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2019 NYC Summer Music Preview

Celebrate Brooklyn 2018 It's up in the mid-80's today in NYC, which has got me thinking about my favorite time of year: summer, when all sorts of amazing music heads outdoors. In addition to some of our old faves - Celebrate Brooklyn, Summerstage, Warm Up - there are some exciting new additions this summer, such as Industry City's new Summer Series. Sadly, there are also several casualties this year, including Williamsburg's Northside Festival and Panorama. R.I.P.

Below are some highlights; check out our Summertime list on the right for updates throughout the summer. 

Celebrate Brooklyn: (June 4-August 10) My personal favorite of all the free NYC music festivals - and not just because it's walking distance from my apartment - Celebrate Brooklyn returns to the Prospect Park bandshell for it's 41st season with an eclectic lineup including R&B, Latin, indie, and roots music, most of it free. Highlights include a blockbuster opening night with Patti LaBelle (6/4), a double bill with Liz Phair and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (6/29), bluegrass supergroup I'm With Her (Aiofe O'Donovan, Sarah Jarosz, and Sara Watkins, 7/18) and Canadian stalwarts Broken Social Scene (7/25). Benefit shows include The National with Courtney Barnett (6/12&13), Father John Misty with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (6/19) and Mac DeMarco (8/6).

SummerStage (June 1-September 24): SummerStage gets a facelift this summer with a (long overdue) $5.5 million renovation to Rumsey Playfield, including a new stage, sound system, lighting and raised bleacher seating. Lineup includes Durand Jones and the Invitations (who we caught twice at SXSW in March, 6/1) Parquet Courts (6/8), Big Freedia (6/13) and Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison with Brandee Younger (6/15).

Rite of Music Summer Festival (June 1 - Sept. 7) Governor's Ball has long since outgrown it's original home on Governor's Island, but you can still take the ferry to see live music once a month this summer with this free new music festival, now in it's 9th year. Performers include Ensemble Connect (6/1), Sandbox Percussion (7/6), Go: Organic Orchestra and Brooklyn Raga Massive (8/10), and Sirius Quartet (9/7); performances take place at 1 and 3pm. 

Met Opera Summer Recital Series (June 10-19): It's not the same as when they used to do full operas in the parks, but if you want the Met experience on the cheap, go check out one of these free recitals, which take place in all five boroughs. Among the top flight singers are Ying Fang, Nathan Gunn, Leah Hawkins, and Joseph Lim.

NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks (June 11-16): Music Director Jaap van Zweden is sticking around this summer to lead the parks concerts in all five boroughs, with a program including Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 and Copland's "Hoe-Down" from Rodeo. Followed by fireworks, of course.

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World Music Institute Presents Anda Union at Merkin Hall

by Steven Pisano

46650797375_ee19ca0cc1_o(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

On March 30, the World Music Institute hosted a fascinating concert at Merkin Hall featuring the Mongolian musical group Anda Union, whose nine members represent different nomadic ethnic groups, many from the grasslands of Ar Horchin in Inner Mongolia. Back in the 1200s and 1300s, Genghis Khan and his grandson Kublai Khan established a vast Mongol Empire that included China itself, until the start of the Ming Dynasty when the Mongols were expelled.

Anda Union is comprised of musicians who go by only one name: Nars, Chinggeltu, Saikhannakhaa, Uni, Chinggel, Biligbaatar, Tsetsegmaa, and two named Urgen. They play exotic-looking string instruments and reeds with names such as morin huur, tobshuur, ikil, moadin chor, and tobshuur. Because much of traditional Mongolian culture has been absorbed in the geographical areas that were once part of Mongolia but are now part of China, many younger Mongols have been researching and celebrating their traditional customs, to keep them alive for future generations. In this vein, Anda Union has been blending traditional folk music of the region with modern music written by members of the band. 

47566288741_34b1596e7c_oIn addition to singing traditionally, Mongolian singers are noted for hoomei, or throat singing, in which the vocalist sings two pitches simultaneously. On most songs the band performed, the seven main musicians sang together as a group, or one or another would take the lead. But on a number of songs, there were two featured singers who brought something special to the performance.

