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Commentary

26 Jan 2017

When Performance Gets Political: A Brooklyn Concert Benefiting the ACLU

What’s an artist’s place in politics? That’s the question many were asking after actress Meryl Streep made a pointed speech criticizing President Trump at the Golden Globes. Trump responded directly to Streep, using his preferred communication medium of Twitter to call Streep “overrated.”

When Performance Gets Political: A Brooklyn Concert Benefiting the ACLU

Commentary by Alexis Rodda

 

However, after Trump suggested he may defund the National Endowment for the Arts, politics have become deeply personal for artists across the nation and the world. A group of New York-based classical musicians have decided to make their voice heard in an eclectic concert featuring solo voices and instruments, cleverly named “PiaNO” to indicate the lack of piano and also the “no” that resounds so clearly from dissenters of the Trump administration’s values and proposed policies.

“The election left me and many of my loved ones feeling scared and powerless. However, as an artist, I also felt fired up and ready to do something for my community,” says Chelsea Feltman, soprano, of her involvement with PiaNO.

Soprani Elise Brancheau, Chelsea Feltman, and Katya Gruzglina will sing, while Timothy Leonard, David Rocca, Charlotte Nicholas, and Christian Berrigan, will play cello, bassoon, violin, and guitar, respectively. The evening is presented by the Vertical Player Repertory, founded by Judith Barnes, and all proceeds from the concert will go to support the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“I have been a longtime supporter of the ACLU for the work they do to protect civil rights throughout the US, and this seemed like a tangible to use my skills to contribute to their cause,” says Feltman.

The program includes a mix of unusually programmed pieces: Bist du bei mir (attributed to J.S. Bach, but actually from an opera by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel), Philtrum, a contemporary composition by Andrew Hsu and poet Taije Silverman, I Never Saw Another Butterfly by Lori Laitman, which sets poetry written by children killed in the Holocaust, and Suite for Violin and Voice by Heitor Villa-Lobos, a set pairing violin and voice inspired by Portuguese folk melodies.

Feltman says of the programming, “We wanted to feature music from across genres. We also had ideas of the program being easily portable and reprisable, so not bound to a space with grand piano (or any piano!)!”

Soprano Elise Brancheau says, “Not being bound to a traditional format has been incredibly freeing. We were able to choose repertoire based on musicians who wanted to be involved.”

This celebration of songs across culture and time will oscillate between the whimsical and the melancholy, and will represent many voices, including those of the artists who feel now is a time for action.

Feltman underlined the need for artists to take action, saying, “Even if you don’t raise money, art in itself brings healing to communities, promotes sympathy, and is an important tool in affecting societal change. Don’t wait for someone to present you with an opportunity; go out there and make it happen.”

PiaNo will have one performance Saturday, January 28th at 7 PM at Behind the Door, 219 Court Street in Brooklyn, NY. Tickets are $20 ($10 with student ID) and all proceeds will go to benefit the New York Chapter of the ACLU. Tickets can be found at: http://songswithoutpiano.brownpapertickets.com/

Alexis Rodda

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