Classical music will expand soundscape at rock ‘n’ roll venue | Music

Tucson singer-songwriter-classical composer Chris Black will perform nearly every track of his new CD “Lullabies & Nightmares: Chamber Music, Vol. 1” on Friday, Sept. 8.

And he and his band of classically trained musicians will do it in a place that’s used to loud, crunchy guitars and deafening percussion.

Black and company will unplug and unwind when they hit the stage at 191 Toole downtown, a small space that normally hosts rock acts.

Accompanied by a cellist, violinist, flutist, oboist and musicians playing English horn bassoon and contrabassoon, Black and his friends will play in duos and trios, exploring 15 works he composed over the years with his DIY chamber music project ChamberLab.

Black will be on double-bass and Gabriel Sullivan is set to narrate.

“And every once in a while a train is going to go by and we’re going to have to stop and then start playing again,” Black, 47, joked last week.

“Lullabies & Nightmares” includes three bassoon trios that date back to 2010 when he launched ChamberLab and the only musicians who showed up were a trio of bassoonists. So Black wrote Bassoon Trios No. 1, 2 and 3.

Interestingly enough, Black has no formal training in composition. He played double-bass in his high school orchestra and band then majored in theater at the University of Texas at Austin.

“I’m a goofball and I wanted to do comedy roles where I get to walk into walls and fall down,” said Black, who moved from Austin to Tucson in 2007. “But because I’m tall, I was cast for dramatic roles and at the time it was not good.”

After a couple of years in college, Black dropped out and joined a band that had a record deal in France and regularly toured Europe.

Within a few years, he had joined another band, this one with musicians who could read music, and write it. They also wrote classical music and then played those works in small chamber-music settings.

Black never took a composition class nor music theory. He writes by ear.

“I would sit down with a notebook and pencil and write out the parts,” said Black. “A lot of the stuff I had done and I look back on now, I can’t understand what I was trying to do. It’s pretty obvious that I was making it up as I went along.”

Black’s show at 191 Toole was initially booked into downtown’s Screening Room, but was relocated when the movie/theater venue closed two weeks ago.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

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