Highly Recommended Concerts: CELEBRITY SERIES OF BOSTON (January 11 – March 17, 2024)

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by Tony Frankel on January 3, 2024

in Concerts / Events,Music,Theater-Boston

Hands down, one of the greatest selections of Celebrity Concerts in the country, the Celebrity Series of Boston should be the envy of any arts programming organization. This striking, diverse collection is a wonder, and tickets are now on sale for performances January 11 – March 17, 2024. (Tickets for March 19 onward go on sale January 9, starting with the AMAZING not-to-be-missed Max Raabe & Palast Orchester.) This is the first season programmed by new Artistic Director Nicole Taney, who knows a thing or two from her previous stint as Director of Artistic Planning and Operations at Spoleto Festival USA. Check the site for additional concerts.

Music From The Sole (Titus Ogilvie Laing)

Music From The Sole: I Didn’t Come to Stay (Boston Debut Performances!)
Thursday, January 11 at 8pm 
Friday, January 12 at 8pm (with post-performance Q&A moderated by Aaron Tolson)
Saturday, January 13, at 2pm & 8pm 
NEC’s Plimpton Shattuck Black Box Theatre

Music From The Sole is a tap dance and live music company that celebrates tap’s connections to Afro-Brazilian music and dance, and other influences across the African Diaspora. Jointly founded by Brazilian tap dancer and choreographer Leonardo Sandoval and American composer and bassist Gregory Richardson, the company strives to bring tap dance—America’s original vernacular dance—and its lineage to the broadest possible audience.

I Didn’t Come to Stay, a work for eight dancers and a five-piece band earned a spot on the New York Times’ Best Dance Performances of 2022 list. It explores tap’s connections to house, samba, Brazilian funk, and jazz. The artists embrace these forms’ shared roots across the diaspora and reflect on racial and cultural identity while celebrating the joy, strength, depth, and virtuosity of Black dance and music.

Company members from Music From the Sole will lead a music and movement workshop at Somerville’s Armory on January 9 at 7pm. The event is free and open to all, with all ages and ability levels welcome.

Let the Crows Come (Jake Armour)

Ashwini Ramaswamy: Let the Crows Come 
Friday, January 19 at 8pm 
Saturday, January 20 at 2pm (with post-performance Q&A moderated by Sunanda Narayanan)
NEC’s Plimpton Shattuck Black Box Theatre 
Video trailer
Wed. January 17, 6:30 PM
Join us for A Conversation with Ashwini and Ranee Ramaswamy
at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center

Evoking potent symbolism of the crow as a messenger between life and death, transcending space and time, Ashwini Ramaswamy explores memory, dislocation, ancestry, and more in the Boston premiere of Let the Crows Come.

Ramaswamy, who comes from a family of Bharatanatyam teachers and practitioners, remixes and recontextualizes this Indian classical dance alongside two other artists representing disparate techniques and traditions. Alanna Morris performs with an Afro-Caribbean Modern technique, and Berit Ahlgren performs using the Gaga technique developed by Ohad Naharin.

Together, the three women illustrate the transmission of memory and ideas from person to person, generation to generation, and culture to culture: movements from Bharatanatyam dance are passed between them, transformed by each dancer’s training and artistic interpretations. Profoundly personal and universally resonant, Let the Crows Come is “a fascinating, beautifully developed exchange of dance styles,” according to The Washington Post.

The performance on January 20 features a talkback moderated by Sunanda Narayanan, acclaimed Bharatanatyam practitioner, choreographer, and teacher who founded and heads the Thillai Fine Arts Academy in Newton, Massachusetts.

Anthony Roth Costanzo (Matthew Placek)

Anthony Roth Costanzo, countertenor and Bryan Wagorn, piano
Friday, January 19 at 8pm | NEC’s Jordan Hall

“Super-cool, multi-talented and dauntlessly adventurous American countertenor” (The Telegraph) Anthony Roth Costanzo returns to Boston for an all-new recital program with pianist Bryan Wagorn. Costanzo’s selections span 250 years of music history, and show off the range of his artistry. Vocal fireworks of the Italian Baroque pair with works by contemporary composers. In the second half, art songs by Verdi give way to unforgettable interpretations of pop standards and Broadway selections made famous by Barbra Streisand. A recent Grammy Award winner for his fearless and stunning portrayal of the title character in Philip Glass’ Akhnaten, Anthony Roth Costanzo has drawn public and critical acclaim for his unforgettable performances and the brilliance, power, and agility of his voice.

Hélène Grimaud, piano
Saturday, January 20 at 8pm | NEC’s Jordan Hall 
Sunday, January 21 at 3pm | Groton Hill Music Center  (low ticket availability!)

