Friday, September 14, 2018

Concert Review: The Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Kansas City Chorale at the Folly Theater

The most prestigious offering of Open Spaces was an artistic triumph and an attendance disaster.  About 100 people showed up for the ambitious collaboration between the Bang on a Can All-Stars, one of New York’s most decorated new music ensembles, and the four-time Grammy Award recipients the Kansas City Chorale at the Folly Theater on Thursday.  Tickets to the Kansas City premiere of “Anthracite Fields”, the oratorio about coal miners that won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music, were only $20.  The dismal turnout for the once-in-a-lifetime event at the venue with more than 1,000 seats was almost certainly the smallest showing for either acclaimed group in years.

Bang on a Can clarinetist Ken Thomson didn’t bother to use a microphone when he told the small gathering seated near the stage that his group had rehearsed with the Kansas City Chorale the previous two days.  The preparation paid off.  Conducted by the Chorale’s Charles Bruffy, the rendering of “Anthracite Fields” was magnificent.  Bruffy’s 27-member group excelled in the uncharacteristically adventurous context.  A melding of classical, rock and folk elements, “Anthracite Fields” is a sonically jarring but emotionally compelling work.  Composer Julia Wolfe grinned broadly as she was rewarded with a standing ovation at the conclusion of the evening.

Bang on a Can opened the concert with interpretations of two similarly engaging pieces.  Described in the glossy 20-page program for the concert as “an exploration into the use of video to create a framework in which live music can develop,” a madcap reading of Christian Marclay’s “Fade to Slide” showcased Bang on a Can’s ability to transcend labels.  The sensitive playing of cellist Ashley Bathgate during Michael Gordon’s meditation on mortality “Light is Calling” was almost as heartbreaking as the sparse attendance for the crown jewel of Open Spaces.

I reviewed the record-breaking concert by Taylor Swift, Camila Cabello and Charlie XCX at Arrowhead Stadium.

I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

I implore Kansas City’s jazz artists to redirect their promotional efforts at Plastic Sax.

The promotional video for Cropped Out causes me to my question my decision to attend next month’s outsider music festival in Louisville.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

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