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Volume 24, Number 10 — November 2017

Bach to Roots: Adventurous cellist, multicultural folk singer present harmonious November events at ETSU

Matt Haimovitz (photo by Steph MacKinnon)
Matt Haimovitz (photo by Steph MacKinnon)

October 26, 2017

Matt Haimovitz was born in Israel and grew up on the West Coast, listening to classical music, taking up the cello at 7 and performing as soloist with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic by age 13. He now plays in concert halls, clubs and cafés and on rooftops, taking his music to the people.

The daughter of a Cherokee-Choctaw mother and gospel-singing father, Martha Redbone grew up in the coal country of Kentucky but spent what she calls her "gritty" teenage years in Brooklyn. Her Martha Redbone Roots Project music melds the sounds and soul of her diverse American roots. Both musicians bring their styles and virtuosity to the stage of East Tennessee State University's Martha Street Culp Auditorium in November, sponsored by Mary B. Martin School of the Arts.

The artists frame the month, with Haimovitz starting the month with "suite" music, Nov. 1 and 2, and Redbone closing it out with the plaintive sounds of Appalachia Nov. 30. Haimovitz performs three free mini-concerts in Upper East Tennessee Wednesday, Nov. 1, and a ticketed full concert at ETSU Thursday, Nov. 2. He calls the combination of 30-minute free concerts in unusual locations followed by a main-stage performance "The Bach Suites: A Moveable Feast."

On Nov. 1, the cellist – who has studied with Leonard Rose and Yo-Yo Ma – performs Bach Suite I and an overture by Philip Glass at ETSU's Sherrod Library at noon. At 2:30 p.m. Haimovitz plays Bach Suite III and a contemporary overture by Vijay Iyer at Johnson City Memorial Park Community Center, then at 5 p.m., Eastman Corporate Business Center in Kingsport is the venue for Haimovitz's performance of Bach Suite V with an overture by David Sanford.

On Thursday, Nov. 2, Haimovitz gives a full concert at ETSU at 7:30 p.m. in Culp Auditorium, performing Bach Suite II with an overture by Du Yun; Suite IV and overture by Roberta Sierra; and Suite VI preceded by Luna Pearl Woolf's commissioned overture. At age 32, Haimovitz – already listed "among the world's finest classical cellists" – told NPR's "All Things Considered" that in his hundreds of concert hall performances, he seldom saw attendees from his own generation. As a result, he decided to go to them, rather than expect them to come to his big concerts. "Haimovitz says that seeing punk rock fans sitting next to classical music aficionados in a smoky dive bar has awakened him to the power of music to bring people together," NPR reports. "The experience has also broadened his musical palette, he says, and has given him a stronger connection with all of his audiences, in both the nightclubs and the concert halls."

To further speak to the younger generations, Haimovitz continues to add to his repertoire, shredding his own arrangement of Jimi Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner" and performing mash-ups of music like Stravinsky and Janacek, Radiohead and Arcade Fire with pianist Christopher O'Riley of From the Top fame. "Classical music can't survive the way it is. It can't be isolated from the rest of culture ..." Haimovitz told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005 at a Club Café performance amid the cacophony of cocktails and conversation. "There are other ways of presenting it. This is such a direct way of taking it to the people." Redbone's "The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake," which she'll be performing at ETSU Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in Culp Auditorium, also attracted

Bach to Roots: Adventurous cellist, multicultural folk singer present harmonious November events at ETSU
the attention of NPR's "All Things Considered." The album was released in 2012, in collaboration with partner Aaron Whitby and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder and Grammy winner John McEuen, featuring Redbone's settings for 12 Blake poems, or songs, as the poet called them. "We studied him in high school, and I loved his work back then," she told NPR, "so to rediscover Blake in such an intimate way, and also to discover how much his words fit the imagery of Appalachia, of Black Mountain and Clinch Mountain and the Great Smokies, where my family has been for hundreds and hundreds of years ... I wanted people to be reminded of the beauty of [Blake's] messages and the relevance that rings so true today."

The New Yorker calls Redbone's "Garden of Love" "a brilliant collision of cultures ... In it, the mystical, humanistic words of the 18th-century English poet are fused with the melodies, drones and rhythms of the Appalachian string-band music that Redbone absorbed as a child from her grandparents, in Black Mountain, Kentucky." Redbone calls this musical amalgamation of her roots a "blend of Native American elements, funk, folk, country gospel, stomp chants and the high lonesome of a front-porch Sunday pickin' – modern music imbued with rural truth." The combining of Americana music with Englishman William Blake's songs "is an amazing achievement," says the Smoky Mountain News. "It is as though this 18th-century poet's work has been quietly waiting for Martha Redbone, after over two centuries, finally, exquisitely complete."

Opening the show for Redbone is the ETSU Old Time Band. For more on Matt Haimovitz, visit www.matthaimovitz.com and for more on Redbone, visit https://sroartists.com/artists/martharedbone. For more information about ETSU's Mary B. Martin School of the Arts or to purchase tickets, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-8587.

Topics: Music