Tag Archive for: Concert

Makaris Celtic Band 12 musicians holding lyres, flutes, cellos standing against a stone wall

Close Encounters With Music presents the Celtic Baroque Band Makaris in “A Bach Family Concert with an Irish Twist” on Saint Patrick’s Day, Sunday, March 17, 4pm at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Violin, Guitar, Harp and Harpsichord Meet Bagpipes and Irish Whistle in a Cross-Genre Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration

In his dance suites, J.S. Bach ventures into Spanish sarabandes, French bourrées, and British gigues. He and family members delighted in arranging Celtic and Scottish folk music. They will be joined by Beethoven and Haydn who also forayed into Irish folk music with their own arrangements. Makaris formed in 2018 to explore the broad musical heritage of Scotland and the following year released its disc Wisps in the Dell, to critical international acclaim.

“Absolutely wonderful…one of the very best releases of 2019 – MusicWeb International).  A makar (pl. makaris) was a royal court troubadour of medieval Scotland and the program provides a lush sampling from the ensemble’s collection. “You can’t help but feel like you’ve suddenly traveled back in time and are enjoying a tankard of old Scottish ale inside a seedy establishment.”

Classical Music Sentinel

Scottish music proved creatively productive and financially lucrative for several composers during the 18th century. Haydn and Beethoven alone arranged hundreds of these traditional songs for home performance. The songs included dance calls, serenades, expressions of unrequited love, laments for lost loved ones, and all manner of joyous and gruesome subjects. Well-known names from orchestral music and opera clothed the folksy melodies and down-to-earth lyrics in sophisticated arrangements and their own styles. The ensemble Makaris’s debut CD, Wisps in the Dell, shows why this repertoire proved so popular with audiences and artists.

About Makaris

Members of New York-based 10-member Makaris include Fiona Gillespie, a classically-trained singer, songwriter and composer who holds degrees in voice performance from Westminster Choir College and the University of North Texas; and Eliott Figg, keyboardist, conductor and composer, a graduate of the Historical Performance Program at Juilliard who recently appeared with New Vintage Baroque and as conductor and harpsichordist with Little Opera Theatre of New York, with Spoleto Festival USA and L.A. Opera.  The leader of the ensemble, cellist, viola da gamba and lirone player Kivie Cahn Lipman performs and records with Le Strange Viols.  He formed ACRONYM Baroque Band, who have been guests of CEWM several times, because he discovered 17th-century music in old manuscripts which have to date translated into eight CDs of modern premieres recorded and more on the way! Cahn-Lipman is a graduate of Oberlin, Juilliard, and the University of Cincinnati where he received his doctorate studying under CEWM artistic director Yehuda Hanani.

Afterglow Reception Post Concert

As of this season, CEWM has fully resumed its hors d’oeuvres and wine receptions.  Audience members are invited to meet the artists and enjoy beverages and bites by Authentic Eats by Oleg on stage at the Afterglow receptions. The concert fortuitously coincides with St. Patrick’s Day. Join us for a toast!

Ticket Information

Tickets are $52 for Orchestra and Mezzanine and $25 for Balcony seats, can be purchased at www.cewm.org or by calling 800-843-0778. Pro-rated Season subscriptions for the remainder of 2024 ($185 Regular, $160 Senior), are available until February 11 at cewm.org. We also offer a virtual option—tickets are $28 for individual programs, delivered to your email address one week post performance.

“CEWM patrons have learned that sooner or later they’ll be blindsided by a performance so sublime it will defy explanation.”

— The Berkshire Edge

Town & Country—Mendelssohn and Dvorak

Performed Live at Saint James Place in Great Barrington, MA

Close Encounters’ Winter-Spring 2023 concerts sizzle and sparkle with a wide swath of genres, styles, composers, instruments—and of course, the great musicians who share their brilliant artistry.  “Town & Country,” presented on Saturday, February 18, juxtaposes two of the most beloved of classical composers—Felix Mendelssohn and Antonin Dvorak—in two of their most winsome works.  Mendelssohn’s precocious brilliance, polish and flair (Schumann famously described him as “the Mozart of the 19th century”) and Dvorak’s down-home lyricism are present in good measure in the works being performed. 

