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November 2023

Weekend Preview: Brooklyn Folk Festival, Benedict Sheehan's "Akathist", Durations Festival, and more

Brooklyn Folk Festival 2023

Benjamin Sheehan's Akathist: Nov. 10, at 7:30pm at Trinity Church Wall Street

Three years in the making, Benedict Sheehan’s oratorio Akathist weaves together a diverse array of musical languages—from medieval chant and minimalism to gospel and jazz—and is based on a unique text from the Eastern Orthodox tradition known as “Glory to God for All Things.” Featuring The Choir of Trinity Wall Street; Artefact Ensemble; NOVUS NY; Downtown Voices; Trinity Youth Chorus; and Elaine Kelly, conductor. Free. Also streaming online.

Brooklyn Folk Festival: Nov. 10-12 at St. Ann's Church

Now in its 15th year, the Brooklyn Folk Festival presents the best in American and world folk music, from NYC and around the world. Located at Brooklyn Heights' historic St. Ann’s Church (157 Montague St.) the 3-day festival includes 30+ bands, vocal and instrumental workshops, a square dance, film screenings, a Banjo Toss contest and more. Lineup includes legends like Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Alice Gerrard and David Johansen, alongside newcomers such as Nora Brown and Jake Blount. Single day tickets are $65; full festival pass is $145.

Durations Festival: Nov. 9-11 at Pioneer Works and Public Records

Tim Hecker, Laurel Halo and other adventurous practitioners of electronica headline this new festival billed as "a multi-instrumentalist exploration of sound, an intentional act of connection, and exploration of time as the intensive movement of body and mind.” Tonight's Tim Hecker show at Pioneer Works is sold out, but tickets are still available for the nightcap at Public Records, as well as tomorrow and Sunday's shows. More info here

Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels' Omar : Sat Nov. 11 at 10:30pm at San Francisco Opera

Rhiannon Giddens is having a Month. She completed a tour in support of her first original album, You’re the One (Nonesuch), which just today was nominated for two Grammys. She hosted the season-opening Live in HD broadcast of “Dead Man Walking” at the Met. And her own opera, “Omar” (co-written with Michael Abels) won the Pulitzer prize and is currently onstage at San Francisco Opera. If you can't be in SF, you can watch a live stream of Saturday's performance at 730 PST (replays available for 48 hours after).  

James Adler at Yamaha Artist Services Studio NY: Tues. Nov 14 at 7pm

The award-winning pianist and composer premieres his A Curtis Reflection, commissioned by Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music for their centenary in 2024, as well as works by composers Henco Espag, Paul Turok, Robert Schumann, Claude Debussy, and Vladimir Horowitz. Free, but reservations are required.

Time For Three Perform Kevin Puts' "Contact" with Paul Taylor Dance Company at Lincoln Center

Time For Three with Orchestra of St. Luke's, Paul Taylor Dance Company, 11/4/23There are many reasons to go to Lincoln Center, but for me, dance isn't typically one of them. Mind you, I don't have anything against dance - it's perhaps the most arresting and physically impressive of all the performing arts - but...well, this is a live music website. And unfortunately, it's become a rare occasion to hear interesting - let alone live - music at dance performances these days. (Sorry, I don't do Tchiakovsky.)

But Saturday night, I made an exception to go see the Paul Taylor Dance Company, who are currently holding their annual residency at the David H. Koch Theater. Taylor was one of the most prolific choreographers of the last half of the 20th century, producing nearly 150 works that combine the muscular elements of modern dance with the elegance of traditional ballet. Since 2015, the company has also presented the works of other choreographers (Taylor died in 2018), and last year named Lauren Lovette, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, as its resident choreographer.

Saturday's program opened with the world premiere of Lovette's "Echo", an all-male dance inspired by her visit to a maximum security prison. (If you're interested in the dance aspects of "Echo", you can read about it in the Times here.) The music she chose was Kevin Puts' Contact (2022): a triple concerto written for the dynamic young string trio Time For Three, who performed here live with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, conducted by David LaMarche.

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A Gathering of Friends: Kronos Quartet Celebrates 50 Years at Carnegie Hall

Kronos Quartet 50th Anniversary at Carnegie Hall, 11/3/23

"I could live to be 500, and I don’t think I’d run out of things to do in music." - David Harrington

Unlike rock bands such as the Rolling Stones or The Who, a 50th anniversary isn't unheard of in the world of string quartets. The Emerson Quartet just played its final shows after 47 years; the Juilliard Quartet is still going strong well into its ninth decade (though without any of its original members.)

So, on its surface, Friday night's concert at Carnegie Hall celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Kronos Quartet wasn't really remarkable. Until you stop to think about all that they've accomplished in that half-century: some fifty studio and soundtrack recordings, more than 1,000 commissions of new works, countless performances across six continents (including 43 at Carnegie Hall alone), collaborations with everyone from Steve Reich to Sigur Rós.

"They have changed the way we see string quartets, and altered the course of music history, forever." WNYC host John Schaefer declared during his onstage introduction. 

Founded in Seattle in 1973 by first violinist and artistic director David Harrington (whom I interviewed backstage at the Big Ears Festival back in 2015), Kronos added John Sherba (violin) and Hank Dutt (viola) after moving to San Francisco in 1977. All three remain, along with cellist Paul Wiancko, who joined the quartet earlier this year, replacing Sunny Wang. Paul has somehow already made it into an updated version of Sam Green's Kronos documentary "A Thousand Thoughts," an excerpt of which was screened. The film sought to explain Harrington's ceaseless crate digging, his never-ending quest to find the next novel sound, regardless of genre or background.  

"We haven't yet found the bulletproof piece of music that can wrap itself around us," he said in a voiceover. "But I think it's possible, and I spend every minute of my waking life trying to find it. That's our job."

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