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

Main Stage

Eight Things to Know about Eighth Blackbird

Mixed instrumental sextet Eighth Blackbird has been at the vanguard of a new generation of music and musicians since they joined forces in 1996. Winners of four Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance, the ensemble shows no signs of slowing down. They’ll perform at Sanders Theatre on February 8 in a program of new and established works, including pieces they’ve commissioned.

Here are 8 things you might not know about this adventurous ensemble:

1. Hello my name is…

Eighth Blackbird takes their name from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. They even dedicated the title of their second album, “Thirteen Ways,” released in 2003 to the poem. The stanza reads:

I know noble accents / And lucid, inescapable rhythms; / But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved / In what I know.

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Arts for All, Neighborhood Arts

Video: Heart of the Holidays – A Global Celebration of Song

Video Production: Kristín Otharsson

The winter holidays are a time to share the joy, cheer, and celebration of being together. They also offer up a unique opportunity to look at the stories we tell about ourselves, others around us, and the ways we choose to live.

Last month, Neighborhood Arts presented Heart of the Holidays: A Global Celebration of Song, featuring Guy Mendilow Ensemble and Boston City Singers, with narration by Regie Gibson and special guest Courtney Swain.

Unlike other holiday programs, this event didn’t focus on traditional holiday music. Instead, audiences were invited to immerse themselves in the essence of the season through a trove of tales of sparking light just when it’s darkest all around, of realizing abundance at the height of scarcity, and of how we triumph in hard times ­– as individuals and as a society, long ago and now. Continue Reading

Dance, Main Stage

Program Announced! Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, March 22-25

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns this March for 5 performances at the Boch Center Wang Theatre, and we’re excited to share details on this year’s program. This year features two Boston premieres, re-staged classics, and three works by Artistic Director Robert Battle — as well as Alvin Ailey’s signature work, Revelations, set to close each program. No matter which date you choose, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience! Continue Reading

Dance, Main Stage

Brazil’s Electric Dance Company, Grupo Corpo, Returns to Boston

With its seductive movement, scintillating music, vibrant costuming, sets, and lighting, Grupo Corpo reflects the amazing diversity and rich color of Brazil. The company is renowned for its stunning physicality, dynamic ability, and rich visual finesse. This tremendously popular dance company returns to the Celebrity Series with two thrilling new works by Rodrigo Pederneiras, Suite Branca and Danca Sinfonica.

Celebrity Series is pleased to offer an artist post-performance talk on Sunday, January 28, with Grupo Corpo choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras. This 20-minute talk, moderated by Peter DiMuro of The Dance Complex, will be held in front of the stage immediately following the Sunday afternoon performance. DiMuro shares his perspective on the company ahead of its Boston return.

By Peter DiMuro

Grupo Corpo in Suite Branca

Grupo Corpo returns to Boston and Celebrity Series — and with the return comes the opportunity to delve deeper into what makes this electric company sing their own version of the body electric.

When the Brazilian company last visited, I wrote in this space that the whole feel of the company was definitely “of” its culture, but definitely the dance was not a folk dance. Much in the way in our own American view, Appalachian clogging is so totally an American folk dance, we recognize Grupo Corpo’s dancers moving as if infused with the rhythm of Latin dances, with the tactile-ness and the quick shift in focus — intense and then alternately cool — that comes in social dances of Brazil. Continue Reading

Main Stage, Speaker

“You’ll Never Regret a Moment You Spend with Lincoln”

Tony Kushner, photo by Joan Marcus

Authorities on history, politics, and presidents, playwright Tony Kushner and author Sarah Vowell have defined American theater and historical non-fiction for the better part of two decades. On January 20, they’ll appear together at Sanders Theatre with moderator and Harvard historian John Stauffer to examine the enduring legacy of one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln.

The idea to bring these two social commentators together was the brainchild of Steven Barclay, the agent they both share. As Kushner and Vowell told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2016, their paths have crossed several times over the years: Kushner was the commencement speaker when Vowell graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Kushner narrated parts of the audiobook version of Vowell’s 2005 book, Assassination Vacation, a road trip through the memorials and monuments of America’s first three assassinated presidents.