The featured female singer was Tsetsegmaa, who was dressed in a traditional robe of aquamarine silk and a fur hat with a conical top. Whenever she sang, the audience sat in rapt attention, particularly when she sang a song about mothers that was mesmerizing, even not knowing the words she was singing.

47513304342_5bb3416a8f_oThe featured male singer was Biligbaatar, an award-winning long-song singer introduced as a "cowboy," whose rousing performance of "The Herdsman" had the hall rocking. He was dressed in a long blue cloth wrap, and wore a brown cloth hat on his head.

As part of the rousing finale, the band played a high-energy piece that was a tribute to the importance of horses in traditional Mongolian culture, with the musicians capturing the speed of the horses, the thundering hooves, and the high whinnying sounds as they race across the steppe.

The concert was a strong reminder of how different cultures around the world approach what we all experience in life as people, and each culture brings to the table its own unique traditions. The many great shows that the World Music Institute puts on throughout the year in New York are an opportunity to experience these cultures a world away.

47513306572_7cc3477574_oMore photos can be found here.

Winter Jazzfest 2019: The "Half-Marathon"

By Dan Lehner 

Theo Bleckmann and The Westerlies at SubCulture

Winter Jazzfest’s famous marathon, a two-night musical expedition that lasts eight hours and stretches almost the entire width of Manhattan, had apparently become so popular that a third needed to be added to sate the voracious appetite of New York creative music fans. No less crowded than the full marathon has been - and likely will be when it returns next weekend - fans packed into clubs and performances spaces along Bleecker St hoping to grab a seat, or at least a window between heads, to see new acts and old favorites.

Ghost Train Orchestra’s reputation as a historicist band with modernist proclivities was in full effect during their tribute to one of New York’s most iconic and idiosyncratic composers: Louis Hardin (better known as Moondog). GTO’s episodic tribute to the Viking of Sixth Avenue brought to light the warm, approachable dualities of his Hardin's music: attractive melodies that seemed to belong to no one genre in particular, with themes that were approachable but buoyed by snaky polyrhythms and counterpoints. Horns, strings, vocalists and blocky percussion broke down barriers between indie rock, Native American music and bucolic American classical, with particular stylistic provinces supplied by the exuberant avant-rockisms of guitarist Brandon Seabrook and the probing, history-laden soloing of clarinetist Dennis Lichtman.

Pianist Marta Sanchez’s music was a similar dance between the complex and the simple. Sanchez was both sensitive and spry in her solo development, setting themes into forward motion but darting in delightfully unexpected ways. Her compositions, particularly the way her band performed them, also had the same sort of layered development, with tunes like “Cascadas” wringing all the tricky underlying rhythmic subdivisions of 3/4 time and soloists like Jerome Sabbagh soloing around the melody to let the band envelop him. Much of the material was brought to life in particular by drummer Daniel Dor, milking different rhythmic and stylistic possibilities and squaring the often spiky and complex counterpoint of Sanchez’s music with it’s gentleness.

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Songs About "The Song of Songs" at YIVO

by Steven Pisano

20181206-DSC05028(All photos by Steven Pisano)

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was established in 1925 in Poland, with support from leading intellectuals of the time such as Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein. It moved to New York in 1940 during the outbreak of World War II. YIVO houses the largest collection of materials on Eastern European Jews in the world. But, more than just an exemplary research institution, YIVO also runs many entertaining programs that feature classes, seminars and performances of music, theater, and art.

Last Thursday night, YIVO presented a musical program entitled Sweet Is Thy Voice: "The Song of Songs" in Concert as part of its Sidney Krum Young Artists Concert Series. Singers Lucy Fitz Gibbon, Marie Marquis, Kristin Gornstein, and Jonathan Woody were accompanied by Miki Sawada (piano), Matheus Souza (violin), Colin Brookes (viola), Clare Monfredo (cello), and Ian Rosenbaum (percussion).

The program's name comes from "The Song of Songs," or "Shir hashirim": an unusual book in the Bible because it is not about God or laws, but about love - both romantic and erotic. Both Jews and Christians have long extolled its beauty.

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