January 21, 2021

Top: OSL, Terrance McKnight, Augustin Hadelich, Tyler Duncan; middle: Anna Clyne, Jeremy Denk, Rita Dove, Teju Cole, Jyll Bradley; bottom: Tai Murray, OSL, David Hyde-Pierce, Bernard Labadie (download photos with credits here)

When it comes to making new, original art and entertainment during the pandemic, Orchestra of St. Luke’s (OSL) leads the New York City field. With its current live-stream offerings, the orchestra – “a mainstay of New York’s classical scene” (New Yorker), long known and loved as the city’s “hometown band” (New York Times) – is blazing a trail in terms of quantity, frequency and production values. At the heart of OSL’s generous winter and spring lineup are the OSLive Wednesday Night Series, three series broadcast live from the orchestra’s DiMenna Center for Classical Music, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this March. OSL designed and built the DiMenna Center as its home and as the city’s only rehearsal, recording and production venue optimized for classical music. Today, the DiMenna Center is one of the busiest professional recording studios on the east coast and boasts new, state-of-the-art live-streaming and audiovisual production services, making it New York’s leading venue for recording and live-streaming digital performance. The three Wednesday night series were all conceived expressly for the online experience, and will be filmed under the superlative direction of Tristan Cook. David Hyde Pierce hosts the first series, “Sounds and Stories,” which comprises three interdisciplinary concerts created with guest collaborators Teju Cole, Anna Clyne, Jyll Bradley and Rita Dove, featuring world premieres, spoken word, light-based art and a new short film. Next, curated and hosted by OSL Principal Conductor Bernard Labadie, one of New York City’s foremost internationally recognized leaders in 18th-century repertoire and performance practice, “Baroque 2021” devotes three concerts to music of the period, complete with the conductor’s expert commentary. Finally, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight hosts “Sounds Like a Symphony,” three programs of Romantic repertoire that showcase the intimate ensemble’s unquenchably symphonic spirit, with guest appearances by Jeremy Denk, Augustin Hadelich, Tito Muñoz and Tai Murray.

To complement these ambitious new series, OSL offers a new season of “Composers of Note” at New York City’s Temple Emanu-El. Presented by the synagogue’s Streicker Center, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble performs music by composers ranging from Boccherini and Brahms to Gabriela Lena Frank, Iman Habibi and Marco-Adrián Ramos in three free concerts streaming live from the Streicker Center this spring. OSL also looks forward to continuing its acclaimed “Music in Color” programming initiative with two free narrative webcasts, both combining musical performance with compelling biographical content to celebrate the work of composer, flutist and educator Valerie Coleman. Scheduled to debut on April 23, the first webcast includes an educational narrative with accompanying study guides for K–12 students, and will be provided free of charge to schools as part of OSL’s Free School Concerts program. Geared to audiences of all ages, the second will feature Portraits of Josephine, Coleman’s tribute to Josephine Baker. Also free of charge, this will stream live on June 9, in collaboration with Manhattan’s New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Brooklyn Public Library, Queens’s Flushing Town Hall, the Bronx’s Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture and Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center, OSL’s partner venues in the five New York City boroughs. Further details will be announced shortly.

Regarding the breadth and depth of these spring offerings, James Roe, OSL’s President and Executive Director, reflects:

“Orchestra of St. Luke’s believes that music has the power to connect people across all distances, social and otherwise. Building on the successes of our weekly live-streamed series last fall, OSL will harness the state-of-the-art technology and ideal acoustics of our home, the DiMenna Center, to connect audiences and music all through the winter and spring.”

OSL’s winter and spring programming will be performed in accordance with all the latest health and safety protocols.

OSLive Wednesday Night Series (Feb 17–May 26)

All three of the OSLive Wednesday Night Series will stream from the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. Artistically filmed with multiple cameras to capture the virtuosos of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, OSL’s artistic core, from a variety of intimate perspectives, the nine live streams will all be directed by Tristan Cook, whose distinguished filmography includes a recent episode of Live From Lincoln Center and the award-nominated music documentary Strangers on the Earth. Cook will collaborate with lighting designer Burke Brown, whose credits range from New York’s Juilliard School to the Bavarian State Ballet, and the streams will be recorded by OSL’s longtime audio partner, Audiosmith Digital Solutions.

