News

Thank you for a great season!

With another successful season in the books, we want to thank you for making everything we do possible.

Thank you for helping us fill performance halls all over town, and thanks for being there for all the magical moments: all the thunderous ovations, all the thrilling solos, all the bravura performances.

Thank you for helping us achieve our fourth straight fiscal year with an operating surplus and achieve a 4-star Charity Navigator rating as a non-profit organization.

Thank you for helping us celebrate our 50th year of presenting Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with a series of panels, interactive workshops that brought Revelations to life, and great performances.

Thank you for helping us offer 198 community engagement events, distribute over 4,000 free and discounted tickets to children, students, and families, and engage 695 artists from 25+ countries around the world across our mainstage and Arts for All! programs.

We have so much to celebrate and we could not do it without your help. Check out our season in review video to relive a few of our best moments of the 2017-18 season, and we can’t wait to see you in the new season!

Main Stage, Uncategorized

Staff Picks for the 2018-19 Season

Here it is – the eagerly anticipated Staff Picks! Dive into our staff’s favorites and discover what we’re excited about for the 2018-19 season.

 

Alan Cumming
Legal Immigrant
October 7, 2018
Symphony Hall

Our 2017-18 season started with a roar with Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs. His performance was nothing short of electric. From his delightfully improbable and earnestly interpreted renditions of contemporary pop ballads like Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb” to his rousing and unexpected spins on Broadway classics like “Ladies Who Lunch,” Mr. Cumming had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. I’m sure that we’re in store for an explosive evening at Symphony Hall when Alan Cumming returns to the Celebrity Series with Legal Immigrant.     – Jonathan Carpenter, Technology Operations Manager

Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble
October 12, 2018
NEC’s Jordan Hall

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is a special institution to me – theirs was the first recording I’d ever heard of Mozart’s Requiem (this may be the same for others – the orchestra recorded the soundtrack to the movie Amadeus).  I was a 14 year old Jazz musician willfully unaccustomed to Classical music but with a Mozartean friend serious about sharing his passion. Hearing the heavy, languorous, intensely emotional interpretation of the first movement from Neville Marriner and his orchestra changed me and spurred a new obsession. That 1991 recording is still my favorite with modern instruments, and nostalgia dictates a gleeful response every time I hear their long and delightful name spoken. The orchestra is undoubtedly one of the best in the world. Seeing such condensed virtuosity in the form of this small ensemble will be a joy.     – Connor Buckley, Accounts Payable and Payroll Coordinator

OK Go: The Live Video Tour
November 2, 2018
Berklee Performance Center

“We want to see the band that makes a mess!” It’s a phrase that I hear numerous times a day: my 3 ½ year old twins are OBSESSED with OK Go videos. I’ve been aware of OK Go for ages, and made sure to check out their videos on YouTube as they went viral, but have never truly appreciated the band until recently. And as I’ve learned more about this particular show, part of their Live Video Tour, I’m getting more and more excited for it.

OK Go will play live alongside their videos, and will talk (and take questions) about the feats of physics, endurance, precision timing, and engineering that go into their projects. OK Go have also recently launched a project – OK Go Sandbox – to help educators (who are a huge part of the fanbase, apparently!) incorporate their videos into lesson plans and class materials to spark students’ ideas and foster a sense of wonder about science and engineering. Accordingly, this performance will be family-friendly, for fans young and old who love “the band that makes a mess.”     – Gillian Morrison, Associate Director of Marketing

 

Lizz Wright and Lean on Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers
January 25, 2019
Berklee Performance Center

Simply put… This will be the funkiest engagement for Celebrity Series during the 2018-19 season. It really should be sold out, and even if you are not familiar with the performers, this will just be an all around good time with classic Bill Withers songs being performed by José James.

You love Bill Withers. We all do. Even if you don’t consciously know it, you love Bill Withers. If life gets stressful, when times get tough, and if there are periods of life filled with loss… Trust me – there is a Bill Withers song that’ll both slay and heal your soul.