Glittering cosmopolitan Berlin and the village of Nelahozeves, Bohemia (now Czech Republic, population 2,200) are the respective places of origin of Felix Mendelssohn and Antonin Dvorak. Mendelssohn’s Trio in C minor offers some of his most exquisitely crafted music, with a magical scherzo right out of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The spirit of Slavic folk music is at the heart of the “Dumky” Trio, opus 90—showcasing Dvorak’s gifts of melody and inventiveness. The suave salon vs. fireside village dance; city lights and rural utopia if you will.

Performers are pianist Renana Gutman, a top prize winner in numerous competitions; Xiao-Dong Wang, one of the most brilliant violinists to come out of China; and internationally acclaimed cellist and artistic director Yehuda Hanani.

For the first time since the start of Covid in 2020, audience members are invited to a post-concert reception.  All ticket holders are welcome!

Tickets, $52 (Orchestra and Mezzanine), $28 (Balcony) and $15 for students, are available through Close Encounters With Music. Pro-rated subscriptions for the upcoming five concerts $175, a 35% savings! Virtual subscriptions and individual tickets are also available.

Complete Information on the season’s seven concerts can be found here

Saturday, February 18, 2023 6 PM, Saint James Place

Town & Country—Mendelssohn and Dvorak

Close Encounters With Music:

“Innovative and captivating…a smart blend of classical, contemporary, and cutting-edge.”

“CEWM patrons have learned that sooner or later they’ll be blindsided by a performance so sublime it will defy explanation.”  —  The Berkshire Edge


Praised by the New York Times for her “passionate and insightful” playing, Renana Gutman has performed across four continents as an orchestral soloist, recitalist and collaborative artist. She has appeared at The Louvre and Grenoble Museum (France); Carnegie Recital Hall, People’s Symphony Concerts, Merkin Hall (New York); St. Petersburg’s Philharmonia (Russia), Stresa Music Festival (Italy), Ravinia Rising Stars (Chicago), Jordan Hall and Gardner Museum (Boston); Herbst Theatre (San Francisco), Menuhin Hall (UK), UNISA (South Africa), and National Gallery, Phillips Collection, and Freer Gallery (Washington DC). Her performances are heard frequently on WQXR’s “Young Artists Showcase,” WFMT “Dame Myra Hess,” Chicago, and American Public Media’s “Performances Today.” Her recording of Chopin Etudes op.25 is soon to be released by “The Chopin Project.” A top prize winner at the Los Angeles Liszt competition, International Keyboard Festival in New York, and Tel-Hai International Master Classes in Israel, she has been the soloist with the Jerusalem Symphony, Haifa Symphony, Belgian “I Fiamminghi,” and Mannes College Orchestra. Her festival appearances include Marlboro and Ravinia. 