Also featuring Cook’s work, OSLive Streaming launched last fall to a rapturous response. “Almost as good as being there. And in some ways, more intimate,” one audience member observed. “Given what we are facing now, it was wonderful to share the joy of the music and of the musicians so skillfully bringing it to life. It was like hearing it for the first time,” marveled another. “Great camera work showing us the artists up close. … And I could have a glass of wine and text my friends!” commented a third. As yet another concluded: “Such a statement of humanity through art! MORE PLEASE.”

The DiMenna Center for Classical Music (courtesy of OSL)

Sounds and Stories,” hosted by David Hyde Pierce (March 3; March 24; May 5)

Expressly conceived for streaming, and hosted by OSL board member, Tony-winner and four-time Emmy-winner David Hyde Pierce, the “Sounds and Stories” series explores music through the written word, in three immersive, interdisciplinary concerts. Curated by three visionary creative voices, these concerts will showcase the world premieres of new works spanning three artistic disciplines.

The first concert is curated by award-winning Nigerian-American author, critic, Harvard writing professor and 2018 Guggenheim fellow Teju Cole. For the program on March 3, he has recorded readings from his own new, unpublished narrative Radia. In what represents the text’s world premiere, these recordings will be interspersed with live, thoughtfully chosen chamber selections by composers ranging from medieval polymath Hildegard von Bingen and Beethoven to the late Henryk Górecki and living composers Kaija Saariaho, Unsuk Chin, Caroline Shaw and Yvette Janine Jackson. The story of a city “under the scourge of a Visitation,” Radia reads like a parable of the pandemic experience in New York. “Music, which is such a great part of our survival, is also what will survive us,” explains Cole, who will take part in a post-performance discussion. He adds: “The Orchestra of St Luke’s is renowned as an orchestral ensemble comprised of virtuosi. It is, like the famed 18th-century orchestra at Mannheim, ‘an army of generals.’ For this reason, I was especially excited to curate a chamber-focused program for the members of the orchestra.”

Next, Grammy-nominated English composer Anna Clyne, who mentors young composers in OSL’s Robert DeGaetano Composition Institute, curates a multimedia program inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar Douglas Hofstadter on March 24. In his pathbreaking texts Gödel, Escher, Bach and I Am a Strange Loop, Hofstadter explains our sense of self by means of a “strange loop” paradox, which is the catalyst for Strange Loops, Clyne’s new composition for clarinet and string quartet. An OSL commission, the work receives its world premiere performance alongside contrapuntal pieces by Bach and Steve Reich, followed by the world premiere screening of Woman Holding a Balance, a new short film by award-winning British visual artist Jyll Bradley. Combining geometric loops, repetitions and other patterns with a simple score by Clyne, Bradley’s film completes the program, which will feature her own related lighting concept throughout.

The series draws to a close on May 5 with an homage to 19th-century Afro-European violin prodigy George Bridgetower, the first performer and original dedicatee of Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata. In pre-recorded segments, Pulitzer Prize-winning former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove reads selections from her book-length narrative poem, Sonata Mulattica. Hailed as a “masterful collection” (Los Angeles Times), this offers a poetic retelling of the violinist’s story and his consequential falling-out with Beethoven. Together with a pre-recorded account of Bridgetower’s own ballad Henry by soprano Laquita Mitchell, Dove’s readings punctuate a live chamber program combining works by two of his teachers, Haydn and Giovanni Giornovichi, with an 1833 string quintet arrangement of the Beethoven sonata that might more aptly have come down to us as the “Bridgetower.”

Baroque 2021,” hosted by Bernard Labadie (March 17; April 21; May 19)

“A Canadian maestro known for his detailed, nuanced accounts of the Baroque and Classical repertoire” (New York Times), OSL Principal Conductor Bernard Labadie is one of New York’s preeminent interpreters of 18th-century music. Building on the success of OSL’s first foray into live streaming – June’s “Bach at Home” festival – in the “Baroque 2021” series Labadie curates and hosts three live programs devoted to the period, supplementing each performance with expert commentary to contextualize the repertoire, shed light on its relevance, and bring it vividly to life for 21st-century audiences.

Celebrating one of the world’s most seminal and enduring tunes, the series opens on March 17 with “Madness for La Follia,” a program for strings and continuo. Dubbed “La Follia” or “madness” because of the frenzied peasant dances it incited, the distinctive theme originally derived from 15th-century Portuguese folk music. First written down in the 1600s, over the next three centuries it would inspire sets of variations by more than 150 composers, including Corelli, from whose courtly example Francesco Geminiani transcribed his own concerto grosso; Vivaldi, whose trio sonata is characteristically fiery; and C.P.E. Bach, writing three quarters of a century later, whose keyboard variations are expressive and virtuosic by turns.