As an audience, we all should recognize R&B/Soul royalty because it is rare. Bill Withers is certainly royalty in the genre, and José is perhaps on his way to establishing legendary status as a live performer. Bill Withers’ catalogue deserves to be celebrated, and with José James, I believe this particular Celebrity Series concert will be jubilant.     – Alec Bleday, Major Gifts Officer

Nederlands Dans Theater 2
January 26-27, 2019
Boch Center Shubert Theatre

I am thrilled about the Nederlands Dans Theater 2’s performances this season. Attending dance performances is always a highlight for me, as I can experience the performance with fresh eyes, not having worked on the operational details of the performance. This past year I visited Amsterdam and fell in love with the beauty of the city, the culture and the people. I cannot wait to immerse myself in the magic of the Netherlands transported to Boston.    – Katherine Ludington, Associate Manager of Performance Operations

Mark Morris Dance Group
Pepperland
February 8-10
Boch Center Shubert Theatre

I’m so excited about Mark Morris Dance Group’s Pepperland coming to Boston.  As a huge fan of both the Beatles and MMDG’s beautiful interpretations of classical music and form, combined with a contemporary score by Ethan Iverson, is a must-see.  It should hold unique appeal and fun for dancers, lovers of chamber music and contemporary music with 60’s psychedelic costumes.  And what in the world is a theremin? Guess I’ll find out!     – Robin Baker, Senior Manager of Community Engagement

Alisa Weilerstein
Complete Bach Cello Suites
February 15, 2019
NEC’s Jordan Hall

Alisa Weilerstein returns to Celebrity Series on February 15 to perform all six of Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites, in one evening at Jordan Hall. Born in 1982 and the daughter of legendary Cleveland Quartet first violinist and teacher Donald Weilerstein, Alisa Weilerstein has already established herself as one of the great cellists of her generation, winning the MacArthur genius award in 2011 and performing around the globe with the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles. Now she takes on the Bach cello suites and will perform all six in one evening, a tremendous undertaking that Weilerstein herself describes as akin to transcendental meditation.

In perusing Weilerstein’s biography, I found this gem: “Weilerstein discovered her love for the cello at just two and a half, when her grandmother assembled a makeshift set of instruments from cereal boxes to entertain her while she was ill with chicken pox. Although immediately drawn to the Rice Krispies box cello, Weilerstein soon grew frustrated that it didn’t produce any sound. After persuading her parents to buy her a real cello at the age of four, she developed her natural affinity for the instrument and gave her first public performance six months later.”

I grew up immersed in classical music, and Yo-Yo Ma’s recording of the Bach cello suites was a mainstay of my childhood. As a young singer at the Aspen Music Festival, one of my roommates was a violinist who studied with Weilerstein’s father, and I heard many stories of Mr. Weilerstein’s generosity and passion. I am now the mother of an eight-year-old cellist, who at age four, walked into a room full of musical instruments, pointed at the cello, and said, “I want to play THAT.”

There is something about the cello that resonates with the soul. Alisa Weilerstein is taking on the work of a great master, and in so doing, sharing her own mastery with all of us. I am so thrilled that Celebrity Series audiences will have the opportunity to witness it, perhaps including one eight-year-old young lady with stars in her eyes. I can’t wait.     – Sarah Long Holland, Associate Director of Institutional Giving

Beatrice Rana
February 27, 2019
Longy’s Pickman Hall

The Cliburn, held every four years in Fort Worth, Texas, is a piano competition whose laureates dominate the world’s stages. In 1966, the competition awarded first prize to Radu Lupu, who has become one of the great artists of the 20th and 21st centuries; but more recent laureates, like Vadym Kholodenko, Olga Kern, and Yeol Eum Son, have also become revered performers even in the short times since their Cliburn debuts.

