Press Room

eighth blackbird’s 2009-10 season

eighth blackbird’s artistic leadership of
California’s venerable Ojai Music Festival in June has given the group a
jump-start on the new season.  The
sextet performed the world premiere of Steve Mackey and Rinde Eckert’s Slide at Ojai, and has added
a mini-tour of Slide performances to its 2009-10 schedule – which is already
crowded with concerts and school residencies in Philadelphia, Maryland, and
California.  Once again the members
of eighth blackbird have won new audiences with a work that exploits all their
talents – for music, choreography, drama, and memorization.

By way of a new-season preview, eighth
blackbird made a sparkling debut at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival with
the world premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Grazioso!, which is repeated in a
program titled “Spam” at the group’s first concert of the new season, on
September 16 at the University of Richmond, Virginia.  Two other world premieres are planned: a work by Carlos
at New York’s Look & Listen Festival in May, and a new
concerto by Jennifer Higdon for an Atlanta debut in June.

eighth blackbird has now incorporated
Turnage’s Grazioso! into “Meanwhile”, the group’s most frequently performed program
of the season, and one of a number of programs combining music by several
composers.  Another popular program
returning to the schedule is “The Only Moving Thing”.  The latter includes Steve Reich’s
Pulitzer Prize-winning composition for eighth blackbird, Double Sextet, which the group
commissioned and premiered, and has just finished recording for Nonesuch.  A new production of Schoenberg’s Pierrot
, newly choreographed by Mark DeChiazza, will have its
premiere in Chicago on December 8 and be repeated, with Double Sextet, in Los Angeles on April 28.  As a spectacular season finale, eighth blackbird makes its
debut with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on June 3, in the world premiere of a
new concerto by Jennifer Higdon that was composed for the group.

2009-10 repertoire

Having so many complex pieces in
repertory at any given time is remarkable, all the more so because eighth
blackbird memorizes many of the works in its repertoire to facilitate playing
while moving around the stage or performance space.

eighth blackbird describes the two main
programs of the season, in order of performance:

“The all-acoustic ‘Meanwhile’features a variety of
works, most written specifically for eighth blackbird.  Some of them are old favorites, while
others are spanking new.  ‘Meanwhile’ includes Missy
Mazzoli’s Still Life with Avalanche; Pierre Boulez’s Dérive 1; Marc Mellits’s Spam; Mark-Anthony Turnage’s
Grazioso!; George Perle’s Critical Moments 2; Frederic Rzewski’s Moutons
de Panurge
; Kati Agocs’s Immutable Dreams; Thomas Adès’s Catch; and Stephen Hartke’s Meanwhile.”

 “Meanwhile” is to be performed in
Birmingham AL, Los Angeles, Louisville KY, La Jolla CA, Cincinnati OH, Columbus
OH, New York, and elsewhere.  As
for “Slide”, which premiered at the Ojai Music Festival, the sextet
describes it as: 

“A concert-length music/theater work conceived,
written, and performed by eighth blackbird, Steve Mackey (composer/guitarist),
and Rinde Eckert (actor/singer). 
Eckert, a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, plays an
enigmatic psychologist struggling to describe an experiment that examines
subjects’ reactions to slides projected both in- and out-of-focus.  The results reveal that our decisions
are based on habits or conventions that make it difficult for us to see
clearly.  Slide uses the experiment as
a metaphor for today’s world, where persuasive images are employed to sell a
commercial or political product. 
The work explores the seduction and manipulation of the American
psyche.  The show’s goal is an
unmediated exploration and expression of sound, text, movement, and image.  eighth blackbird, Steven Mackey, and
the projected images play important onstage roles.”

Slide” will be performed in a
mini-tour that takes in Chicago, Richmond, and Maryland in March and April.

