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'Passport' Festival Celebrates Global Sounds and Sights

Musical salute to Haiti, Paris, Japan and Tin Pan Alley March 31 to April 9

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February 16, 2011 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A globe-trotting series of concerts, silent film screenings accompanied by live music, and talks and demonstrations that begin March 30 and run through April 9, will bring a wealth of international music to Evanston.

The 11-day festival will range from bluegrass-inspired classical music of the Mark O’Connor String Quartet to the Japanese koto-influenced sounds of guitarist Alex de Grassi. It is presented by Northwestern University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music.

“Passport: A Musical Expedition” will include European, American and Asian music, the reggae rhythms of the 10-piece Haitian ensemble Boukman Eksperyans, French-infused gypsy jazz of the 1920s and 1930s and silent films screened to de Grassi’s acoustic guitar or the live gypsy jazz of The Hot Club of San Francisco. The festival also will celebrate the contributions of Irish and Jewish composers and musicians to America’s songbook.

A string workshop led by O’Connor will feature Bienen School string students. Talks will focus on topics ranging from music and human rights in Haiti and the Irish and Jewish influences on Tin Pan Alley to the secrets of gypsy guitar music.

All “Passport” festival concerts and events are open to the public and take place on the University’s Evanston campus at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive; Regenstein Recital Hall, 60 Arts Circle Drive; or the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, as noted.

“Passport” festival events include:

• 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, Concert: Mark O’Connor String Quartet, “An Evening of Strings,” at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. During the festival’s opening concert, Grammy Award-winning violinist Mark O’Connor will be joined by violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violist Gillian Gallagher and cellist Patrice Jackson. They will perform O’Connor’s intricate brand of musical Americana, including his String Quartet No. 2, “Bluegrass” and String Quartet No. 3, “Old Time.” The artists also will perform duets and trios. Concert tickets are $18 for the general public; $15 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for students with valid IDs.

• 10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 31, Mark O’Connor String Workshop, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Guest artist Mark O’Connor will lead a workshop for string students in the Bienen School of Music. Admission is free.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 31, Film Screening: Alex de Grassi and “A Story of Floating Weeds,” a silent film by Yasujiro Ozu with live music by Alex de Grassi, at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. In 2006, the New York Guitar Festival commissioned Grammy-nominated guitarist Alex de Grassi to compose and perform an original score for Yasujiro Ozu’s film, “A Story of Floating Weeds.” De Grassi will provide the music during a Block Cinema screening of Ozu’s 1934 silent film. His score features solo acoustic guitar with melodies based on a pentatonic blues motif suggesting the sound of the “koto,” a Japanese harp-like instrument. “Floating weeds, drifting down the leisurely river of our lives," has long been a favored metaphor in Japanese prose and poetry. In Ozu’s film, it refers to a group of traveling actors who seem to be drifting aimlessly on currents beyond their control. All tickets are $8. For information or to purchase tickets in advance, phone (847) 467-4000 or visit www.pickstaiger.org. No discounts or Block Cinema passes accepted.

• 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 1, Concert: “Road Trip: An Operatic Travelogue,” Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Students from the Bienen School of Music’s opera program will perform opera classics from Asia, Europe and America. The program will be staged by Jay Lesenger, Bienen School director of opera, with music direction by Alan Darling. Tickets are $14 for the general public; $12 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $6 for students with valid IDs.

• 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2, Concert: Boukman Eksperyans, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. The 10-piece Haitian ensemble Boukman Eksperyans will showcase its high-energy sound, fusing traditional Haitian and Caribbean rhythms with rock and reggae. The Grammy-nominated group’s musical message of unity, compassion and intolerance for political corruption and neglect became the battle hymn for a nation ravaged by injustice. Boukman Eksperyans has performed around the globe and appeared with Wyclef Jean, Femi Kuti, the Fugees, Baaba Maal and other stars of world music. The concert is presented in conjunction with the University’s One Book One Northwestern program. Tickets are $16 for the general public; $14 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for students with valid IDs.

4 p.m. Monday, April 4, Lecture and Demonstration: “Music and Human Rights in Haiti,” at Regenstein Recital Hall. Theodore and Mimerose Beaubrun of the Haitian ensemble Boukman Eksperyans will be featured in a lecture, discussion and Q & A on music and human rights in Haiti. The “Passport” festival event is presented in partnership with One Book One Northwestern and the Northwestern Conference on Human Rights. One Book One Northwestern is a campus-wide program that brings students, staff and faculty from across campus together around a single book. This year’s selection  -- Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains” -- chronicles the fight of a Harvard-trained physician to bring adequate medical care to Haiti and other medically underserved nations. An initiative of the Office of the President, the One Book One Northwestern program is coordinated by the University’s Center for Civic Engagement. Admission is free.

• 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7, Concert: The Hot Club of San Francisco, “Meet Me in Paris,” at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Group leader and guitarist Paul Mehling, guitarist Jeff Magidson, violinist Evan Price, bassist Clint Baker and guitarist and featured vocalist Isabelle Fontaine, celebrate gypsy jazz of 1920s and 1930s Paris. Gypsy jazz was made famous by the legendary Hot Club de France, pioneering jazz guitarist and composer Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) and French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli (1908-1997). Tickets are $16 for the general public; $14 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for students with valid IDs.

2 p.m. Friday, April 8, Lecture and Demonstration: “Irish and Jewish Influences on Tin Pan Alley,” at Regenstein Recital Hall. Renowned musician and folklorist Mick Moloney will present an hourlong lecture and demonstration on Irish and Jewish Influences on Tin Pan Alley. Admission is free.

4 p.m. Friday, April 8, Lecture and Demonstration: “Unlocking the Secrets of Gypsy Guitar, at Regenstein Recital Hall. “Passport” festival guitarist Paul Mehling, leader of The Hot Club of San Francisco ensemble, will present an hourlong lecture and demonstration on gypsy swing. Mehling has been dubbed “the godfather of American gypsy jazz.” Admission is free.

 

• 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, Film Screening: “Silent Surrealism: Silent Films with Live Music by the Hot Club of San Francisco,” at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art’s Block Cinema. This multimedia event will be a trip back to 1920s and 1930s Paris when gypsy caravans presented silent films accompanied by their classic gypsy jazz. The Hot Club of San Francisco will accompany four silent films with original scores by the band. The films include: Charley Bowers’ “Now You Tell One”; James Sibley Watson’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”; Harold Muller’s “It’s a Bird”; and Harold Shaw’s “The Land Beyond the Sunset.”

All tickets are $8. For more information or to purchase tickets in advance, phone (847) 467-4000 or visit www.pickstaiger.org. No discounts or Block Cinema passes accepted.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, Concert: “If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews: A Tribute to Irish and Jewish Influences on Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley,” at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. The final concert of the 2011 “Passport” festival will feature guest artists Mick Moloney, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, Athena Tergis, Brendan Dolan, Billy McComiskey, Susan McKeown, and Niall O’Leary. In 1912 William Jerome and Jean Schwartz wrote “If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews,” a song celebrating Irish-Jewish collaborations. In fact, the pair were a perfect example of this lasting partnership. Jerome was the son of Patrick Flannery, an immigrant from Ireland’s County Tipperary. This concert explores the good-natured ethnic flux, competition and cooperation that left a lasting imprint on American popular music. Tickets are $18 for the general public, $15 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff and $8 for students with valid IDs.

For more information, call the Pick-Staiger Concert Office at (847) 491-5441 or visit www.pickstaiger.org. To order tickets by phone, call the Pick-Staiger Ticket Office at (847) 467-4000.