Virtuoso violinist Johnny Gandelsman will perform next month as part of a year-long Hopkins Center for the Arts residency during which he’ll present his anthology This Is America in its entirety for the first time.
Over a series of concerts at Dartmouth and other venues in Vermont and New Hampshire, the pioneering violinist will perform the collection of U.S.-based composers’ musical responses to the tumultuous year that was 2020 and premiere four new works commissioned by the Hop to expand the song cycle.
The show at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the United Church of Christ at Dartmouth will include one of the new commissions, Breathe, by Kojiro Umezaki, Guarini ’93.
Gandelsman took a unique approach to the anthology, inviting artists from a wide range of backgrounds to reflect on 2020, a year that included the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, acrimonious election-cycle rhetoric, and the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two dozen new works reflect “loss and uncertainty, but also joy, friendship, gratitude, and love,” Gandelsman writes in the album’s liner notes.
Among the composers who contributed are bassist Nick Dunston, fiddler Rhiannon Giddens, and cellist Tomeka Reid, herself a Hop resident artist and Roth Visiting Scholar.
“With its unified focus and breadth of perspectives and musical influences, America is both cohesive and richly diverse, a powerful reflection of a moment in our shared history,” says Mary Lou Aleskie, the Howard Gilman ’44 Executive Director of the Hopkins Center. “We are thrilled to be presenting this groundbreaking anthology in its entirety and adding to its future.”
In a pre-show conversation on Feb. 6, Gandelsman and Vermont Public’s Mikaela Lefrak will discuss the album and how creative practice can connect people across isolation. The public talk, set for 5:30 p.m. at the Hanover Inn, is being presented by the Hop and Vermont Public. It will air later as an episode of Vermont Edition. Admission is free, but registration is required.
Umezaki will join Gandelsman on Feb. 6 for the pre-show discussion and the concert.
Gandelsman was born in Moscow into a family of musicians and grew up in Russia and Israel. In 1995, he moved to the U.S. to study music at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. A founding member of Brooklyn Rider and former member of the Silkroad Ensemble, he has worked closely with world-renowned artists such as Bela Fleck, Kayhan Kalhor, Yo-Yo Ma, and Mark Morris.
In 2017, Gandelsman won a Grammy for Best World Music album as a member and producer of Silkroad’s Sing Me Home. He also produced music for the Ken Burns film The U.S. and the Holocaust.
A long-time collaborator with the Hop, Gandelsman has performed at Dartmouth as part of Silkroad and Brooklyn Rider. During his residency, he is also visiting classes in the Department of Music to discuss the anthology project with faculty and students.
The Hop’s This Is America series comprises four shows, each performed on campus and at a partner venue in New Hampshire and Vermont.
The initiative reflects the Hop’s commitment to reaching musical communities “outside of our immediate sphere of the Upper Valley,” says Michael Bodel, the Hop’s director of external affairs.
The series opened in September with This Is America: Part I at the UCC in Hanover and Avaloch Farm Music Institute in Boscawen, N.H. It continues with Part II on Feb. 6 at the UCC and Feb. 7 at Next Stage Arts Project in Putney, Vt. Parts III and IV are scheduled for April 2 and July 20, respectively, with partner venues to be announced.