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eighth blackbird: concert with Glenn Kotche in Richmond, March 25

eighth blackbird’s March 25 concert in Richmond, VA, features sextet’s second collaboration with composer and Wilco drummer, Glenn Kotche, and world premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Still Life With Avalanche

The highlight of peerless new music sextet eighth blackbird’sone-week March residency at Virginia’s University of Richmond will be a concert with composer and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche on March 25.  Kotche’s first performance with the group, in its hometown of Chicago last November, was unanimously acclaimed.  On that occasion, the city’s foremost critic, John von Rhein, called the Grammy-winning ensemble “the city’s most intrepid band of contemporary music explorers,” and audiences would seem to agree.  According to the Chicago Sun-Times, “Kotche and eighth blackbird are kindred musical souls.”  As in Chicago, the Richmond program will feature works from Kotche’s album Mobile (Monkey Chant, Projections of (What) Might, and Individual Trains), as well as his Double Fantasy and solo set; Dutch composer Louis Andriessen’s pedal-to-the-metal Workers Union; and Steve Reich’s legendary Clapping Music.  Also on the program: the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Still Life With Avalanche (2008), which the composer describes as “a pile of melodies collapsing in a chaotic free fall – the players layer bursts of sound over the static drones of harmonicas, sketching out a strange and evocative sonic landscape.  This is a piece about finding beauty in chaos, and vice versa.”

In mid-February, during its second season at Chicago’s Harris Theater, eighth blackbird played a concert of music by Stephen Hartke that included a world premiere with England’s remarkable vocal group, the Hilliard Ensemble.  eighth blackbird demonstrated Hartke’s often-playful nature via the Chicago premiere of his Pulitzer Prize-nominated Meanwhile (written for the ensemble in 2007).  A live performance on WFMT preceded the headlining concert by ten days, itself getting a positive response from Windy City ’bird fans.  The Chicago Tribune raved:

eighth blackbird … creates magic … . Anyone doubting the relevance of new classical music must surely have overlooked eighth blackbird, a sextet that in a few short years has built a following that would make most purveyors of the traditional canon green with envy. … The ensemble absorbed [Hartke’s Meanwhile] with utter assurance, and incorporated subtle staging by Erica Mott that suggested the casual banter of street musicians.  If Meanwhile represented a melding of hemispheres, Tituli was a dialogue of eras, a negotiation between ancient and modern. … 

[Hartke] created his world of antiquity through different methods – open vocal harmonies and chantlike melodic phrases hinted at medieval times, but piquant dissonances and snarling textures placed the work in modern garb.  The woody resonance of the marimba’s low register exuded a primitive, earthy aura, while violin solos suggested a contemporary sonic environment.  The legendary Hilliard quartet sang with keenly sensitive control of pitch and expression.”

thirteen ways”, eighth blackbird’s colorful and extensive blogosphere presence, includes photographs of rehearsals for the Hartke/Hilliard concert:

Two days after the Richmond concert, eighth blackbird performs its debut in Germany, at the adventurous “March Music” week of the Berlin Festival.  The ensemble has already made two important European debuts this season: in the UK, at Liverpool’s European Cultural Capital festival, and in continental Europe, with a bow in Rotterdam.

In June, eighth blackbird is collective music director of the world-renowned Ojai Music Festival.  Over six decades, Ojai has become well known for its fearlessness in championing pioneering musical ideas and personalities, and it is set to push the envelope again this summer with genre-defying variety in wildly collaborative and visually dramatic presentations.  eighth blackbird has invited its fellow freewheeling chamber ensemble Tin Hat; the matchless recorder quartet from Berlin, QNG; and American pianist Jeremy Denk.  The festival will also feature eighth blackbird performing the world premiere of Steven Mackey’s Slide, together with actor/singer Rinde Eckert, and the composer himself on electric guitar. Co-commissioned by the Ojai Music Festival, Slide is a concert-length, multidisciplinary, music/theater work about the seduction and manipulation of the American psyche.

In programming the festival, eighth blackbird flutist Tim Munro explains, “Variety is important.  We talk often about creating a well-balanced meal – not too salty or spicy or sweet – where all elements combine.”  Further Ojai plans will be announced shortly. 

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eighth blackbird: selected engagements, winter-spring 2009

March 18-25, Richmond Residency, University of Richmond, VA

March 25, Performance with Glenn Kotche of Wilco

Modlin Center for the Arts

March 27, Berlin Festival (German debut)

“The Only Moving Thing”

Haus der Berliner Festspiele

April 4, Chicago, IL

Contempo / MCA    

April 6-10, Richmond Residency, University of Richmond, VA 

April 19, Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, La Jolla, CA


April 20-25, Residency, Colburn School, Los Angeles, CA

April 26, Colburn School, Los Angeles, CA

Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire; Hartke: Meanwhile; Reich: Double Sextet

April 30, Kalamazoo, MI

“Pierrot Lunaire”

Fontana Chamber Arts

May 8, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH


Hopkins Center

May 15, Chicago, IL

Contempo – Tomorrow’s Music Today

Contempo/Fulton Recital Hall 

May 28, Chicago, IL

Contempo – Tomorrow’s Music Today

Contempo/Ganz Hall

June 11-14, Ojai, CA

Ojai Music Festival 

– February 26, 2009

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