Main Stage

Rob Kapilow Talks Bernstein

Video Production: Kristín Otharsson

In honor of the centennial of his birth, Rob Kapilow examines the songs of Leonard Bernstein with contemporary works from Broadway of the era. With music from Bernstein’s early production Wonderful Town (1946) to Bernstein’s landmark musical, West Side Story (1957), and a few familiar Broadway favorites of the time, Kapilow and the brilliant young soprano, Jessica Rivera, explore the brilliant songwriting of this American master.

Hear more about the program from Kapilow himself, and join us at Sanders Theatre on Friday, March 9. Reserve your seats today!

Jazz, Main Stage

Five Fast Facts About Jazz Clarinetist and Bandleader Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen, the renowned jazz clarinetist and bandleader from Tel Aviv, returns to the Celebrity Series for her third concert with us on Saturday, March 10 at 8pm at Sanders Theatre. She’s bringing her Tentet (literally 10 musicians) to the stage to perform songs from their latest album, Happy Song, as well as other favorite tunes.

You probably know her as a prolific composer and established bandleader, but there’s plenty you may not know. Here are our five facts you don’t know about Anat:

  1. Her Boston roots run deep

    A 1998 graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Anat spent a few years living and working in Boston before moving to New York City in 1999. In fact, her musical ties in Boston include her own siblings! Her musician brothers Yuval (saxophone) and Avishai (trumpet) also attended Berklee. The three often collaborate together and have released four albums as part of the “3 Cohens Sextet.”

  2. She’s an ambassador for the clarinet, but started out playing tenor sax

    Anat wasn’t always enamored with the clarinet. While she studied the clarinet as a pre-teen, she gradually switched over to the tenor saxophone in order to play in her high school jazz ensembles. She played the tenor sax for two years in the Israeli Air Force Band and was highly influenced by the music of John Coltrane. However, after she became a bandleader in 2004, she started integrating the clarinet into more of her set lists. By 2007 she had fully established herself as a clarinetist in her own mind and heart. Since then, she’s been the winner of “Clarinetist of the Year” titles from DownBeatJazzTimes, and the Jazz Journalists Association.

  3. She founded her own record label

    Anat founded her record label, Anzic Records, in 2005. The mission of Anzic is to involve the musicians in all facets of their albums, from ideation to marketing to distribution. Anat’s latest album with her 10-piece band, Happy Song, has just been released by the label. The Tentet will bring this new collaboration to Sanders Theatre at the start of their North American tour, and the concerts will feature her musical co-arranger and Anzic business partner Oded Lev-Ari, who she has known since high school in Israel.

  4. She connects with Brazilian music naturally. É mesmo? Yes, really!

    Brazilian musicians often play traditional tunes in a circle. Anat noticed that they shared a special way of passing the melody back and forth while maintaining a great deal of respect for each other and the music. Anat told The New York Times that someone asked her to play on a choro gig, and that’s when she realized her clarinet fit in perfectly with the folkloric vibe of the music. Since then, she’s had a passion for the music and founded a band dedicated to the genre called Choro Aventuroso.

  5. She loves to rock out on the clarinet

    Anat has said she loves a lot of sound underneath the clarinet, and her Tentet provides the texture and layers she’s looking for in concert so she can go wild. Clarinets can be a part of any style of music, and has lots of personality and sound in its own right. It can be soft or it can wail, and Anat loves pushing the instrument to its extremes. Musical Director Oded Lev-Ari says this “unorthodox” group of instruments forces him to find creative way to arrange the ensemble’s music.

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Dance, Main Stage

Circa: Today’s Show Is Brought to You by the Letter S

Since 2004 Circa has been at the frontier of a new vision of circus arts—creating powerful works that challenge, thrill and delight. Featuring an ensemble of multi-skilled artists under the direction of Yaron Lifschitz, Circa’s award-winning works have been seen in 34 countries across six continents. A powerfully emotive work, “S” is sinuous, seductive, sophisticated, sensual and savage. Inspired by the shape, grammatical functions and sound of the 19th letter of the alphabet, “S” will fill the stage with the raw immediacy of performers at their physical and emotional limits. “S” is performed to music of Kimmo Pohjonen, Samuli Kosminen and the Kronos Quartet.

Celebrity Series is pleased to offer an artist post-performance talk on Saturday, March 3, with Circa Tour Director, Thea Blossom. This 20-minute talk, moderated by Peter DiMuro of The Dance Complex, will be held in front of the stage immediately following the Saturday evening performance. DiMuro shares his perspective on the company ahead of its Boston return.

