Thirty-two years is a serious career in any discipline. That’s how long Vanderbilt University’s Great Performances series has been exposing Nashville to world-class performances in a variety of fields and styles rarely seen at other local venues. The 2006-7 GP season is filled yet again with dance, theater and music offerings that should help to remind Music City that you don’t have to go to New York or Amsterdam to experience eclectic cutting-edge art—you can just journey over to Blair School of Music’s state-of-the-art Ingram Hall
The program lineup has been cut back from 10 to seven events this season, which, according to Bridgette Kohnhorst, assistant director of art and cultural programs, “was an upper administrative decision to strike a balance with all campus program offerings. Blair School of Music is now, for example, offering a small world-music series. Yet we’ve still hit upon a lot of our historical offerings.”
Modern dance remains the centerpiece of GP’s presentation mission, a welcome objective in a city still struggling to establish its own grassroots presence in the art form. The season begins Sept. 21 with the Sean Curran Dance Company, a 9-year-old ensemble whose leader cut his teeth in Irish step dancing in his native Boston, rose to prominence as a principal dancer with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and lent his talents to the off-Broadway percussion extravaganza Stomp!
for the past several years. Other dance events include Andre Gingras, a Canadian-born, Netherlands-based solo artist who draws postmodern inspiration from break-dancing and martial arts, among other extra-traditional modes. On Jan. 24, Gingras presents CYP17
, which explores a future world of “gene manipulation, super athletes and alien pregnancies.” The West Coast’s famed Joe Goode Performance Group concludes the GP season on April 4 with Stay Together
, a piece on long-term relationships driven by an original song by noted symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. This program also includes Deeply There
, an award-winning 1999 exploration of the mourning of an AIDS victim in San Francisco’s Castro district.
GP’s interesting musical path this season avoids the strictly classical, though classicism of a kind is certainly in the offing. On Nov. 14, the 35-voice RIAS Kammerchor Berlin fills the air with its unique choral stylings, which have gained the ensemble an international reputation for six decades through live performances and recordings. The group’s current North American tour explores the Romanticism of composers such as Brahms, Schubert and Ligeti. On Feb. 14, music legend Jon Hendricks, 85 years old, makes a rare concert appearance. Known as the father of “vocalese”—the art of setting lyrics to jazz instrumental standards—Hendricks has been a huge influence on artists such as Manhattan Transfer, Bobby McFerrin and Al Jarreau, besides balancing other careers as a critic and teacher. Dubbed by music historian Leonard Feather as the “poet laureate of jazz,” Hendricks has recently branched out into crafting lyrics to classical pieces, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s lush Scheherazade
. Then, on March 18, composer/arranger/vocalist Anoushka Shankar—daughter of legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar—will perform selections from her album Rise
, with live contributions from virtuoso Eastern and Western musicians playing a variety of instruments, from sitar and tabla to piano and flute.
The solo theatrical date is Oct. 11, when the Foundry Theatre—an ambitious New York organization that mixes drama with social activism—invades Ingram with Major Bang: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dirty Bomb
, author Kirk Lynn’s multimedia transmogrification of filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s classic black comedy Dr. Strangelove
. “Great Performances is one of only three organizations in the country to bring the Foundry out this year,” Kohnhorst says proudly. “No manager peddled their wares to us. We found them.”
Once again, GP will host Performance on the Move (POM) events, which provide an opportunity for Nashvillians to meet and greet visiting artists and to preview their performances in an informal setting. “Some community members have told me they enjoy the POM events more than the full-length evening performances,” Kohnhorst says. “Each POM event takes on a different shape, depending on how the artistic or touring directors want to play that night with material. We love to move the events around town, but we’ve learned it helps to keep them in the same place for a little while—for example, the Neuhoff Center. POM events offer a kind of ‘guerrilla theater’ approach that continues to connect with the general public and the visual arts community, especially among the younger generations.”
For more information on tickets or POM, call 322-2471 or visit vanderbilt.edu/greatperformances