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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
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
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
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

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  • Reply Nancy Richmond Winsten July 11, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    It is great to get opinions about performances, especially about those artists with whom I am not familiar. I enjoy reading these quotes.

  • Reply Sharon L. Rich July 11, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    I agree with Nancy Winsten, wholeheartedly. Although I feel that even when guessing that thus and such might be a great new experience, it helps to have a little more information to confirm my instincts or to push me into the unexpected.
    It’s all good, but this helps.

  • Reply Bonny E Boatman July 11, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    Would love to see Ukulele Orchestra again!!! Soon!!

  • Reply Kathryn Tarr July 12, 2018 at 8:41 am

    Thank you for the staff picks. The Bill Withers celebration on January 25th sounds great-especially since it also includes Lizz Wright who was not even mentioned…

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