Programs that eighth blackbird is
performing only once each this season include “The
Only Moving Thing
”; Osvaldo
Golijov’s moving Ayre, with Dawn Upshaw (Chicago, Nov 17), which was toured
extensively in previous seasons; “Still Life with Avalanche”; and “Spam”, which is to be performed in
Richmond on Sep 16.  According to
the group’s web site, the last of these “explores the
ways rock music has influenced classical composition in the 21st
century.”  All the works are new to
the group.  “Douze Mains by Dutch composer Mayke Nas is a quirky ode to the
Beatles’ White Album, performed by six players who strum, pluck, and tap inside
the piano.  Englishman Mark-Anthony
Turnage was inspired by Led Zeppelin in his ironically titled Grazioso!, an aggressive, riff-based piece, while New York-based
Marc Mellits’s Spam is a fun, funky
homage to the cheap, pre-cooked meat product.  In contrast, Danish composer Bent Sorensen’s Deserted
is a sparse, fragile evocation
of a desolate, mysterious landscape.” 
The Only Moving Thing” returns
after successful performances in cities across the country.  The evening, chosen by eighth blackbird
especially for its debut in Minneapolis, features just two works, both
commissioned by the group: Steve Reich’s Double Sextet and singing in the dead of night by Pulitzer prize-winner David Lang, Michael Gordon, and
Julia Wolfe.  Susan Marshall
provides the stage direction, blending movement with new music.  The Washington Post calls it “new music you could bring home to your mother.”

Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, another solid part of
eighth blackbird’s history, remains a strange and unique work in music
history.  At 97 years of age, it
continues to shock and inspire awe. 
With new choreography by Mark DeChiazza made expressly for eighth blackbird, it should be as
dazzling as it was in Berlin in October, 1912 – or at the Ojai Music Festival,
where this version had its premiere. 
A previous eighth blackbird production, with Blair Thomas & Company
and soprano Lucy Shelton – who repeats her knockout performances in DeChiazza’s
version – has been a perennial audience favorite.  Chicago and Los Angeles will witness the only two performances
of the new one this season, in December and April.

Works getting the eighth blackbird treatment for the
first time this season include Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Grazioso!, Bent Sorensen’s otherworldly Deserted
, Mayke
Nas’s funky Twelve Hands, Marc Mellits’s Spam, and Pierre Boulez’s intricate Dérive 1.  Special repertoire choices include Canadian Gordon Fitzell’s
evanescence for
the Winnipeg debut: Fitzell’s an eighth blackbird favorite, and he teaches in

World premieres of two compositions are scheduled
this season, separated by only a month. 
At New York City’s fairly youthful Look & Listen Festival on May 7, Carlos
Sánchez-Gutiérrez’s new work will be performed.  Sánchez-Gutiérrez, on sabbatical leave from the Eastman
School of Music, was born in Mexico, and won a 2008 Fromm Music Foundation
commission that will result in this work for eighth blackbird.  On June 3, the sextet partners with the
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (an Atlanta debut as well) for a concerto written by Jennifer
, the
prolific and popular Philadelphia-based composer.

residencies and debuts 

Academic residencies have become an important part of
the ensemble’s life, for both teaching and performing.  In addition to its long-term and
multi-term faculty relationships with the University of Chicago and Virginia’s
University of Richmond, eighth blackbird is in residence this season at
Philadelphia’s distinguished Curtis Institute, the University of Maryland, and
the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.  Numerous other eighth blackbird concert
engagements take place on college campuses.

As the ensemble’s reputation continues to
grow, it is making debuts this season in Minneapolis, Birmingham AL, Naperville
IL, Pembroke NC, and
Winnipeg.  eighth blackbird also
performs for the first time with the Atlanta Symphony.

highlights of last season

A new program added sparkle to a line-up that
included a reprise of the smash hit program “The Only Moving Thing”, back by
popular demand. 
A new musical “partner” in the form of Glenn Kotche – aka the drummer
for the hit indie-rock band Wilco – joined eighth blackbird for dates at
Chicago’s Harris Theater and the Modlin Center for the Arts at University of
Richmond.  The group made a
continental debut in Australia early in the season and two more international
debuts – in England and Rotterdam – in November.  eighth blackbird jammed with students at Ohio’s Oberlin
Conservatory and New York City’s Kitchen; tried out its new program
(“Meanwhile”) in Arizona before taking it on the road; had academic residencies
in its customary places – the Universities of Chicago and of Richmond, VA – and
added a new one, the Colburn School in Los Angeles; teamed up with England’s
crack vocal group, the Hilliard Ensemble, in Chicago; and had major west-coast
dates in the summer at California’s Ojai Music Festival, where the group took
the reigns as Music Director, and at New Mexico’s honored Santa Fe Chamber
Music Festival, where it made its debut.