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend concerts by Kern and Joyce Yang (gold medalist in 2001 and silver medalist in 2005, respectively), but have been waiting five years to hear Beatrice Rana, who in 2013 (at twenty years old) won the silver medal in the competition’s fourteenth edition. My move from Seattle to Boston came one year too soon, so I missed her debut out west; this past Spring, I had to listen to my friends in Toronto rave about her performance up north. Needless to say, I am thrilled to finally have the chance to hear Ms. Rana in Boston in her Celebrity Series debut this coming February.

From the recordings of hers I’ve heard, I especially admire her ability to balance exquisite lyricism and sense of line with ferocity and spark, qualities which I am sure we will hear in her ambitious program of Chopin, Ravel, and Stravinksy/Agosti. I can hardly wait!     – Andrew Barnwell, Advancement Intern

Sō Percussion
Drumming
March 28, 2019
Sanders Theatre

This season I’m personally most excited to hear Sō Percussion perform the evening-length work ‘Drumming” by Steve Reich. It is a rare treat to experience the full piece live. One of the most interesting and virtuosic elements of the piece is the technique of rhythmic ‘phasing’ – when two players start in a unison rhythm while one either slows down or speeds up. The effect is magical, and can create a myriad of psychoacoustic illusions. From a performance perspective, this massive work is some of the most challenging repertoire in the percussion literature and there’s likely no group performing today that is better suited to it than Sō Percussion.     – Jesse Limbacher, Acting Box Office Manager

Batsheva Dance Company
Venezuela
April 5-6, 2019
Boch Center Shubert Theatre

Nothing more exciting than a Boston premiere; especially when it’s a renowned company like Batsheva Dance Company!  Their evening-length work, Venezuela, shows us how music, lighting, energy, and mood can influence how we interpret the world around us, since the same physical movements will be used in both halves of the piece. I’m so excited for the conversations it will inspire after the performance!     – Nicole Williams, Audience Services Associate

The Spring Quartet
Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spalding, and Leo Genovese
April 14, 2019
Berklee Performance Center

When you put together an all-star ensemble, there’s always a chance that egos will collide. The Spring Quartet strikes the perfect balance musically and temperamentally with veteran jazzers Jack DeJohnette (drums) and Joe Lovano (saxophones) providing the group’s foundation while Esperanza Spaulding (bass) and Leonardo Genovese (piano/keyboard) push the boundaries. It’s a joy to watch all four of these musicians speak to each other with deference and respect, and to watch them perform as a well-oiled machine on stage.     – Sarah Cronin, Senior Manager of Performance Operations

Joshua Bell, Jeremy Denk, and Steven Isserlis
April 28, 2019
Symphony Hall

Virtuosic, slightly academic, all around adventurous and exciting! Growing up, all I ever heard about from my string friends was how amazing Joshua Bell is as a performer. Pair him up with Jeremy Denk, who gave, in my opinion, one of the best performances of the season last year and Steven Isserlis, a profound musician whose playing is so distinct and masterful, and you’ve got yourself a can’t miss performance. Bonus – all three musicians have a great sense of humor (just check out Steven Isserlis’ website) so you know that they will have so much fun on stage too!     – Erica Leung Lawless, Associate Director of Advancement

Dance, Main Stage

Batsheva Dance Company Makes Its Long-Awaited Boston Debut with “Venezuela”

“One of the most fascinating dance makers on the planet.”
The New York Times

By: Alexandra Contreras

Considered one of the most fascinating dance makers on the planet by The New York Times, Ohad Naharin started as Artistic Director of the Israel-based Batsheva Dance Company in 1990 and has since created over 30 works for the company. Critically acclaimed and popularly embraced as one of the foremost contemporary dance companies in the world, Batsheva Dance Company maintains an extensive performance schedule locally and internationally with over 250 performances and approximately 100,000 spectators every year. And, despite the company having yet to perform in Boston, Celebrity Series audiences may recall Naharin’s astonishing choreography from our previous seasons: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed Naharin’s work, Minus 16, a collection of vignettes picked from his previous works, in both their 2013 and 2014 Boston engagements. This upcoming season, on April 5-6, we have the privilege of welcoming the 18 dancers of Batsheva Dance Company to the Boch Center Shubert Theatre stage with Naharin’s new evening-length work, Venezuela.

