Emi Ferguson: Hello, I'm Emi Ferguson. On today's show, we'll hear music from young artists who are reinvigorating music of the past for today, here on this edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.
Today, we'll be featuring performances from young artists who are experimenting with early music from Europe and America, and who are redefining what the term early music means. We'll start tonight's show with a performance from the Baroque Early Music Ensemble Twelfth Night, which is based here in New York City, and Helmed by harpsichordist David Belkowski and 2020 Avery Fisher Career Grant winner violinist, Rachell Ellen Wong. Here's Rachell, David, and the musicians of Twelfth Night performing Baroque composer, Georg Philipp Telemann’s Sonata a 4.
MUSIC - Telemann: Sonata a 4 in A Minor
The Baroque ensemble, Twelfth Night performing Georg Philipp Telemann's Sonata for four on original instruments. When the violin developed in the late 16th century, musicians were quick to adapt it to their music making, and while genre, as we know it, didn't exist back then, the violin did find its way into all types of music.
The violin was the perfect instrument to travel with, and musicians brought it and their music as they moved to new cities, countries, and even continents, blending the music of their homelands with that of the places they passed through and eventually settled in to create new fusions. For violinist Tessa Lark, who's also an Avery Fisher Career Grant awardee, and who's been on The Young Artists Showcase many times, fusing together musical traditions has always been natural. On her 2019 album, Inventions, created with bassist and composer Michael Thurber, they sought to capture all of their musical influences in one cohesive body of work with J. S. Bach as the anchor.
For Tessa and Mike, Bach's two-part inventions illuminate the full expressive possibility for two musical voices. You can hear these melodies laugh, mourn, swoon, and argue as they meticulously intertwine. And in the spirit of these inventions and of Baroque performance practice of musical response and development, Tessa and Mike invented their own set of duos in response to Bach's. Tessa and Mike's inventions incorporate elements of American music that the bass and violin have been integral to. From Appalachia to New Orleans, all counterpoint with Bach's keyboard inventions arranged for the violin and bass. Here's Tessa Lark and Michael Thurber performing Bach's first and eighth inventions and their own tunes, "Tumble Time" and "Weather Vane."
MUSIC - Bach: Invention No.1 in C Major, BWV 772, arr for violin and bass
MUSIC - Thurber & Lark: Tumble Time
MUSIC - Bach: Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779, arr. for violin and bass
MUSIC - Thurber & Lark: Weather Vane
That was violinist Tessa Lark and bassist Michael Thurber, performing Bach's first and eighth inventions and their compositional responses, "Tumble Time" and "Weather Vane" that fused together their classical and American musical influences. Tessa grew up in Kentucky and was immersed in the fiddle and bluegrass traditions that she always naturally combined with her classical training.
All of these types of violin playing share their origins in the 16th century where the violin was used for dance music, and it's pretty crazy to think that so many instruments from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries are still in use today. A few years ago, Tessa even got to play on one of the most famous vintage violins, a 1683 Stradivarius, inspiring her to invent the term "Stradgrass" after she played bluegrass on the extraordinary instrument. Stradgrass soon became Tessa's personal trademark, representing the synthesis of Tessa's musical styles. This May, she'll release a new album, The Stradgrass Sessions, featuring performances with other genre hopping American artists, mandolinist Sierra Hull, pianist Jon Batiste, bassist Edgar Meyer, and fiddle player Michael Cleveland. Here’s Tessa Lark with mandolinist Sierra Hull performing Chasin' Skies.
MUSIC - Tessa Lark and Sierra Hull: Chasin' Skies
Tessa Lark and Sierra Hull performing "Chasin' Skies" from Tessa's new album, The Stradgrass Sessions, out this May. I often hear echoes of fiddle playing in Baroque music. And here's Rachell Ellen Wong in the Baroque ensemble Twelfth Night performing two selections by Henry Purcell, and though they were composed in 17th century England, you can hear how they share so much with American folk music.
MUSIC - Purcell: La Furstemburg
MUSIC - Purcell: Rondeau from The Indian Queen
The Twelfth Night Ensemble performing La Furstemburg and Rondeau by Baroque composer Henry Purcell. All members of Twelfth Night are graduates of Julliard's historical performance program, and when we come back, we'll hear performances from young artists studying European early music in that program, as well as artists who are redefining American early music here on the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.
You're listening to The Young Artists Showcase. I'm Emi Ferguson, and tonight we're on a deep dive into the past as interpreted by young artists of today. Whether you call it early music, historical performance, or something else, all the artists featured tonight are students of history, often performing on instruments and in styles that composers of the past were familiar with.
But all of these performers are making this music their own, continuing on the living performance practice of this music, which encourages individuality, spontaneity, improvisation, and so much. Jake Blount is a banjoist, fiddler, singer, researcher, and specialist in the early folk music of Black Americans, and is a skilled performer of spirituals, blues, and string band repertoire.
