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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.

Music Preview: Kronos Quartet at 50, Aimard Plays Ligeti at the NY Phil, Anthony Davis' "X" at the Met Opera, and a Kevin Puts Premiere at Paul Taylor Dance Company

Kronos Quartet at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, 7/21/22

There seems to be an overflow of musical treats on offer in NYC this week. And none of them have anything to do with ghouls or goblins. 

Thursday, 11/2

Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Ligeti's Piano Concerto with the NY Phil: In what feels like a tiny bit of a stretch, the Phil is devoting part of its season to the centennial of iconoclastic composer György Ligeti, perhaps most famous for the otherworldly music Stanley Kubrick appropriated (without permission) for 2001: A Space Odyssey (which the Phil performed live a decade ago.) This week, longtime champion Pierre-Laurent Aimard arrives to perform Ligeti's fiendishly difficult piano concerto with conductor Susanna Mälkki, on a program that includes music by fellow Hungarians Liszt and Bartók. In addition, Aimard performs a late night set of Ligeti-inspired improvisations as part of the Phil's Nightcap series (11/4), and a solo recital (11/7) juxtaposing Ligeti's music with Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy. 

Friday 11/3

Kronos Quartet: Five Decades at Carnegie Hall: I don't remember the first time I saw Kronos live, but I feel they've been an indispensable part of my musical life for as long as I can remember. I mean, how many other string quartets can claim a Golden Anniversary (even if the only remaining original member is leader David Harrington)? In celebration, Kronos takes over Stern Auditorium with a massive lineup including Laurie Anderson, Tanya Yagaq, Wu Man, and the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

Anthony Davis'  at the Met Opera : Only 37 years late, Anthony Davis' opera about the life of controversial civil rights leader Malcolm X arrives at the Met with a stellar cast led by baritone Will Liverman (Fire Shut Up My Bones) as Malcolm X. Davis has revised his score for this new production by director Robert O'Hara (Slave Play), conducted by Kazem Abdullah. If you can't make it to the house, the opera will be live streamed on the Met's website.

Saturday 11/4

Paul Taylor Dance Company at David Koch Theater: I don't usually cover dance here, but I'm making an exception for this Saturday's program, which includes a world premiere by Lauren Lovette (Echo) set to Kevin Puts' Contact, which he wrote during the Covid-19 pandemic for the charismatic trio Time for Three. They perform live onstage, with the Orchestra of St. Luke's in the pit.   

A Hope for Music: Joyce DiDonato Master Class at Carnegie Hall

Joyce DiDonato, Dead Man Walking, Metropolitan Opera, 10.2`.23
Joyce DiDonato, Dead Man Walking, Metropolitan Opera, 10/22/23

Last Saturday, I went to the Metropolitan Opera for the first time this year to see the final performance of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, which over the past 23 years has become the most widely performed opera of the new century. The performance, which was broadcast to movie theaters around the globe, was simultaneously brilliant, moving, and deeply disturbing. Led by the Met's music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the cast was anchored by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as Sister Helen Prejean, the Louisiana nun who ministers to a man on death row and finds herself caught between the parents of victims demanding justice and a murderer seeking forgiveness. DiDonato gave a commanding, viscerally emotional performance, as one might expect given that she's owned the role of Sister Helen for more than two decades. (If you missed Dead Man Walking, watch this.)

With no rest for the weary, the following morning DiDonato began her annual master class at Carnegie Hall's Resnick Education Wing. Carnegie has invested heavily in education through its Weill Music Institute, which offers numerous opportunities for young musicians to learn from some of today's greatest artists, including master classes, youth orchestras, and outreach initiatives. In addition to DiDonato's master class - which she's been teaching since 2015 - soprano Renée Fleming oversees the week-long SongStudio (January 22-27) alongside soprano Angel Blue and tenor Nicholas Phan, ending with a recital in Zankel Hall.

Over the next three days - with two sessions per day - four up and coming opera singers would be mentored by DiDonato on everything from breathing technique and diction, to movement and stagecraft. While the morning sessions were private, the afternoon sessions were open to the public and live streamed on YouTube and Medici.TV. After watching the first two sessions online, I went to the final (10/24) session in person, and can testify that as amazing as DiDonato is as a performer, she is an even better teacher, with a charismatic zeal that borders on evangelical. Beyond just teaching the next generation of singers, DiDonato is on a quest to save music - or at the very least remind us of its transformative power.

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