By Peter DiMuro

Today’s show is brought to you by the letter S.

We’ve had Sesame Street introducing letters of the alphabet for decades now here in the US. Reciting their own ABCs from Brisbane, Australia, we get a wildly different take on the 19th letter of the alphabet.

Back for a return visit to us at Celebrity Series, the performance company Circa brings us “S,” an 85-minute, one act of a tour de force in movement, comprised of a non-stop accumulation of physical task-like vignettes, performed by a seven-person, no-nonsense ensemble of dancer/gymnast/performers.

Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz and the Circa company took to experimenting with the arcs and curvesliterallyof the shape of the letter S. For those of us who have followed the arc of dance, and the arc of arts for that matter, the exercise is akin to Postmodernism.

Here in the US, in the ’60s and ’70s, the Judson Church group in New York City became famous for their breaking down of the formalism of classic modern dance. They said “no” to what was perceived as melodrama in the narrative dances of Martha Graham or Jose Limon, and, through the likes of Trisha Brown, helped create in ways akin to Postmodernism in the visual art world. The movement studies and dances made from these experiments were conceptual and simple, but not simplistic. Studies developed into full arcs of dances that fulfilled the elements of time, space, and dimension. Dance had re-found itself in a new form. Continue Reading

Dance, Main Stage

Circa Returns to Boston: Learn More About the Circus Arts from a Local Expert

By Alexandra Contreras

Circa Contemporary Circus is coming back to Boston to delight us once more with their thrilling creations and explorations between movement, dance, theater, and circus. This time, the company brings its powerful show “S,” which is inspired by the shape, grammatical functions and sounds of the 19th letter of the alphabet.

Students practicing at Esh Circus Arts in Somerville. Courtesy Esh Circus Arts.

In preparation for Circa’s return to Boch Center’s Shubert Theatre on March 2-4, the Celebrity Series of Boston turned to some local experts to learn a little more about the secrets behind the circus arts. To do so, we spoke with Ellen Waylonis, a Boston-based performer and coach, and one of the owners of both Esh Circus Arts in Somerville and Commonwealth Circus Center in Boston. These studios offer programs for many different circus arts and for every level, focusing on building strength and confidence and most importantly, on having lots of fun!

Read what Ellen had to say about this equally challenging and thrilling art form:

Celebrity Series: How does one develop the self-confidence to try moves that seem scary and dangerous?

Ellen: Circus training, like all physical training, is about starting with a strong foundation. Before climbing high into the air on a trapeze or doing a handstand or back tuck on another person, circus arts students (both recreational and professional) spend a lot of time building strength, coordination, and flexibility doing lower risk and less complex skills and drills on or near the ground. By the time you’re high in the air, you’ve built up your technique and know exactly what your body can do. Continue Reading

Arts for All, Boston Community, Neighborhood Arts

Press pause and connect with each other: An interview with musician Shaw Pong Liu

What’s an erhu? And how is it related to an instrument we all know, the violin?

Photo by Robert Torres

Musician and Celebrity Series Neighborhood Artist Shaw Pong Liu seeks to share and demystify this ancient Chinese instrument, considered a predecessor of the contemporary violin. Liu, a triple hyphenate performer-composer-educator, certainly has good cause to bring this unique instrument to the forefront this season. Her upcoming concerts, Exploring the Middle Kingdom: China in Song and Story, take place during school vacation week (February 20-22) at Boston Public Library branches in Mattapan, Dorchester, and Hyde Park.

“The erhu and the violin share common ancestors from central Asia,” Shaw Pong explains. “Both instruments use a horse-hair bow, which originated in Central Asia. They are both made of wood and use metal strings (violin originally used gut strings, the erhu silk strings). However, they also have differences in terms of their shape and construction. The violin has 4 strings, the erhu 2 strings, and the erhu has a very distinctive sound due to its shape and use of python snake skin as a resonating surface.” Continue Reading

Artist Connections, Arts for All, Boston Community

Compagnie Accrorap’s Public Workshop at The Dance Complex

Words and Photos by: Alexandra Contreras

On the morning of Saturday, February 3, dancers of all ages and backgrounds met at The Dance Complex for a workshop taught by two cast members of French dance company Compagnie Accrorap. They shared some of their knowledge about hip hop, breakdancing, and locking while creating a fun environment where creativity and exploration were at its highest. The workshop ranged from activities and explorations across the floor, in a circle, individually, with partners, and in small groups. Throughout the two hours of dancing the teachers related some of their movements and explanations to hip hop’s influence from tap, martial arts, capoeira, and salsa –to name a few. And during every activity they encouraged dancers to try and explore new movements, qualities, and speeds while listening to their bodies and feeling the music.

