This year’s Festival theme, ‘Gravity 350’, honored Issac Newton’s enlightening encounter with a falling apple 350 years ago. Over a dozen events, including musical concerts ranging from classical to jazz, daytime family events, and outdoor programs took place between June 10th and 18th. The culinary experience of the Festival beautifully incorporated this year’s theme as culinary artist-in-residence Chef Timothy McGrath featured dishes such as his three-flavor soup shots that settled based on gravity. The other culinary artists incorporated this year’s theme of apples and gravity throughout their delicious dishes, and they added to the full sensory experience of the festival.
The venues were especially enticing and showcased the rich diversity and history of the Chelsea neighborhood. Hosting institutions included the Aperture Foundation, Canoe Studios, General Theological Seminary (GTS), Leo Baeck Institute, and the stunning St. Paul’s German Lutheran Church of New York. These spaces all provided another element of the sensory experience, as the importance of place encompasses history and architecture. The Aperture Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1952, is a multi-platform center for photography world-wide. Canoe Studios offers breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline. GTS and St. Paul’s are both magnificent houses of worship, with awe-inspiring architecture. The Leo Baeck Institute is a research library filled with meaning; it was founded in 1955 by Jewish intellectuals who escaped the Nazi persecution and sought to document the German-Jewish culture that existed prior to World War II.
Many programs featured ‘Festival Talks’ that brought composers, musicians, and visual artists together. These talks offered the special opportunity to hear how artists of various mediums view universal concepts and desires, such as the importance of home. ‘A Musical Compass: Finding the Sounds of Home’, which took place on June 13th at Aperture, discussed everything from what the idea of home meant to each artist, to their relationship with home, and to their ability to create.
The panel consisted of visual artist-in-residence and multi-media artist Lukas Birk, double-bassist artist-in-residence Dominik Wagner, and clarinetist Vera Karner. Birk shared what he described as a ‘privilege’ of being able to create ‘home’ as a state of mind and finding a sense of home wherever he goes as a traveling artist. Images from Birk’s ‘Polaroids from the Middle Kingdom’ were on display during this program, and they showed the rapidly-changing Chinese society using expired Polaroid film, which created the sense and feeling of nostalgia. His work documents the fleeting present and the unique relationship China has to its recent past. Through viewing Birk’s exhibition and listening to the panel, context which is rarely provided prior to music performances guided and invited those unfamiliar with classical music to listen, interpret, and enjoy a greater understanding of the composers’ and musicians’ intent, bringing a new dimension to the audience’s experience. Later, Karner spoke about her work with refugee children in Vienna and the importance of teaching new cultures to immigrants, while simultaneously embracing and learning from their own cultures to create a new culture and sound regarding music.
The Chelsea Music Festival also featured world premiers by composer Michael Gandolfi, Nicolas Namoradze, Edmund Finnis, J.P. Redmond, jazz virtuoso and composer Aaron Diehl, and Grammy-nominated keyboardist Scott Healy with his band. The Festival brought together a noteworthy roster of artists, featuring double-bassist Dominik Wagner from the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation, clarinetist Vera Karner, Grammy award-winning Jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, as well as Canadian Brass lead trumpet player Caleb Hudson. Returning artists included violinist Fanny Clamagirand, organist Stephen Tharp, The Lee Trio and Momenta Quartet, pianist Helen Huang, and jazz pianist Adam Birnbaum. This year also inaugurated an artistic partnership with the Beethoven-Haus Bonn, which sponsored the Verona Quartet. The 2016 artists-in-residence were Dominik Wagner, composer-in-residence Michael Gandolfi, visual artist-in-residence Lukas Birk, and culinary chef-in-residence Timothy McGrath.
Be sure to stay on the lookout for information regarding the 2017 Chelsea Music Festival, and learn more about the incredible programs offered by visiting their website.
By Rachael Silverstein