Jake is a 2020 recipient of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize and two-time winner of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival, also known as Clifftop. Here is Jake Blount performing "We're Gonna Hunt the Buffalo" from a 2020 recording on WNYC's New Sounds.
MUSIC - Jake Blount: We’re Gonna Hunt the Buffalo
Jake Blount performing "We're Gonna Hunt the Buffalo" on WNYC's New Sounds. Jake is a multi-instrumentalist and researcher whose 2020 EP Spider Tales combines his interests in performing and in the scholarship and research of Black American Music. On the album, he features 14 carefully chosen tracks drawn from extensive research of Black and Indigenous mountain music.
Here's Jake Blount on banjo with violinist, Tatiana Hargreaves, and step dance percussionist Nic Gareiss, performing the pieces "Old-Timey Grey Eagle" by Manco Sneed and "Goodbye Honey, You Call That Gone" by Lucius Smith
MUSIC - Manco Sneed: Old-Timey Grey Eagle
MUSIC - Lucius Smith: Goodbye Honey, You Call That Gone
Jake Blount, Tatiana Hargreaves, and Nic Gareiss performing Manco Sneed's "Old-Timey Grey Eagle" and Lucius Smith's "Goodbye Honey, You Call That Gone." The works of Manco Sneed and Lucius Smith have influenced American music today, and their work is getting the attention it deserves because artists like Jake are researching and championing their music today.
All of the performers that you've heard tonight are united by their shared passions for research of the past and in synthesizing the various types of music that they love. Continuing on the living traditions of this music and infusing each tradition of an earlier piece with the music and influences that are important to them. The group Beneath a Tree was founded on that mutual love of historical performance and American folk music. Here they are performing their fusion track, Telemann Folk.
MUSIC - Beneath a Tree: Telemann Folk
Violinist Gail Hernandez Rosa, bassist Daniel Turkos, and guitarist Paul Holmes Morton performing Telemann Folk from the album My Cup of Tea, a fusion of Baroque and folk. Paul and I have collaborated on lots of different kinds of music, and he plays many different plucked instruments, including the Baroque guitar, theorbo, bouzouki, and maybe his favorite, the banjo.
So, when we were recording our album of Bach Sonatas and Preludes, Fly the Coop, we had to incorporate it. The next two tracks you'll hear feature Paul on the banjo and Elliot Figg on the organ, and meld together our love for Bach and for various styles of American music that have been so important to us. Here are two Preludes by Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged by me, Emi Ferguson, Paul Holmes Morton, and the continuo band Ruckus.
MUSIC - J.S. Bach: Prelude in C Minor
MUSIC - J.S. Bach: Prelude in E Major
Two Preludes by J. S. Bach from the album Fly the Coop, performed by me, Emi Ferguson with a continuo band, Ruckus, featuring Paul Holmes Morton on banjo, Elliot Figg on organ and harpsichord, Adam Cockerham on theorbo, Clay Zeller-Townson on Baroque bassoon, Shirley Hunt on Baroque cello, and Evan Premo on Baroque bass.
And speaking of Bach, we can imagine that he would've been so excited by all of these various styles of music that have developed in the United States. Bach loved making pieces personal and was always looking for moments for musicians he worked with to bring themselves into the music that they were making through improvisation.
Here in New York, young artists can delve into the study of historical performance practice focusing primarily on European early music at the Juilliard School's Historical Performance Program. The program is starting to expand to include American early music as well. After so many of the programs' graduates, many of whom you've heard tonight, have made it a priority in their careers.
Here's a live performance of a movement from Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto Number Three, performed by Juilliard 415.
MUSIC - J. S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
Students in the Juilliard School's Historical Performance Program known as Juilliard 415 performing Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto Number 3. It has been such a pleasure sharing music from so many wonderful artists this month. Thank you for having me, and I thought I'd leave you with one final treat.
Here's Ruckus with vocalist, John Taylor Ward performing the early American song from the Shape Note tradition "Family Bible."
MUSIC - The Southern Harmony: Family Bible
That was continuo band, Ruckus performing the early American song from the Shape Note tradition "Family Bible." The McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase is generously underwritten on WQXR by the Harold W McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. Here's Terry McGraw with more.
Terry McGraw: Good evening, everyone. It's great to be with you, and it's always great being with the Young Artists Showcase and to hear these really wonderful and inspiring musicians as they continue to share their incredible gifts with us every week. I can't wait to hear the fabulous talent coming up on The Showcase. And I am so pleased to be able to support the series all through its well over four decades on WQXR. And there's so much more to come.
Emi Ferguson: Thank you, Terry. And special thanks to Freedirt Records, The Juilliard School’s Historical Performance Department, John Schaefer, and all of the artists on today's show who have let us share their music. Many thanks to WQXR program producers Eileen Delahunty, Max Fine and Laura Boyman, with additional production assistance by Maya Cassady. And our generous program underwriter is the Harold W McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. I'm Emi Ferguson. Goodnight.
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