“The concepts, raw talent, and complex stories are all beautiful in their own one-of-a-kind ways – not even replicable from one act to the next.”
Timeout

In Venezuela, Naharin and the dancers explore the dialogue and conflict between movement and the content it represents. Naharin created Venezuela in two 40-minute sections placed in juxtaposition; both acts have the same movement sequences, but other variables like music, lighting, energy, and performer intent may change. The Batsheva dancers, faithful to the Gaga movement language pioneered by Naharin, perform a dance that is essentially characterized by external movement covered in emotional passion. Venezuela also thrives on various cultural sources – Gregorian chants, coarse rap, ballroom aesthetics, innuendo and more – and ends with a perplexing pile of contextual issues.

As Timeout described it, “Venezuela, with its wonderful dancers, is a fascinating and multifaceted piece that contains a surprise that remains with the viewer long after leaving the theater.”

Join us for this long-awaited Boston debut next spring! Tickets are currently available as part of a subscription package. Learn more.

The Dance Series is sponsored by the Stephanie L. Brown Foundation, the Cynthia & John S. Reed Foundation and the Royal Little Family Foundation. Additional support for this engagement is provided by the Consulate General of Israel to New England

 

Arts for All

Thank you for Take Your Seat!

 

Conservatory Lab Charter School students backstage at Canadian Brass at NEC’s Jordan Hall in November 2017. Pictured at top in the hall before the performance.

Take Your Seat, one of Celebrity Series’ Arts for All! suite of community engagement programs, provides free and deeply discounted tickets to Celebrity Series performances to thousands of young people, their teachers, and families annually, partnering with school and community groups within the city of Boston. For many of these young people, Take Your Seat offers opportunities they might not otherwise have to experience high caliber performing artists in some of our city’s major performance halls. This season alone, over 4,300 participants have attended 63 performances, from orchestras to dance to chamber music, and more.

Celebrity Series receives support for Take Your Seat from First Republic Bank and many generous individual and institutional supporters. On behalf of the many young people we serve, all of us at Celebrity Series thank you. Your support makes extraordinary experiences possible!

 

“Thank you so very much for offering the tickets for this concert.
My students were truly blown away. After every piece they would
turn and look to me with pure joy and amazement.  It was an unforgettable
and transformative evening, without a question!”
-Chris Schroeder, Director of Community Engagement
Conservatory Lab Charter School, Dorchester

 

Big Sister and Little Sister at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, March, 2018

 

In the balcony at the Boch Center Wang Theatre for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, March, 2018

 

“I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity your donation of tickets offered our community. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance this past weekend was truly inspirational, and the effects are lingering within our dance studios. These performances will truly continue to resonate and I am a firm believer in how one performance can shape a young dancer’s career. Your support, and the support of Celebrity Series Boston, continues to inspire our dancers and I’m sure, after Friday’s performance, some are inspired to become future Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater members. Thank you!”

– William McLaughlin, Dance Department Chair
Boston Arts Academy

 

Awards

CELEBRITY SERIES OF BOSTON EARNS COVETED 4-STAR RATING FROM CHARITY NAVIGATOR

Celebrity Series of Boston’s strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency have earned it a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. This is the third time that Celebrity Series of Boston has earned this top distinction in the last four years.

Since 2002, using objective analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating. In 2011, Charity Navigator added 17 metrics, focused on governance and ethical practices as well as measures of openness, to its ratings methodology.  These Accountability & Transparency metrics, which account for 50 percent of a charity’s overall rating, reveal which charities operate in accordance with industry best practices and whether they are open with their donors and stakeholders. On June 1, 2016, Charity Navigator upgraded their methodology for rating each charity’s’ financial health with CN 2.1. These enhancements further substantiates the financial health of Charity Navigator four star charities.

