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Weekend Live Music Preview: 9/17-9/19

IMG_3029The summer may have unofficially ended on Labor Day weekend, but with a delayed reopening to live music thanks to COVID, things are still going strong here in NYC into the third week of September. Good thing we still have balmy temps and (relatively) clear skies. 

So here's a roundup of some of the best things happening this weekend, much of it outdoors. Man, look at all of this music!

Friday 9/17

Death of Classical presents Simone Dinnerstein, Green-Wood Cemetery, 7pm (Additional performances on 9/15 & 9/16.) Inspired by first responders, parents, caretakers, and all those affected by COVID-19, the famed pianist and Brooklyn native will lead the audience on a walk through the cemetery, pausing periodically to perform music by Bach and Richard Danielpour on several pianos that will be scattered along the route. $100, including a pre-concert reception.

Anzu Quartet Performs Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, Roulette, 8pm. Made up of veterans of Bang on a Can and other NYC new music ensembles, the Anzu Quartet (Ken Thomson, clarinet; Ashley Bathgate, cello; Olivia De Prato, violin; Karl Larson, piano) perform Messiaen's searing work of perseverance on the 80th anniversary of its premiere at the Stalag VIII-A Prisoner of War camp in Germany. $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

Celebrate Brooklyn: Mr Eazi/Bembona/AJO, 7pm. Nigerian superstar Mr Eazi brings the laidback rhythms of Banku music - which blends Ghanian highlife and Nigerian afrobeat - to the bandshell. New York-based AJO and Puerto Rican-Panamanian artist BEMBONA open. Free.

Saturday 9/18

Rite of Summer Music Festival, Governor's Island, 1pm and 3pm. For the conclusion of their 10th anniversary season, the Rite of Summer Music Festival is presenting new music stalwarts Alarm Will Sound in the NYC premiere of John Luther Adams' Ten Thousand Birds, inspired (as Messiaen was) by the songs of birds. Admission is free; the ferry (which leaves from both the Battery and Brooklyn) costs $3 roundtrip. 

The Great Long Meadow Fire, Radegast Beer Hall and Biergarten, 3pm. It's not too early to get your Oktoberfest on at Williamsburg's Radegast, where upstart brass band The Great Long Meadow Fire will put up some alt country, dark Americana and gospel blues to go with your Hofbrau. Free.

Brooklyn Americana Music Festival, Various Locations, 3pm (Additional performances 9/17-9/19.)  This annual festival of folk, roots, country blues, bluegrass, and all things Americana is back live this year with more than fifty shows at locations in and around DUMBO and Red Hook. Weekend shows are all free; others $20-25.

Celebrate Brooklyn: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue/Lady Blackbird/MICHELLE, 7:30pm. The electric Trombone Shorty and his explosive brass band brings down the curtain on this year's Celebrate Brooklyn Festival with their get-out-of-your-seat blend of hip hop, funk and NOLA groove. Get ready to dance! Free.

Sunday 9/19

New York Philharmonic, Alice Tully Hall, 2pm (Additional performances on 9/17 and 9/18.) Hot on the heels of the Met Opera's triumphant return last weekend with Verdi's Requiem, the Phil returns to Lincoln Center for the first time since March 2020 with a varied program of new and classic works, including music by Anna Clyne, Copland, and Beethoven's 4th piano concerto (with the amazing Daniil Trifonov.) As with most concerts this season, this program will be performed at Alice Tully while Geffen Hall receives its looooonnnng overdue renovation. Tickets $48-86.

Central Park Summerstage: Patti Smith and her Band, 7pm Patti was supposed to be part of the big NYC Homecoming concert on the Great Lawn last month, but unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas. Any chance to see this legend should not be missed - especially when it's outdoors in Central Park. Free.

Stephane Wrembel, Barbès, 9pm. We all probably took our share of things for granted before COVID, but one of the things I missed the most this past year was being able to roll down the hill Sunday nights to Barbès where Wrembel, the world's greatest exponent of Django Reinhardt's gypsy guitar music (as well as his own Oscar-nominated compositions), held court each week until the wee hours. Wrembel is back, and hopefully is here to stay. $20 suggested. 


It's Been a Year

Prospect Park BandshellAlmost impossible to believe, but it was a year ago today that I saw my last live concert: the NY Philharmonic with mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and conductor Louis Langrée. From what I recall, was a fine concert, mostly memorable for Leonard's radiant performance and Scriabin's massive Poem of Ecstasy ("basically a 20 minute sexcapade, slowly building from soft murkiness to a deafening crescendo.") At the time, it felt like something of an afterthought after having just sat through complete cycles of Beethoven's symphonies and string quartets. Had I known, I would have appreciated it more. 

Most New York performing arts institutions - the Phil, the Met, Carnegie Hall and the lot - are tentatively scheduled to return in the fall. Still no word about the summer outdoor festivals, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Celebrate Brooklyn and Summerstage can pull something together.  I'm less optimistic about the Bowery venues, jazz clubs and other indoor spaces that get their energy from teeming, exuberant crowds; personally, I'd rather wait until everyone gets their shot than see a show in a half-full Bowery Ballroom. 

For music lovers, this has been a nightmare year; for musicians and venue personnel, it's been far more devastating. But, everything looks up when you're down on the floor, and I know we'll all be back out there someday. Until then, stream away and drop a dollar in the bucket of your local busker. IMG_8893


Music at Home

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Ok, being stuck at home sucks, but at least we have modern technology to get us through the day. And no, I don't mean bingeing Tiger King. There is a ton of great, free music streaming online, too much to list here. NPR Music has a great running tally here, which I use as my basic go-to guide. Below are some highlights (all times EDT).

Opera: Just yesterday, I watched John Adams conduct his own Nixon at China at the Met Opera, one of the Met's daily free live streams. Today's opera, Bizet's Pearl Fishers, will be available until tomorrow night. (Pro tip: as long as you start watching before 6:30pm, you can pause it and resume at some later point.) Among other opera companies, the Vienna State Opera is currently streaming Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. Meanwhile, the Met Museum is sharing their recent performance of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thompson's The Mother of Us All at 7pm.

Classical: The Berlin Philharmonic continues to make its entire archive of high quality digital streams available for free. Closer to home, the NY Phil is offering select videos of past concerts here

Jazz: Fred Hersch has been doing a daily stream on Facebook every day at 1pm. At 7pm, Chick Corea is playing as part of the Live from Our Living Rooms festival, followed by Fabian Almazan and Linda Oh. At 8pm, Lizz Wright appears courtesy of SF Jazz (this one costs $5 for a 1-moth membership.) And, Christian McBride hosts a listening party at Jazz House Kids with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cecile McLorin and Melissa Walker.

Lots of streaming shows from the rock, roots and experimental worlds listed here and elsewhere.