Named “one of the most polished performers of the post-Starker generation and a consistently expressive artist.” by The New York Times, Yehuda Hanani’s charismatic playing and profound interpretations bring him acclaim and reengagements across the globe. He has won wide international recognition as soloist, chamber musician and inspiring pedagogue. His concerto appearances have been with the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, San Antonio, New Orleans, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Radio Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, BBC Welsh Symphony, Irish National Symphony, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Jerusalem Symphony, Honolulu Symphony, Taipei and Seoul symphonies among many other orchestras, and he has toured with I Solisti de Zagreb, conducting from the cello. A frequent guest at Aspen, Bowdoin, Chautauqua, Yale at Norfolk, Great Lakes, Casals Prades, Finland Festival, Ottawa, Oslo, Round Top Institute, Manchester, and the Australia Chamber Music festivals, he has collaborated in performances with preeminent fellow musicians, including Leon Fleisher, Aaron Copland, Christoph Eschenbach, David Robertson, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Itzhak Perlman, Vadim Repin, Julian Rachlin, Dawn Upshaw, Yefim Bronfman, Eliot Fisk, the Tokyo, Vermeer, Muir, Escher, Ariel, Colorado, and Manhattan quartets. His recording of the monumental Alkan Cello Sonata received a Grand Prix du Disque nomination, and on CD and in live performances, he has given premières of works of Nikolai Miaskovsky, Lukas Foss, Leo Ornstein, Paul Schoenfield, Thea Musgrave, Joan Tower, Eduard Franck, Osvaldo Golijov, Lera Auerbach, Tamar Muskal, Virgil Thomson, William Perry and Pulitzer Prize winners Bernard Rands and Zhou Long. In New York City, he has appeared as soloist at Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y, Alice Tully, and the Metropolitan Museum. Among the early designers and proponents of thematic programming, his engaging chamber music with commentary series, Close Encounters With Music, has captivated audiences from Miami to Kansas City, Omaha, Detroit, Calgary, Scottsdale, the Berkshires, and at the Frick Collection in New York City. A three-time recipient of the Martha Baird Rockefeller grant, Mr. Hanani’s studies were with Leonard Rose at Juilliard and with Pablo Casals. He has inspired scores of cellists as Professor of Cello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and previously served on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory. Artistic director of Berkshire High Peaks Festival, he presents master classes internationally at conservatories and for orchestras, including the Juilliard School, University of Indiana at Bloomington, New England Conservatory, McGill University, Paris Conservatoire, Berlin Hochschule für Music, Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School in London, Tokyo National University, Jerusalem Academy of Music, the Central Conservatories in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, and the New World Symphony in Miami. In recognition of his distinguished teaching, he was given the title of honorary professor of the Tianjin Conservatory, China. His objective is to instill a sense of wonder and adventure in young musicians, to lead them to technical mastery and bridge tradition with innovation. He now is a member of the faculty of the Mannes College of Music in New York City.

Xiao-Dong Wang has been called the most talented violinist to emerge from China. He began his studies at age 3 with his father, concertmaster of the Shanghai Symphony; he then studied with the renowned teacher Zhao Ji-Yang at the Shanghai Conservatory. As first prize winner in the Menuhin International Violin Competition and the Wieniawski-Lipinski International Violin Competition at the ages of 13 and 15, he was brought to the attention of violin pedagogue Dorothy DeLay who arranged a four-year scholarship at Juilliard. Mr. Wang has performed as soloist with orchestras around the world, including the London Royal Philharmonic, the London Mozart Players, Adelaide, Perth, Queensland symphony orchestras and Sydney Opera Orchestra. His recording credits include the Bartok Concerto No. 2 and Szymanowski Concerto No. 1 for Polygram. He has also appeared performing on both violin and viola in chamber music concerts at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Aspen, Ravinia and festivals and music series worldwide. Wang was the resident soloist of the Shanghai Symphony for the 2012-13 season, during which time he also performed as a soloist with other major Chinese orchestras, including the China Philharmonic in Beijing. He is artistic director of the chamber music group Concertante, collaborating with world renowned musicians and producing a vast number of recordings.


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Liang Wang

Performed Live at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA, Sunday, May 29, 2022 at 4 PM

The organic voice of the oboe, a member of the woodwind family, meets kindred wood string instruments at the May 29 Close Encounters With Music performance. First oboist of the New York Philharmonic leads the way from Mozart’s Oboe Quartet to Cimarosa’s Oboe Concerto and Benjamin Britten’s Six Metamorphoses after Ovid, a musical masterpiece that will be accompanied by images of historic paintings of the mythological tales.   

