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Classical Music

Getting Back To Your Roots With Da Camera

Sarah Rothenberg previews Da Camera’s upcoming season, Roots, as well as their first concert, Josephine Baker: A Personal Portrait.

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  • Josphine Baker dancing the Charleston in 1926. (Photo Credit: Public Domain)
    Josphine Baker dancing the Charleston in 1926. (Photo Credit: Public Domain)
  • Soprano Julia Bullock, who performs with the International Contemporary Ensemble and Tyshawn Sorey in Josphine Baker: A Personal Portrait on September 30th. (Photo Credit: Christian Steiner)
    Soprano Julia Bullock, who performs with the International Contemporary Ensemble and Tyshawn Sorey in Josphine Baker: A Personal Portrait on September 30th. (Photo Credit: Christian Steiner)
  • Composer and pianist Jason Moran, who presents his In My Mind: Monk At Town Hall, 1959 on October 7th. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the artist's website)
    Composer and pianist Jason Moran, who presents his In My Mind: Monk At Town Hall, 1959 on October 7th. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the artist's website)
  • Violinist Christian Tetzlaff, who performs with Lars Vogt on the inaugural James K. Schooler Memorial Concert on February 10th. (Photo Credit: © Giorgia Bertazzi)
    Violinist Christian Tetzlaff, who performs with Lars Vogt on the inaugural James K. Schooler Memorial Concert on February 10th. (Photo Credit: © Giorgia Bertazzi)
  • Composer and pianist Vijay Iyer, who presents his Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi on May 5th. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the artist's website)
    Composer and pianist Vijay Iyer, who presents his Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi on May 5th. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the artist's website)

In considering the theme for Da Camera's upcoming season, Artistic and General Director Sarah Rothenberg wanted to explore "musical DNA," a phrase she admits to taking from Jason Moran, who is currently in the third year of the organization's Jason Moran Homecoming Residency.

Moran, who kicks off Da Camera's jazz series in October, is a great example of what the upcoming season, Roots, is all about. His piece In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959 is "based on Jason's discovery of himself, in a way, through the music of Thelonious Monk," in Rothenberg's words.

Starting off this whole season of musical roots is Josephine Baker: A Personal Portrait with soprano soloist Julia Bullock and the International Contemporary Ensemble, with arrangements and new music by Tyshawn Sorey.

Baker was an incredibly successful performer and activist in the early twentieth century, perhaps most recognizable in her costume of a skirt lined with fake bananas. For Bullock, "as an African-American woman in 2016, she wanted to have a really different take on this performer... not the stereotypical banana skirts, but who was this woman, really? What was her performance about?" says Rothenberg.

Other "musical DNA" through the season comes from juxtapositions of John Adams and Beethoven, from whom the former finds much inspiration; an exploration of the ties between Pablo Picasso and his composer friends like Stravinsky, Satie, and De Falla; and another Stravinsky connection in Vijay Iyer's Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi, which is a modern reaction to Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring).

Hear my conversation above with Sarah Rothenberg about the opening night concert as well as the performances to come. Da Camera begins its 2016-2017 season with Josephine Baker: A Personal Portrait this Friday (September 30) at the Wortham Theater Center. For more information and tickets, go to their website.

Recordings featured in this segment are J'ai Deux Amours performed by Josephine Baker on the Columbia label; Thelonius from The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall (Concord Records, Inc.); Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 performed by the Tokyo String Quartet (Harmonia Mundi); Satie's Gnossienne No. 1 performed by Sarah Rothenberg (ECM New Series); Mozart's Sonata for Violin and Piano in F major, K. 377 performed by Itzhak Perlman and Daniel Barenboim (Deutsche Grammophon); J. S. Bach's The Art of Fugue performed by the Keller Quartet (ECM New Series); and Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps performed by Andreï Vieru and Dan Grigore (Harmonia Mundi).

Joshua Zinn

Joshua Zinn

Producer, Houston Matters

Joshua is a producer for Houston Matters on News 88.7 as well as the host of Encore Houston on Houston Public Media Classical. He joined Houston Public Media as a radio intern in 2014 and became a full-time announcer the following year. Now he prepares segments and occasionally records interviews...

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