The latter’s father is the subject of “Bach in Threes” on April 21, which explores J.S. Bach’s writing, not for three instruments, but for three musical voices. The program opens with a pre-recorded performance of the composer’s Sonata in E-flat, BWV 525. Featuring Jeremy Filsell on the chamber organ of New York’s Saint Thomas Church, where he serves as Director of Music, this will precede St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble’s live account of the same work, in an original arrangement by Labadie himself. After a rendition of the Sonata in A, BWV 1015, by OSL violinist Jesse Mills, a two-time Grammy nominee, the program concludes with the Trio Sonata from The Musical Offering, representing the pinnacle of Bach’s work in the genre.

For the series’ final event on May 19, the ensemble plays the opening sinfonias from Bach’s Cantatas BWV 21 and 196, before partnering OSL oboist Melanie Feld for the Concerto in D minor, a work Bach was known to admire, by his Venetian contemporary Alessandro Marcello. To complete the program, Canadian-born baritone Tyler Duncan, known for his “powerful voice and dramatic conviction” (New York Times), joins the ensemble for a pair of contrasting Bach arias and a complete traversal of the composer’s profound and deservedly beloved cantata Ich habe genug. As Labadie told NY1, “Bach’s music will always sound modern to people. … He’s my god.”

Sounds Like a Symphony,” hosted by Terrance McKnight (Feb 17, April 7, May 26)

Though intimate in scale, the reduced forces of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble are still symphonic in vision and scope. The third of the OSLive Wednesday Night Series, “Sounds Like a Symphony” celebrates this versatility in Romantic chamber repertoire that harnesses the ensemble’s full expressive potential. Hosted by broadcaster and writer Terrance McKnight, evening host of WQXR and Artistic Advisor of the Harlem Chamber Players, the series features guest appearances by four superlative musicians.

Having undertaken concerto collaborations with OSL at both Carnegie Hall and Caramoor, Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich returns on February 17 to lead the ensemble in a pairing of Fanny Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E-flat, one of the most unjustly neglected gems of the Romantic era, with the iconic Octet by her brother, Felix Mendelssohn.

Next, after giving a “spellbinding” (The Arts Desk, UK) account of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending at London’s BBC Proms, violinist Tai Murray joins the ensemble to reprise the work on April 7, now in an arrangement for violin and string quintet. The concerto shares the program with Mahler’s First Symphony, the “Titan,” in a chamber version by Klaus Simon. Featuring both strings and winds, the ensemble will be guest conducted by Tito Muñoz, known for his “natural facility and convincing musicianship on the podium” (Cincinnati Enquirer), with whom OSL previously collaborated in the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts series at New York’s Temple Emanu-El.

The series’ final livestream opens with an account of the Clarinet Quintet by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a late-Romantic Anglo-African composer known for his subtle textures and sophisticated harmonies, featuring OSL Principal Clarinetist Jon Manasse. For the concert’s second half, the ensemble reunites with leading American pianist Jeremy Denk, whose string of honors includes a MacArthur Fellowship and the Avery Fisher Prize. A longstanding musical partner of OSL’s, Denk has appeared three times with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall, as well as gracing the inaugural OSLive Streaming series in October. Denk joins the ensemble for a chamber adaptation of the Second Piano Concerto by Chopin, whose music he describes as “impossibly beautiful, but … always possible” (New York Times).

Tickets for each concert in the “OSLive Wednesday Night Series” include access to the live stream and to unlimited on-demand viewing for the next seven days. They are available for as little as $1, with a suggested ticket price of $40 per household, per concert. For more information, click here.

Composers of Note (April 12–May 10)

Presented by New York City’s Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble also performs chamber classics and works by living composers in “Composers of Note,” three free concerts streaming live from the storied synagogue this spring.

The series returns on April 12 with “Letters from Home,” comprising three works that combine responses to the new and unfamiliar with nostalgia for the comforts of home. Italian-born Boccherini wrote his string quintet Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid while in service to the Spanish court, and Czech native Dvořák composed his Third String Quintet while nearing the end of his time in America, drawing on the musical influences he absorbed in Iowa. Co-commissioned by OSL in collaboration with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music in 2019, Iman Habibi’s string quartet Uproot traces the composer’s journey from Iran to his adopted Canadian home.