The Metamorphoses is Ovid’s longest extant work, a continuous epic poem in fifteen books. Based on the poetry of Hesiod and Callimachus, it features a collection of separate stories linked by the common theme of transformation. A tour de force for oboe players, the programmatic work is a refresher course in Roman mythology and a rare experience for listeners to enjoy the full range of the oboe—from seductive to weeping to simulating flying chariots and thunderbolts, fountains and drunken feasts. 

Oboist Liang Wang is joined by violinists Itamar Zorman and Susan Heerema, violist Michael Strauss, and Close Encounters With Music artistic director and cellist Yehuda Hanani. Zorman, Strauss and Hanani also perform the Beethoven String Trio in C minor, written in his dramatic, misterioso key, with constant dialogue between minor and major, darkness and light. 

Click to purchase tickets to “Reeds and Strings” (IN PERSON OR VIRTUAL)


Close Encounters With Music
Post Office Box 34
Great Barrington, MA 01230

CEWM: 800.843.0778
Web: cewm.org
Email: [email protected]

Skylark Music Group

By Sharon Smullen, Eagle correspondent April 14, 2022

GREAT BARRINGTON — Mysteries worthy of best-selling author Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” abound when Skylark Vocal Ensemble makes its Berkshires debut April 30 on the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center stage. The concert, “Hidden Symbols, Secret Codes,” is presented by Close Encounters With Music.

“What might happen if Robert Langdon, acclaimed [fictional] professor of Symbology at Harvard University, were enlisted to explore hidden symbols, secret codes, and long-forgotten historical connections buried in manuscripts of choral music over the centuries? I think audiences will be fascinated to find out!,” writes Matthew Guard, Skylark’s artistic director, in the program description.

Sixteen Skylark a cappella singers will perform in a multimedia presentation of live music and projected photographs, illustrations and animations, which includes recorded video introductions by Brown, and in-person commentary by his brother, composer Gregory Brown.

“In ‘The Da Vinci Code’ [movie], Tom Hanks [playing Langdon] gives a PowerPoint presentation showing symbols over the centuries. If that were applied to music, what would that look like? That’s the concept we came up with,” Guard said when reached by phone at his home outside New York City, freshly returned from the Grammy Awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

“We were nominated for best choral performance for the third time in four years,” he said of the Grammy ceremonies. “We didn’t win, but that’s totally fine because there were six wonderful nominees.” The ensemble has released nine albums to date.

Guard, a former business management consultant, founded Skylark Vocal Ensemble a decade ago with his wife, Carolyn Guard, the ensemble’s executive director. The couple met singing in Harvard College choirs. Formerly based in Atlanta, they relocated to the northeast in 2020.

“It’s definitely a family entrepreneurial venture,” he said.

Five years ago, Gregory Brown — Matthew Guard was introduced to the choral music composer by a mutual friend — invited Skylark to perform a new piece at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where Brown and his brother Dan grew up on campus, the sons of a math teacher.

“We had a wonderful experience working with Greg,” Guard said.

A year later, while he worked on a fairytale storytelling project, Guard asked Gregory Brown if they could create a program “that is a hybrid of music and story and mystery, based around his and Dan’s work.”

When approached, Dan Brown was very open to the idea, Guard said, a big fan of the author’s books.

“The main character, Robert Langdon, studies symbols, uncovering them in history, art and architecture,” Guard explained. “There’s a lot of hidden symbols and structures in musical composition, often times not visible with the naked eye, or you would not hear them without knowing they’re there.”

Gregory Brown and Guard spent two years finding pieces “that have really interesting hooks, things that would be fun to bring to light,” Guard said, stitching them together “with a trail of clues, hidden things the audience wouldn’t necessarily understand, [like] the books’ reveal.”

The approximately 70-minute program is divided evenly between old and new works, the earliest being a Hildegard von Bingen chant that opens the concert.

“We have a really good mixture, wonderful renaissance music and also living composers,” Guard noted.