In only two hours, a sense of community and camaraderie had already been established among the dancers and one could see that everyone was feeling way more comfortable in the style. This just served to show yet another impact of hip hop and dance, which successfully unites people of different techniques and paths. At the end of class, both company dancers shared an impressive improvisation which gave a preview and piqued the excitement of those who were going to see them that night at Boch Center’s Shubert Theatre in the company’s show The Roots. Directed and choreographed by Kader Attou, The Roots is a 90-minute show of 11 male dancers doing equally breathtaking and intriguing movements in pieces that gave tribute to the origins of hip hop. Continue Reading

Classical, Main Stage, Pianist

Read the Reviews: Jeremy Denk and Stefan Jackiw with Hudson Shad, “The Complete Ives Violin Sonatas”

Photos: Robert Torres

For those in attendance at last Friday’s presentation of “The Complete Ives Violin Sonatas,” it was an evening to remember. Pianist Jeremy Denk and violinist Stefan Jackiw gave a thoughtful and engaging performance of Charles Ives’ four violin sonatas, joined by vocal ensemble Hudson Shad, who performed the various hymns from which Ives’ drew his inspiration.

Read what the critics had to say about the performance, and view a few of our favorite photos below, captured by Celebrity Series photographer Robert Torres.


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Dance, Main Stage

Grupo Corpo’s Return to Boston

Words by: Alexandra Contreras
Photos by: Robert Torres

This weekend the Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo returned to Boston’s Boch Center Shubert Theatre for its second engagement with Celebrity Series of Boston. The program began with Cassi Abranches’ Suite Branca (White Suite), in which white prevailed in both costumes and landscapes to embody a blank page where a new story was being written. After the intermission, the shift in tone was set immediately with the black landscape and wine-red velvet curtains of Rodrigo Pederneiras’ Danca Sinfonica (Symphonic Dance). In celebration of the company’s 40th anniversary, the piece’s backdrop displayed more than a thousand photographs of the people who contributed to the company’s history, while the dancing continued to represent the group’s strength and electricity.

After Sunday’s performance, Peter DiMuro from The Dance Complex moderated a conversation with choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras, who was joined by executive producer Michelle Deslande and two company dancers. The artists spoke about the company’s culture and choreographic process, shedding light on how they have become a family and how they keep a 40-year-old organization innovative and fresh. Continue Reading

Artist Connections, Arts for All, Classical

Jeremy Denk and Stefan Jackiw Lead a Harvard Master Class Ahead of Friday’s Performance

Ahead of this Friday’s Complete Ives Violin Sonatas performance, pianist Jeremy Denk and violinist Stefan Jackiw will lead a master class at Harvard University. Join us this Thursday evening at 5pm at Holden Chapel to hear the artists coach three Harvard student trios. Jackiw is a 2007 Harvard graduate and Boston-native.

The class is free and open to the public. Learn more on Harvard’s website.

Master Class Details:

Date/Time: Thursday, January 25, 2018, 5:00pm
Location: Holden Chapel, Harvard Yard
Presented by: Harvard’s Learning from Performers and the Celebrity Series of Boston
Admission: Free and open to the public
More Info:
Denk and Jackiw will be joined by vocal ensemble Hudson Shad to perform the Complete Ives Violin Sonatas this Friday at NEC’s Jordan Hall. Tickets and additional information.
Jazz, Main Stage

A Look Back at the Birth of Afro-Cuban Jazz with Chucho Valdés & Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Chucho Valdés is inarguably the godfather of modern Afro-Cuban jazz. When the legendary pianist founded his revolutionary band, Irakere in 1973, he didn’t know his ensemble would lay the groundwork for Cuban music to transcend political and musical barriers, and inspire generations of jazz artists.

One of these artists who looked up to Valdés is the Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Twenty years younger than Valdés, Rubalcaba exploded onto the international jazz scene in the 80s with his Afro-Cuban fusion band, Grupo Proyecto.

Coming together for the first time as a piano duo in America, these two groundbreaking artists will only perform twice in America before touring across the major jazz centers of Europe. Using both of the New England Conservatory’s Steinway pianos at Jordan Hall, these two musical masters will perform with the pianos arranged face-to-face, communicating their musical passion and improvisations with each other and the audience. Their show Trance speaks to the profound musical collaboration and legacy the two pianists share. Continue Reading