On April 26, “Plucked & Bowed” celebrates the sonorities of the harp. OSL Principal Harpist Sara Cutler joins the ensemble for the Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp by Carlos Chávez, the father of 20th-century music in Mexico, and Debussy’s Danse sacrée et danse profane for harp and string quintet, a high point of the harp literature. Cutler also plays arrangements of three of the French composer’s best-loved piano pieces and Jarochito, a work for solo harp by emerging Mexican-American composer Marco-Adrián Ramos, another alum of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy. To complete the program, the ensemble plays the first movement of Beethoven’s Tenth String Quartet, nicknamed the “Harp” because its pizzicato sections mimic the instrument’s characteristic plucking sounds.

Finally, “Gabriela & Johannes” pairs two great multi-movement works on May 10. Scored for two violins, two violas and cello, Brahms’s First String Quintet is one of the composer’s most adventurous chamber works, while Gabriela Lena Frank’s Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout blends Western classical elements with Andean folk traditions, expanding the reach of the traditional string quartet. A Guggenheim fellow, Heinz Award laureate and Latin Grammy winner, Frank is one of OSL’s frequent collaborators.

Tickets for “Composers of Note” are free, but registration is required. For more information, click here.

About St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, OSL & the DiMenna Center for Classical Music

St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble was founded in 1974, when a group of virtuoso musicians began performing chamber concerts at Greenwich Village’s Church of St. Luke in the Fields. Today, the 24 ensemble musicians make up the artistic core of Orchestra of St. Luke’s, pairing beloved chamber works with lesser-known gems in OSL’s Chamber Music Series and anchoring almost every program presented by the orchestra. Regular seasons also see OSL perform in diverse musical genres at New York’s major concert venues, drawing on an expanded roster for large-scale works, and collaborating with artists ranging from Joshua Bell and Renée Fleming to Bono and Metallica. The orchestra has commissioned more than 50 new works and has given more than 175 world, U.S., and New York City premieres, as well as participating in 118 recordings, four of which have been recognized with Grammy Awards. Internationally celebrated for his expertise in 18th-century music, Bernard Labadie was appointed as OSL’s Principal Conductor in 2018, continuing the orchestra’s long tradition of working with proponents of historical performance practice. Built and operated by OSL, the DiMenna Center for Classical Music opened in 2011. New York City’s only rehearsal, recording, education and performance space expressly dedicated to classical music, it serves more than 500 ensembles and 30,000 musicians each year.

To download high-resolution photos, click here.

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Orchestra of St. Luke’s: Spring Livestream Series
OSLive Wednesday Night Series
#WednesdayNightLive
Presented by OSL
Streaming live from the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York
Tristan Cook, director
Audiosmith Digital Solutions, sound
Burke Brown, lighting
Ticketed; suggested ticket price: $40 (pay what you can from $1–$100)
For tickets and information, click here.

Wed, Feb 17 at 6:30pm
SOUNDS LIKE A SYMPHONY: Fanny and Felix
Terrance McKnight, host
Augustin Hadelich, violin and guest leader
FANNY MENDELSSOHN: String Quartet in E-flat (with Augustin Hadelich, violin)
FELIX MENDELSSOHN: Octet (with Augustin Hadelich, violin)

Wed, March 3 at 6:30pm
SOUNDS AND STORIES: Teju Cole
David Hyde Pierce, host
Teju Cole, guest curator and speaker
TEJU COLE: Selected readings from Radia (world premiere of unpublished literary work)
CAROLINE SHAW: “The Beech Tree” from Plan & Elevation
YVETTE JANINE JACKSON: Remembering 1619
GÓRECKI: Largo-tranquillo from String Quartet No. 3
UNSUK CHIN: Andante from Parametastrings
KAIJA SAARIAHO: “Papillon III” & “Papillon IV” from Sept papillons
BEETHOVEN: Lento assai from String Quartet No. 16 in F, Op. 135
HILDEGARD VON BINGEN: O Virtus Sapientiae

Wed, March 17 at 6:30pm
BAROQUE 2021: Madness for La Follia
Bernard Labadie, OSL Principal Conductor and host
CORELLI: La Follia
VIVALDI: Trio Sonata in D minor, RV 63, “La Follia”
C.P.E. BACH: Twelve Variations on La folia d’Espagne, Wq. 118/9
GEMINIANI: Concerto Grosso Op. 5, No. 12 in D minor, “La Follia”