“Celebrity Series of Boston’s exceptional 4-star rating sets it apart from its peers and demonstrates its trustworthiness to the public,” according to Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “Only a quarter of charities rated by Charity Navigator receive the distinction of our 4-star rating. This adds Celebrity Series of Boston to a preeminent group of charities working to overcome our world’s most pressing challenges. Based on its 4-star rating, people can trust that their donations are going to a financially responsible and ethical charity when they decide to support Celebrity Series of Boston.” Continue Reading

Main Stage

Sound? Check! Meet Steve Colby

Engineering a Great Listening Experience for Celebrity Series’ Audiences at Sanders, Symphony & More

Sound engineer Steve Colby enters the room with an unassuming air. His humble manner does not reveal his years of experience cultivating soundscapes for events such as the Boston Pops 4th of July celebrations on the Esplanade, orchestra mixing for Barbra Streisand’s “Back To Brooklyn” tour, countless Celebrity Series concerts, and a myriad of other events.

In fact, he’s happiest when audiences don’t notice him.

“The whole spirit of sound engineering is that we help performances in ways that audiences don’t notice,” he revealed during a recent sit-down in between performances at Celebrity Series’ Stave Sessions contemporary music festival.

Steve Colby at Stave Sessions at 160 Mass Ave.

Steve not only mixes sound at Stave Sessions, but he is also the lead sound engineer for a number of other Celebrity Series performances throughout the season, including events at Sanders Theatre and Symphony Hall. In short, if a performance needs amplification, Steve is the go-to guy.

“Sanders is a great place to play as an artist,” says Steve. “But that reverberant space is sometimes a problem for audiences due to the echoes off of all of the natural hardwood surfaces.”

Steve and Sarah Cronin, Senior Manager of Performance Operations, got creative and started adding as much dampening fabrics and effects to the venue as practical starting with area rugs and curtains on the stage itself.

To help improve the sound across the entire hall, Steve tries to point the speakers directly at softer surfaces like at the audience members themselves. If the sound is allowed to bounce off the high dome or the walls, it rebounds and creates a muffled sound to a listener’s ears. Both Steve and Sarah note that a full house makes for a much better aural experience because there are many more soft surfaces sounds can hit.

During sound check when the room is empty, it’s more difficult to plan for what the hall will sound like once it’s filled with audience members. Sometimes artists are concerned with the amount of echo they hear in an empty hall. However, throughout his years of working with artists and their touring crew, Steve is able to patiently explain the differences in an empty performance space versus how it will sound in live performance in order to calm their nerves or adjust expectations in the moment. Continue Reading

Arts for All

Sound Sculpture with the Mattapan Teen Center

“What I learned from this project is that music is not just vocal, it’s not just instruments, it could be anything around you.” – Kamara from the Mattapan Teen Center

Throughout the year, Celebrity Series partners with Boston communities and local artists to bring artistic opportunities to young people through the Neighborhood Arts program. This year’s SHINE! Gala showcased a special collaboration between the Mattapan Teen Center and local artists Ryan Edwards and Devin Ferreira with “Sound Sculpture.” Watch this behind the scenes video and hear from those young people about how this exciting performance experience has shaped and changed their lives!

Interested in supporting projects like this? Your support can really make a difference.

Arts for All, Boston Community, Neighborhood Arts

Celebrity Series of Boston to Receive $15,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018. Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $15,000 to Celebrity Series of Boston for the Neighborhood Arts program in 2018-19, including activities led by composer/percussionists Ryan Edwards and Maria Finkelmeier and by the Soul Yatra trio (pictured above), comprised of Mike Block (cello), Sandeep Das (tabla), and Shaw Pong Liu (violin/erhu).