Still bringing people together over 150 years after his death, both Kushner and Vowell share a deep admiration and respect for our 16th President. Continue Reading

Arts for All, Boston Community, Dance

Watch the Video: Revelations – The Legacies of Alvin Ailey and Boston’s Elma Lewis

Photo (above) by Robert Torres

In a turbulent 1968, Celebrity Series of Boston took a chance with a one-night engagement of a dynamic African-American dance company. Choreographer Alvin Ailey’s mission to reflect and promote African-American traditions and art-making took hold in Boston that night. Across town that year, Boston arts educator and social activist Elma Lewis founded the National Center of Afro-American Artists to enhance appreciation for black art forms and their practitioners. It remains the largest independent Black cultural arts institution in New England.

Last month, we celebrated these groundbreaking cultural leaders in a lively discussion with their friends, colleagues, and some of today’s artists inspired by their work. Thanks to everyone who joined us at John Hancock Hall for REVELATIONS: The Legacies of Alvin Ailey and Boston’s Elma Lewis.  Continue Reading

Dance, Main Stage

Un, Deux, Trois … 3 Reasons to See Compagnie Accrorap

Founded by French choreographer Kader Attou, Compagnie Accrorap began as a collective of talented hip-hop dancers. Now traveling the world with 11 of the industry’s top male dancers, they’ll bring their high energy performances of The Roots to the Boch Shubert Theatre February 2-3, 2018. Don’t miss these 11 phenoms in their Boston debut!

Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t miss Compagnie Accrorap:


Un: The founder of Compagnie Accrorap mixes choreographic styles

Founder of Compagnie Accrorap, Kadder Attou (pictured left), originally from Lyon, France, created a new “movement language” utilizing hip hop, Indian kathak, and contemporary dance. Once thought of as street dance, Attou elevates the style to a stage-ready art form, thrilling audiences every step of the way. He believes mashing up these styles teaches the dancers and audiences about not only each genre, but also about other cultures and people.. Attou was appointed Director of the National Choreographic Center of La Rochelle / Poitou-Charentes in France in 2008, becoming the first hip hop choreographer appointed to lead such an institution.


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Classical, Main Stage, Piano

Jeremy Denk and Stefan Jackiw Explore Charles Ives this January

Pianist Jeremy Denk has long relished tackling the thorny works of American composer Charles Ives. Well known for his thoughtful writing on music at his blog Think Denk, he delights in the deep dive into Ives’s music.

He told The Boston Globe in 2010, “Ives wants to re-create the raw experience of music-making, something unfiltered, and beyond all your piano lessons; though writing fiendishly difficult piano music, he wants you to remember there is something more important than just ‘playing well’; while driving me crazy, he reminds me why I play the piano at all.”

He’ll remind us all of that lesson when he and violinist Stefan Jackiw partner for an incredible evening of music-making on January 26 at NEC’s Jordan Hall. Denk will expand on Ives with a spoken introduction before they perform Sonatas Nos. 1-4 when he will touch on Ives’ desperate nostalgia and thematic elements in the works. They’ll be joined by the five singers of Hudson Shad, an all-male a cappella ensemble who will perform various hymns and songs before the performance of the sonata in which they are quoted.

Credit: Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

Denk is quoted as saying, “It’s not [the] so-called historical importance that makes me love the music. There is a terrific tenderness emanating from this dissonant, difficult music: a tenderness for experiences of childhood, for the ‘uneducated,’ fervid hymn-singing of camp meetings, for the silliness of ragtime, for the quaint wistful corners of ballads.” Continue Reading

Boston Community, Neighborhood Arts

See Our Favorite Moments from Dorchester & Roxbury Stringfests

Video Production by: Kristín Otharsson
Photos by: Robert Torres

Thank you to everyone who joined us for two more standout Neighborhood Arts events: Dorchester Stringfest on Saturday, December 2, and Roxbury Stringfest on Sunday, December 3! Students from Bridge Boston & Conservatory Lab Charter Schools took the stage at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Dorchester with Soul Yatra Trio, featuring Mike Block (cello), Sandeep Das (tabla), & Shaw Pong Liu (violin/erhu). At Hibernian Hall in Roxbury, Boston City-Wide String Orchestra and City Strings United joined the Castle of Our Skins string quartet. Watch our video recap of the Dorchester Stringfest and scroll down to see a few of our favorite moments from both Dorchester and Roxbury. Continue Reading