming across pavement, we met our collaborators. Alash Ensemble is made up of three masters of Tuvan music: Bady-Dorzhu Ondar, Ayan-ool Sam, and Ayan Shirizhik. Sean Quirk, Alash’s interpreter and manager, and Dolana Sarygbay, another interpreter and student of computational linguistics, made up the group that we would most regularly interact with.

The Centre for Tuvan Culture (founded in 2012) is a large, two story wooden building with a statue of Kongar-ol Ondar, a legendary Tuvan musician and the founder of the Centre. We dove right into a rehearsal on The Amphibian, a commission from William Pearson that demonstrated how masterful Alash was. With Sean in the room—Sean is also a musician—we were able to discuss some of the more complicated elements of the music as a group and ensure that everyone was on the same page (sometimes literally).

Between rehearsals, we would head to the Yert next to the Centre, open the tiny red door, and crawl through for meals of lamb and rice while we talked about our lives and got to know each other better. The fact that Melissa was vegan led to a recurring joke that vegetarians eat “The food of my food.” That one stuck and we brought it back with us.

Meeting Tuvan People

Equally important to the music we were preparing with Alash was meeting and interviewing different people from Tuva. Especially in Tuva, the rich musical heritage seems to stretch across all walks of life.

I didn’t get to be at all the interviews, but I did meet a Shaman and a sheep herder. The Shaman led us to his yert full of instruments and tools he had made from different parts of animals. Skins, claws, and bones dangled from his belt as he donned his colorful vest and shared stories of his childhood, growing up on a farm and becoming aware of his Shamanic gift. The herder’s home was quaint, but warm and welcoming. A low table in the living room served as our dining area as they brought out a tray of freshly-killed sheep. Sean was chatting with our hosts in Tuvan while we ate, and the herder showed us how to cut off some of the best parts of the sheep using a huge knife resting on the table.

The people we met generally talked about the importance of family and of Tuvan music in Tuvan culture. Despite the distance between people (Tuva is a huge republic), it seems that they know their neighbors and are proud of their Tuvan heritage.

What I learned

We met dozens of people and traveled to many beautiful locations in less than 4 days, and between those locations were long van rides where I got to talk to Sean and Dolana more in-depth about Tuvan history. One thing that stuck with me is that Tuvan music was banned by the Soviets, along with music of many other former Soviet colonies, but Tuvan music and culture survived where other colonies’ music and culture did not. This puts Tuvan music in a different light, for me. The fact that it remains present today is because of Tuvan people’s commitment to their culture and protest of government control through art. This passion for Tuvan culture seems to come and go in waves within the republic of Tuva, according to Sean and Dolana, and I can only hope that our collaboration with Alash can paint a realistic picture at the lives of Tuvan people through their own words.


From the journal of Uncle Traveling Matt:

"I was rudely awakened from my summer vacation mindset to be told that our new season was starting. It wasn't the usual rehearsal space, but at least we had a nice view!"


In honor of our first weekend of live performances and playing with some electronica!

TOP 10

  1. Our trip to Tuva was a truly life changing and wonderful experience. We'll be sharing photos and other tidbits from the trip in the coming weeks. Special thanks to Alash Ensemble for helping make it possible! We're very much looking forward to seeing you in Chicago come March!

  2. Thanks to Daron Hagen for sharing his Orson Rehearsed project with us!

  3. Special congratulations to the new youngest member of the Fifth House Ensemble family, Willem Hocine and his happy and healthy mother, Charlene!

  4. Dan premiered his newest opera, Permadeath! Proud of you even though I'm sure it was hardly any work at all.

  5. Katherine tortured everyone with some weird juices. Thanks I guess...

  6. Eric played a bass SOLO! Like, all by himself on stage! Who would've thought of such a thing? Oh yeah, and he killed it.

  7. Grace taught her daughter that just because her sister has a birthday, it is not her birthday as well. Welcome to the boring world of growing up, kid.

  8. Nice to see some of our Fresh Inc alumni, Karalyn Schubring, Shelby Rawlings Blalock, Rasa Mahmoudian, Meghan Henson, and Emily Mehigh this weekend! Sorry if I missed anyone!!

  9. Bitmoji hit Fifth House in a big way. Get ready for that.

  10. Parker thought of enough things to put in the first top ten!


It's time to get up,

Our thirteenth season is here,

Fifth House is back again!


This video has made a few laps around the internet by now, but seriously, it's worth another view, don't you think?


The first person to have inhaled helium must have been extremely relieved when the effects wore off.



The Lemon Bars that would not go away!


Not really of this week, but I've got to share some of these Tuva photos somehow. Hey, did I mention that 5 of us spent the summer in Tuva?


Sixto Franco

Welcome to the Family!