The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as Celebrity Series of Boston, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.” Continue Reading

Main Stage

Tracing Artistic Legacy from 1938 to Today: An Interview with Celebrity Series Artistic Programmer Amy Lam

For 80 years, Celebrity Series has been a tastemaker and curator of artistry, bringing some of the world’s greatest performing artists to Boston. When you dive into the robust history of the Series and its humble beginnings in 1938, you begin to understand the threads of continuity that run throughout the organization, connecting founder Aaron Richmond to the programming that happens to this day.

When Richmond founded the Celebrity Series in the late 1930s, he was a one-man shop. He programmed the season, booked the artists, rented the venues, and sold all of the tickets. He would gather his wife and young daughter around the kitchen table to process the mailed-in subscriptions, overwhelming their home with hundreds of paper orders.

The first-ever Celebrity Series concert offered, which took place on October 9, 1938, was the Don Cossack Choir of Serge Jaroff, a men’s chorus of exiled Cossacks who found a new home in America as the threat of WWII loomed ahead. That same season, on December 4, 1938, Richmond presented famed African-American contralto Marian Anderson in recital. This concert took place just four months before her widely acclaimed performance at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1939. She would go on to sing with the Celebrity Series a staggering 16 more times, including her Farewell Tour in 1964.

Ever since its very first season, the Series has provided the people of Greater Boston with innumerable opportunities to experience both present and future stars of the stage – artists who energize and transform entire genres.

Amy Lam, Celebrity Series of Boston Artistic Programmer. Photo by Robert Torres.

After Aaron Richmond’s death in 1965, Executive Director Walter Pierce led the organization from 1965-1996 and hired a young arts administrator as his assistant, Amy Lam. Lam took over all concert programming in 1996, and over the past 22 years has emerged as an influential and respected programmer. Her carefully planned seasons earn praise from the Boston arts community, critics, and audiences alike.

Times have changed since 1938. Lam doesn’t program a season from her kitchen table, and the Series engages a full-time staff to manage marketing and ticketing logistics. But one key thing ties her to founder Aaron Richmond—the ability to build trust with an audience.

“Many audience members tell me that every year they look through the season offerings and do some research online to check out a few new things that sound interesting before making their selections,” Lam says. “They tell me they trust the Celebrity Series to offer them something new and remarkable, which honestly to me, is incredibly gratifying and humbling.” Continue Reading

Jazz, Main Stage

“Listen, Let Go, and Have Fun”: An Interview with Violinist Johnny Gandelsman

On Saturday, May 19, Celebrity Series will present the brand new musical collaboration between groundbreaking jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman and genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider that explores new music by composers Patrick Zimmerli, Colin Jacobsen, Guillermo Klein, and an arrangement of “Veda” by Gabriel Kahane just for this group. Celebrity Series audiences will remember Brooklyn Rider from their debut performance on the inaugural year of our contemporary music festival Stave Sessions in 2015, and a return performance in 2016 with singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane. This performance will mark the Celebrity Series debut for Redman, who WGBH has called “an uncompromising creative spirit,” and who will be joined by all-star collaborators percussionist Satoshi Takeishi and bassist Scott Colley.

Johnny Gandelsman of Brooklyn Rider

Founding member of Brooklyn Rider, violinist Johnny Gandelsman, answered a few questions about this exciting new collaboration with Redman and offered some advice on working with other musicians. Read on to discover how they blended jazz and classical music to create a “new band,” and grab your tickets online here.

Celebrity Series: How did this collaboration with saxophonist Joshua Redman come about?

Johnny Gandelsman: A few years ago Josh came to us with the idea of recording an album of music written by Patrick Zimmerli for Josh, Sato [Takeishi, percussion], Scott [Colley, bass] and a string quartet, to be released on Nonesuch Records. We of course said yes – all 3 of those guys are incredible musicians, and Patrick’s music is beautiful, challenging and ultimately, very satisfying. This weekend’s shows mark the first time we are getting together to perform this material, so it will feel very special. Continue Reading