blackbird’s Cedille recording of strange imaginary animals won the 2008 Grammy Award for
Best Chamber Music Performance
, having become one of the most reviewed and most
consistently praised new CDs of 2007, garnering ink and kudos in more than 20publications, and on countless web sites, blogs, and

A list of eighth blackbird’s 2009-10 season key
engagements follows below, with full program information; and much additional
information is available at the group’s web site:


eighth blackbird’s 2009-10 season engagements:

Sep 14-18

Richmond, VA

University of
Richmond, Residency 1

Modlin Center
for the Arts

Sep 16

As above


Sep 22

AL – debut


University, Brock Recital Hall

Oct 4

Pembroke, NC
– debut


UNC Pembroke,
Moore Recital Hall

Oct  5-9

Richmond, VA

University of
Richmond, Residency 2

Modlin Center
for the Arts

Oct 14-16

Los Angeles,

USC Residency


Alfred Newman
Recital Hall

Oct 16

As above


Nov 2-6

Richmond, VA

University of
Richmond, Residency 3

Modlin Center
for the Arts

Nov 14

Chicago, IL

Death, and Devil”

(works by Frederic Rzewski, Karim Al-Zande, Andres Carrizo)

Contempo /
Ganz Hall

Nov 15



Chamber Music
Society of Louisville

Concert Hall

Nov 17

Chicago, IL

Golijov: Ayre

with Dawn

University of

Mandel Hall

Nov 21

La Jolla, CA


UC San Diego
– The Loft, Price Center East

Nov 22

San Diego, CA

Lecture &


Dec 8

Chicago, IL

Schoenberg: Pierrot


Dec 12

Park, IL

Institute of Chicago Residency


Jan 12


“Meanwhile” ,
incl. Double Sextet

Chamber Music


Jan 16

Chicago, IL

“Where Jazz
& Contemporary Music Intersect”

Contempo /
Harris Theater

Jan 20

IL – debut

“Still Life
with Avalanche”

Turnage: Grazioso!

Fitzell: Violence

Mayke Nas: Douze

Missy Mazzoli:
Still Life with Avalanche

Adès: Catch

Glass: Double

North Central

Wentz Concert

Jan 25-29

Richmond, VA

University of
Richmond, Residency 4

Modlin Center
for the Arts

Feb 11

Manitoba – debut

Fitzell: evanescence

Reich: Double

Adès: Catch

Hartke: Meanwhile

Symphony Orchestra

New Music

Feb 13

Evanston, IL



Feb 18-19

Erie, PA

Penn State
Erie, Residency

Feb 19

Erie, PA


Penn State
Erie – Logan Series

Feb 21




Concert Hall

Feb 22- 24


Institute of Music, Residency

Feb 24


and other

blackbird and 20/21

Curtis Institute
of Music

Field Concert

March 1-5

Richmond, VA

University of
Richmond, Residency 5

Modlin Center
for the Arts

March 3

Richmond, VA


Modlin Center
for the Arts

March 24

Chicago, IL



April 5-10

College Park,

University of
MD, Residency

April 9 &

College Park,


Clarice Smith
Performing Arts Center

Recital Hall

April 17

Columbus, OH


Chamber Music


April 19-23

Richmond, VA

University of
Richmond, Residency 6

Modlin Center
for the Arts

April 28

Los Angeles,

; Double

Los Angeles
County Museum of Art

Bing Theater

April 29



State University Northridge

Plaza del Sol

May 1

MN – debut

“The Only
Moving Thing”

Walker Art
Center, McGuire Theater

May 7

New York City

New work
by Carlos Sánchez-Gutiérez

Look &
Listen Festival

May 8

New York, NY


Symphony Concerts

Irving High School

May 14 &

Chicago, IL

Music Today


June 3, 5,
& 6

Atlanta, GA


Higdon: Concerto

Symphony Orchestra – debut

Woodruff Arts

© 21C Media Group, September 2009

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