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Trio Kavkasia

2004 Toronto concert
Alan Gasser, Stuart Gelzer, and Carl Linich

performing traditional vocal music from the Republic of Georgia

about Kavkasia             our albums             upcoming events             recent events             past highlights             reviews

"O Morning Breeze": expanded liner notes, full lyrics translations, and many photos

What's up with Georgian tuning?

What was it like? Links to excerpts from Stuart's memoir about the trio's experiences in Georgia

Trio Kavkasia (meaning "Caucasus") consists of three North Americans who together have more than eighty-five years of experience singing the traditional music of the Republic of Georgia.

In 1994 we formed a professional vocal trio dedicated to studying and performing that music. In the decades since then, we have performed everywhere from Lincoln Center to the Tbilisi Opera House.

We sing concerts and lead workshops in North America, and we have made numerous extended visits to Georgia to study with singers there, both in professional ensembles and in remote villages.

In 1997 each of us was made a State Prize Laureate and was awarded the Silver Medal of the Georgian Ministry of Culture "for profound knowledge of the folk music of Georgia and his role in its popularization around the world."

with Anzor in 2002
with Anzor Erkomaishvili in Tbilisi at the 2002
International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony

Our Albums       All of Trio Kavkasia's albums are available directly from us as well as in stores.

2003 recording session
recording session at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY

email us to order CDs:

in the United States                     in Canada or the rest of the world

(If the order link fails, email stuart dot gelzer at gmail dot com for U.S. orders or argasser at gmail dot com for Canada and the rest of the world.)

The Fox & the Lion
The Fox and the Lion
(2006, Traditional Crossroads)

Here's a brief review of The Fox and the Lion by ethnomusicologist Ted Levin in BBC Music Magazine (September 2007):

Trio Kavkasia exuberantly quashes the myth that world music traditions are most authentically represented by indigenous musicians. This threesome hails from North America, but here they render Georgian vocal polyphony's often weird-sounding harmonies and scale tunings with precision and panache. Recorded in a Benedictine monastery in New York, the music sounds lush and resonant, revealing the Trio's nimble counterpoint, angular voice-leading, and strident chord tunings in all their dissonant glory. (★★★★)

Read more REVIEWS of The Fox and the Lion.
O Morning Breeze
O Morning Breeze
(2001, Naxos World)

Click on the album cover image to see expanded liner notes for this album, full lyrics translations, and many photos.

Songs of the Caucasus
Songs of the Caucasus
(1995, Well-Tempered World)

Our first album also exists as a reissue entitled "Songs of Earthly Delight from the Caucasus," with different cover artwork.

Upcoming Events

For current updates on our activities and events, like us on Facebook:

Recent Events

Civilization VI: Rise and Fall
computer game soundtrack
July 2017

In summer 2017 Trio Kavkasia recorded the soundtrack for the "Georgia" nation expansion pack of the computer game Civilization VI: Rise and Fall. The makers of Civilization VI periodically release new countries as add-on plug-ins to the game; the Georgia expansion was part of the round released in early 2018.

Players who choose to play as "Georgia" get the real-life Queen Tamar the Great (reigned 1184-1213) as their game avatar and national leader, and their game play is accompanied by a selection of vocal and instrumental Georgian music provided by Trio Kavkasia.

The playlist during the game isn't linear; the tracks we recorded fade in and out or loop following a complex algorithm: as you encounter other nations their music starts to infiltrate yours and vice versa. If they dominate you, you hear more of their national music -- not a good sign for your prospects. And as you advance in civilization from ancient to medieval to industrial to atomic, the musical mix changes gradually from the trio's plainest and most traditional vocal tuning and folk instruments to a smoother trio sound plus viola da gamba, and eventually to the trio plus massive choir and orchestra. So you'd probably have to play the game as "Georgia" many times (and survive and thrive into modernity) to hear all the tracks in some fashion.

The tracks for the Ancient Era feature Trio Kavkasia alone, presenting songs in traditional form, just as we sound in concert or on our albums. The soundtracks for the later eras (Medieval, Industrial, Atomic) were arranged by Geoff Knorr, an award-winning composer for video games and film, using the hymn Shen Khar Venakhi and the folk ballad Tsaiqvanes Tamar Kali -- the latter chosen in honor of the game avatar Queen Tamar. Geoff recorded our trio parts first, alone; then he added all the other instruments and massed voices to our tracks many months later in Prague.

Given what computer game sales are like (especially a global hit like Civilization VI), it's possible that tens thousands of computer game fans will inadvertently hear Georgian music while playing the game; we hope at least some of them will become curious and want to know more about the country and its extraordinary music.

A few images from Trio Kavkasia's one-day recording session with Geoff Knorr in a small studio in Long Island City, NY:

Kavkasia Civ VI studio 1
Kavkasia Civ VI studio 2
Kavkasia Civ VI studio 3
Kavkasia Civ VI studio 4

live movie soundtrack
September 2014 - March 2015

Four times in the fall and winter of 2014-15 on opposite coasts Trio Kavkasia provided a full-length live soundtrack for Eliso, a 1928 Georgian silent film directed by Nikoloz Shengelaia. The trio performed a score created especially for the film by Carl, using a variety of traditional Georgian songs.

In September 2014 the Museum of Modern Art in New York opened its Georgian cinema retrospective with Eliso. To perform the live soundtrack Trio Kavkasia was joined by members of the New York Supruli Choir. The screening/performance was attended by a large delegation from the Georgian government, including Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, Ambassador to the U.S. Archil Gegeshidze, Minister of Culture and Monument Protection Guram Odisharia, and other members of the Georgian cabinet.