Wed, March 24 at 6:30pm
SOUNDS AND STORIES: Anna Clyne
David Hyde Pierce, host
Anna Clyne, composer and curator
Jyll Bradley, visual artist
BACH: Selected Three Part Inventions
STEVE REICH: New York Counterpoint
BACH: Contrapunctus I-IV from Art of the Fugue
ANNA CLYNE: Strange Loops (world premiere)
JYLL BRADLEY: Woman Holding a Balance (short film; world premiere)

Wed, April 7 at 6:30pm
SOUNDS LIKE A SYMPHONY: The Lark and the Titan
Terrance McKnight, host
Tito Muñoz, conductor
Tai Murray, violin
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (arr. Gerigk): The Lark Ascending (with Tai Murray, violin)
MAHLER (arr. Simon): Symphony No. 1

Wed, April 21 at 6:30pm
BAROQUE 2021: Bach in Threes
Bernard Labadie, OSL Principal Conductor and host
Jeremy Filsell, organ
BACH: Sonata in E-flat, BWV 525 (Jeremy Filsell, organ)
BACH (arr. Labadie): Sonata in E-flat, BWV 525
BACH: Violin and Keyboard Sonata in A, BWV 1015 (with OSL violinist Jesse Mills)
BACH: Trio Sonata from The Musical Offering, BWV 1079

Wed, May 5 at 6:30pm
SOUNDS AND STORIES: Rita Dove
David Hyde Pierce, host
Rita Dove, author and speaker
Laquita Mitchell, soprano
RITA DOVE: Selected readings from Sonata Mulattica (literary work)
GIORNOVICHI: Duo
BRIDGETOWER: “Henry” (with Laquita Mitchell, soprano)
BEETHOVEN: String Quintet in A, Op.47b (“Kreutzer”)
HAYDN: Excerpts from The Seven Last Words of Christ

Wed, May 19 at 6:30pm
BAROQUE 2021: The Voice at Ease
Bernard Labadie, OSL Principal Conductor and host
Tyler Duncan, baritone
BACH: Sinfonia from Cantata, BWV 196
BACH: Sinfonia from Cantata, BWV 21
BACH: “Laudamus te” from Mass in G, BWV 236 (with Tyler Duncan, baritone)
BACH: “Ja, ja, ich kann die Feinde schlagen” from Cantata, BWV 57 (with Tyler Duncan, baritone)
MARCELLO: Concerto for Oboe in D minor (with OSL oboist Melanie Feld)
BACH: Ich habe genug, BWV 82 (with Tyler Duncan, baritone)

Wed, May 26 at 6:30pm
SOUNDS LIKE A SYMPHONY: Coleridge-Taylor meets Chopin
Terrance McKnight, host
Jeremy Denk, piano
COLERIDGE-TAYLOR: Clarinet Quintet
CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Jeremy Denk, piano)

Composers of Note
Presented by Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center
Streaming live from Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, New York
Ticketed; free of charge
For more information, click here.

Mon, April 12 at 6:30pm
“Letters from Home”
BOCCHERINI: Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid
IMAN HABIBI: Uproot (co-commissioned by OSL)
DVOŘÁK: String Quintet No. 3

Mon, April 26 at 6:30pm
“Plucked & Bowed”
Featuring OSL Principal Harpist Sara Cutler
CHÁVEZ: Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp
(“The Snow is Dancing”; “Asturiana”; “Polo”)
MARCO-ADRIÁN RAMOS: Jarochito or Caprice for harp
DEBUSSY (arr. David Noon): Piano Works
Tarantelle Styrienne
La fille aux cheveux de lin
L’isle joyeuse
BEETHOVEN: Movement 1 from String Quartet No. 10, Op.47, “Harp”
DEBUSSY: Danse sacrée et danse profane

Mon, May 10 at 6:30pm
“Gabriela & Johannes”
BRAHMS: String Quintet No. 1
GABRIELA LENA FRANK: Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout

Music in Color
Free narrative webcasts
For more information, click here.

April 23
Free School Concert: The Music of Valerie Coleman
Webcast release

June 9
“Portraits of Josephine”
VALERIE COLEMAN: Umoja
VALERIE COLEMAN: Portraits of Josephine
COPLAND: Appalachian Spring
J.W. & J.R. JOHNSON (arr. Coleman): Lift Every Voice and Sing
“Five Borough Tour” webcast release

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© 21C Media Group, January 2020