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Four Scored: It’s ladies night at the Brooklyn Philharmonic

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When Michael Christie, an award-winning, 32-year-old Buffalo native, became the conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic last year, he had a vision. By infusing orchestral performances with contemporary music and elements of new media, Christie was attempting to make classical music appealing to newer and younger audiences. Next month his vision will move toward reality. On Feb. 1, the Brooklyn Philharmonic kicks off their 53rd season and debuts the Brooklyn Philharmonic Presents series, with a special performance featuring Suzanne Vega, Joan Osborne, Laurie Anderson and Nelly McKay. The inaugural concert, entitled “Four Scored,” is a tribute to innovative, female musicians who began their careers in New York. “The exciting thing about it is that we’re giving these very established artists a way to completely revisit and recreate their music,” said Christie. “This all had to be created from scratch. The songs they will sing may be known by their fan bases, but the performers are working to adapt their songs to an orchestra setting.” Each of the musically diverse performers will be playing with the Brooklyn Philharmonic for the first time. They plan to incorporate their unique styles into their individual sets accompanied by the orchestra. “It’s a way of reaching a different audience,” said Christie about the performance. “You wouldn’t normally have Suzanne Vega on a symphony orchestra program.” Vega is a well-known singer-songwriter who garnered three Grammy nominations in 1987 for her pop hit “Luka.” She will be performing original material, including her newly adapted 2001 single “Penitent,” at the “Four Scored” performance. Joan Osborne is another popular performer, who achieved stardom in 1995 after releasing her blockbuster single “One of Us.” Other artists include Nellie McKay, a singer-songwriter who won the Theatre World Award for her Broadway performance in The Threepenny Opera last year. And Laurie Anderson, an electric violinist best known for her work in the avant-garde community, will also be performing. “The idea is that different women coming from non-classical music worlds are using an orchestra to express themselves,” said Anderson, who once played a symphony using car horns. “As a violinist I like to experiment with all kinds of sounds.” “Four Scored” is the first half of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Presents Series, designed to attract new audience members through unusual musical collaborations. The second concert, to be held on May 9, will showcase the six-member musical group Antony and the Johnsons. The group and its transgender front man, who identifies as a woman, will perform alongside the orchestra. According to Christie, if the series is successful, more shows will be added to the calendar next year. Brooklyn Philharmonic Presents is an addition to the Mainstage Series, which offers contemporary and timeless classical music performances. The series kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 3, with a performance entitled “Earth Awakened.” The concert will feature works by Peter Schulthorpe and Stravinksy and feature the modern dance troupe nicholasle­ichterdance. The decision to launch collaborations with well-known artists was part of an effort led by Christie and the Philharmonic to push the orchestral envelope. Since its inception in 1954, it has debuted over 350 original pieces including 61 commissioned scores. The orchestra even has a Myspace page. “The Brooklyn Philharmonic has had a notable history of having conductors with musical curiosity,” said Brooklyn Philharmonic CEO Catherine Cahill. “[They] say how can we make a musical statement here in Brooklyn and seize the moment?” “We are tremendously excited to implement Michael Christie’s vision and welcome people who may not have come to the orchestra before,” continued Cahill. “We’re hoping to expand our audience.” Past guest collaborators have included K.D. Lang, Ute Lemper and Elvis Costello. Last May, Costello debuted a symphony he wrote at a Brooklyn Philharmonic performance. “People normally have a somewhat stodgy view of what orchestra’s are,” said Christie. “It’s nice to be in the driver’s seat of a cutting edge organization.” According to an internal survey conducted by the orchestra, the median age of the average Brooklyn Philharmonic audience member is 10 years younger than the national average. In addition, the orchestra has won 23 awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers over the last 26 years. Many of the awards have been for adventurous programming. Cahill takes pride in these achievements. “We are in the cultural mecca of the universe. If you want to hear the basic classics, go to Lincoln Center. We fill a special niche. We do the great classics with a twist and introduce new music.” Through a series of strategic partnerships, the Philharmonic, a non-profit organization, strives to foster an appreciation of music within the surrounding Brooklyn community. The orchestra teamed up with the New York City Department of Education in 1962. Today, it brings qualified music teachers into Brooklyn schools to teach master classes and mentor students. Six years ago, the Music Off the Walls and Music Off of the Shelves series were created to bring small chamber music ensembles into the Brooklyn Museum and different branches of the Brooklyn Public Library. In both series, the ensembles perform pieces complimenting current exhibits and programs. “We work with the museum and the libraries to come up with performances that illuminate their literature or artistic presentati­ons,” said Christie. “[The performances] are nice symbiotic expressions of the topics.” For more information about the Brooklyn Philharmonic, community projects and upcoming concerts, call (718) 488-5700 or visit www.brooklynphilharmonic.org. “Four Scored” will take place on Thursday, February 1 at 8 p.m. The performance will be held on 30 Lafayette Avenue at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Howard Gilman Opera House located in the Peter Jay Sharp Building in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Tickets are available for $105, $80, $55 and $25 and can be purchased by calling Brooklyn Academy of Music Ticket Services at (718) 636-4100.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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