Supruli with Eliso
Dress rehearsal: members of Supruli with "Eliso" projected
trio with sculpture
The trio with an Egon Schiele
in MoMA's sculpture garden
all with cows
The whole group with MoMA's Andy Warhol cows

In October 2014 the University of California's Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) screened Eliso twice at the PFA Theater as part of its Georgian Cinema series. This time to perform the live soundtrack Trio Kavkasia was joined by friends from the Bay Area and elsewhere.

outside PFA
The whole group outside the PFA Theater
with banner
With the banner for BAM/PFA's
Discovering Georgian Cinema series
with Susan Oxtoby
Before the screening, PFA Senior Film Curator Susan Oxtoby
introduces the group

In February 2015 Trio Kavkasia once again provided the live soundtrack when the Film Department of the Smithsonian Museum's Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, screened Eliso as the opening event in its Discovering Georgian Cinema series. The trio was joined again by members of the New York Supruli Choir. Georgian Ambassador to the U.S. Archil Gegeshidze attended and introduced the event.

Peacock Room
Alan in the Freer Gallery's Peacock Room
between dress rehearsal and performance
Freer reception
The reception at the Freer Gallery
sponsored by the Georgian Embassy
with ambassador
Carl, Luke Linich, and Ambassador Gegeshidze
at the reception

In March 2015 Trio Kavkasia provided the live soundtrack once more when Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, NY, screened Eliso. The performance was sponsored by Bard College's Center for Moving Image Arts. The trio was again assisted by members of the New York Supruli Choir and friends.

Past Highlights

Twentieth Anniversary East Coast tour
to commemorate the trio's founding in Toronto in January 1994
January 2014

1) 20-minute set at the Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, Brooklyn

Golden Festival backstage
Golden Festival: backstage
Golden Festival Grand Ballroom
Golden Festival: the Grand Ballroom
Golden Festival performance
Golden Festival: midnight set in the Atrium

2) concert at Grace & St. Paul's Church, Manhattan (with the New York Supruli Ensemble)

Manhattan concert
Manhattan concert

3) workshop and concert at Yale University, New Haven

Yale workshop
Yale: workshop with the Yale Slavic Chorus
Yale concert
Yale: concert in Dwight Chapel

4) concert at the Church of the Holy City, Washington, DC.

DC ambassador
Washington: opening remarks by the Honorable
Archil Gegeshidze, Ambassador of Georgia
DC performance
Washington: under the eye of
the Voice of America's Georgian Service
and the videographer for our concert DVD
DC interview
Washington: Carl and Ambassador Gegeshidze
being interviewed by the VOA

5) workshop and concert at Princeton University, Princeton (with the Princeton Georgian Choir)

Princeton workshop
Princeton: workshop in the Music Department —
Alan explains the mysteries of Georgian tuning
Princeton concert closeup
Princeton: concert at Mathey College
Princeton concert
Princeton: in the Mathey College common room

6) workshop, children's program, and concert at Crossroads Music, Philadelphia (with Svitanya)

Philadelphia workshop
Philadelphia: workshop at Crossroads Music

November 2011: concert at Texas State University in San Marcos with the Texas State Men's Choir and multimedia artists Irina Patkanian and Chris Langer.

February 2011: four concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area with the women's vocal ensemble Kitka in their series Caucasian Connections.

October 2008: two concerts in Toronto with the Toronto Consort as part of the Consort's Marco Polo Project.

September 2008: workshop and concert at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

Santa Cruz concert with Kitka
with Kitka in Santa Cruz (2011)

Swarthmore concert
on stage at Swarthmore College (2008)

Fredericksburg concert
at Liberty Town Arts Workshop, Fredericksburg (2006)

Dartmouth class
guest-teaching Ted Levin's world music class at
Dartmouth College (2004)

chunir lesson
Kavkasia's six-day intensive workshop on Georgian music
at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto (2004)

with ethnomusicologists Izaly Zemtsovsky and Joseph
Jordania in Tbilisi (2002)

2009 party
even in different clothes it's still Georgian music (2009)

What the critics have said about Trio Kavkasia

TV interview
being interviewed on Georgian television
after our 1995 Tbilisi concert

New York Times "... exotic, beautifully modulated style... haunting beauty..."
Now Magazine "... as riveting as any world beat act."
Weekend Edition, NPR "This music is hundreds of years old, its origins deep in the Caucasus Mountains, harmonious and throaty."
Toronto Globe and Mail "... superb blend and tuning... outstanding, both as an introduction to a rich musical tradition and as an example of highly accomplished a cappella singing."
Metro Morning, CBC "This music vibrates up your body, and by the time it gets to the back of your neck, the little hairs on the back of your neck are standing up. It's quite wonderful."
Songlines "... their performances are entirely convincing, and they've all sung with choirs in Georgia... Magnificent."
The Whole Note "... three eloquent voices and Georgian instruments (also played by the singers) blend exquisitely in unusual tunings and thrilling harmonic modulations."
BBC Music Magazine "... the music sounds lush and resonant, revealing the Trio's nimble counterpoint, angular voice-leading, and strident chord tunings in all their dissonant glory."

Click here to see several complete reviews of our third album, The Fox and the Lion.

Comments, questions, praise, complaints, etc: contact us by email

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updated 15 July 2018