Works by famed composers such as Benjamin Britten and Edward Elgar sit alongside lesser known names including Knut Nystedt, Sarah Rimkus and Fahad Siadat, and new pieces written by Brown and Melissa Dunphy.

Included is an excerpt from Brown’s “Missa Charles Darwin,” its melody derived from DNA from one of Darwin’s finches. The work, Guard said, inspired and is mentioned in Dan Brown’s book “Origin,” which addresses the fight between religious belief and science.

While the composer will appear in-person, Dan Brown will participate via pre-recorded video, as he will be in London for “The Da Vinci Code” play.

“All the music will be live,” Guard said. “The multimedia presentation runs throughout to help show some of these hidden symbols.”

Guard describes the program as part historical mystery lecture, part performance.

“It’s in that fun, mystery theme, uncovering things and being interesting to audiences,” he said. “We’ll have a world-class vocal ensemble performing at a very high level, singing [music] that is moving and beautiful.”

As is often the case in Dan Brown’s novels, though, the project’s course did not go according to plan. Just a month from its completion in 2020, “the rug got pulled out from under us,” Guard said.

“Carolyn and I were in Europe in February 2020 having meetings about a future tour to the UK and France, literally two weeks before the world shut down,” Guard explained.

The project sat on the shelf for a year and a half.

“About four or five months ago, we picked it back up and vastly restructured it, making it even better,” Guard reported.

The program will be rehearsed in residence at Phillips Exeter Academy prior to four public performances across Massachusetts during the last week of April.

Singers performing in this concert are drawn from Skylark’s roster of 25 to 30 artists. As few as four or as many as 26 are engaged based on repertoire and project needs, hailing from throughout New England to California and Oregon.

“The artists are all professional vocalists, full-time musicians or educators in the choral world who also perform,” Guard explained. “The vast majority perform in professional choirs or do solo work, opera, or voice teaching.”

Besides its Boston-based subscription series, the ensemble’s U.S. appearances include New York City, Washington D.C. and Atlanta. On its first international tour in 2018, the London Times called Skylark “the highlight” of a festival of leading UK choirs.

This concert is dedicated to the late John Stookey, longtime CEWM supporter and friend, who brought Skylark to the attention of Yehuda Hanani, Close Encounters With Music founder, artistic director and a distinguished cellist.

“He was a great lover of vocal music,” Hanani said during a phone interview. “This group is one of the finest in the country, and I immediately realized it belongs with us in our exploration of music and beyond.”

CEWM has a long history of adventurous thematic programming during its three decades in the Berkshires.

“We always look for unusual angles, things off the beaten path,” Hanani said. “The theme guides the evening, it’s more intellectually minded, more informative this way.

“We’re having an exceptionally exciting season. The concert following this, we’re presenting a very seldom heard piece by Benjamin Britten for unaccompanied oboe based on themes and tales from ‘Metamorphoses’ by Ovid. In June, we have an amazing Flamenco dancer who defected from Cuba, she is absolutely stunning.” That concert will also premiere a piece by Cuban composer Jorge Martin.

CEWM is no stranger to new music. “Every year we play at least one new piece,” Hanani said. “Many have become mainstream chamber music repertoire, played all over the world. We have a commissioning project [that] supports promising young composers and also established ones, major composers like Thea Musgrave.”

CEWM concerts are video recorded for streaming online, free of charge after a certain period, Hanani said, enabling them to reach people from California to the midwest.

Relieved on this occasion from his usual role of providing commentary during the program or performing on cello, Hanani will be able to enjoy the concert as an audience member.

“I’m looking forward to being enlightened myself,” he said. “I read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ when it was a very hot book. I don’t know if it’s all factual, but it was fascinating all the same. It was like a detective story, so shrouded in mystery and suspense.”

“It’s not your typical concert,” Guard said. “I hope people will walk away with two abiding impressions: one, wasn’t that beautiful and virtuosic; and the other, that was incredibly interesting and cool.”

Find the original article here: The Berkshire Eagle.

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