French pianist Hélène Grimaud enjoys a busy and varied career on the world’s concert stages as an orchestral soloist, a chamber music partner, and a solo recitalist. Grimaud’s Boston-area recital debut shows off her expressive skills and technical control: the many moods and the brilliant variations heard in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30, the colors and soulfulness of Brahms’ Three Intermezzi for piano, Op. 117, and Fantasies, Op. 116, and the pyrotechnics of Busoni’s transcription of Bach’s Chaconne.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
Max Roach Centennial Celebration
Sunday, January 28 at 5pm | Symphony Hall

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra pay tribute to one of the greats when they celebrate the centennial of drummer Max Roach. Roach, a pioneering legend and innovative master musician and bandleader, spanned a diverse range of styles and influenced generations to follow with his artistry and his commitment to activism.

Cécile McLorin Salvant (Karolis Kaminskas)

Cécile McLorin Salvant 
Friday, February 2 at 8pm | Sanders Theatre

Brilliant jazz vocalist, composer, and lyricist Cécile McLorin Salvant weaves a tale of women’s secrecy under the male gaze in her latest project, Mélusine. Salvant takes as her inspiration the European folk legend of Mélusine, the woman cursed to spend one day each week as a half-snake. Experience the profound vision of a major talent with this fascinating song cycle from one of today’s most acclaimed singers in any genre.

A Far Cry (John Johansen)

What Makes it Great? With Rob Kapilow, featuring A Far Cry
Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings
Saturday, February 3 at 8pm | NEC’s Jordan Hall
Streaming option available

Rob Kapilow, with the assistance of Boston’s self-conducted chamber orchestra A Far Cry, explores Tchaikovsky’s sweeping Serenade for Strings in the context of Tchaikovsky’s life and career. He unpacks and illustrates some of Tchaikovsky’s compositional choices and provides illuminating biographical and historical context about the composer, and how he negotiated the various political and artistic movements of his time.

Renée Fleming, soprano and Inon Barnatan, piano
Sunday, February 4, at 5pm | Symphony Hall

Renée Fleming is one of the most acclaimed singers of our time, performing on the stages of the world’s greatest opera houses and concert halls. Honored with five Grammy Awards and the National Medal of Arts, she is an icon who has shared her voice with the world on notable occasions, from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to the Super Bowl.

Alongside pianist Inon Barnatan, Fleming presents the Boston premiere of an all-new program inspired by her 2022 Grammy Award-winning album, Voice of Nature: the Anthropocene. This special multimedia performance spans the classical, romantic, and contemporary, with beloved songs and new commissions exploring nature as both inspiration to and victim of humanity.

Nebulous Quartet: Musica sem Fronteiras
Friday, February 9 at 7:30pm | Multicultural Arts Center, East Cambridge
Free with RSVP

The Nebulous Quartet might have traditional string quartet instrumentation, but their sound is all their own. They create unique arrangements and beautiful original compositions that reflect the members’ distinct musical identities and the joyful spirit that brings them together.

Fernando Brandão Quartet
Saturday, February 10 at 5pm | Harvard-Epworth Church, Cambridge 
Free with RSVP

Flutist Fernando Brandão and his Quartet perform Brazilian contemporary jazz and Southeastern Brazilian music styles in this concert that is one of three that celebrate the vibrant diversity of Brazilian music and culture.

Víkingur Ólafsson, piano: Goldberg Variations
Saturday, February 10 at 8pm | NEC’s Jordan Hall

Drawing out the underlying structures and illuminating extraordinary moments, Víkingur Ólafsson reflects and refracts well-known works to make us hear them in new ways. With its rigorous form and opportunities for flights of virtuosic expression, what will the Goldberg Variations become in the hands of one of Bach’s most innovative and thoughtful interpreters?

Takács Quartet
Friday, February 16 at 8pm | NEC’s Jordan Hall
Streaming option available

The Takács Quartet are renowned around the world for their elegant, incisive accounts of the classic quartet repertoire and for their appetite for new music. Their program for this engagement offers Haydn’s luminous “Sunrise” quartet and the second of Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” quartets, alongside a new work and Celebrity Series co-commission, flow, from violist and composer Nokuthula Ngwenyama.

Justin Austin, baritone and Howard Watkins, piano 
Wednesday, February 21 at 7:30 pm | Longy’s Pickman Hall

Praised in Opera News as “a gentle actor and elegant musician” and in The Wall Street Journal for his “mellifluous baritone,” vocalist Justin Austin is quickly making a name for himself on opera, oratorio, musical theatre, and concert stages around the United States and Europe. Austin’s beautifully “burnished” (The New York Times) baritone voice and compelling stage presence make this recital a can’t-miss Boston debut from a young artist who is rapidly scaling the heights of the operatic world.

Time for Three (Shervin Lainez)

Time for Three 
Saturday, February 24 at 8pm | Sanders Theatre 

To experience Time For Three (TF3) live is to hear the various eras, styles, and traditions of Western music – Americana, pop, classical, and more – fold in on themselves and emerge anew. Time For Three—Charles Yang (violin, vocals), Nicolas “Nick” Kendall (violin, vocals), and Ranaan Meyer (double bass, vocals)—have found a unique and captivating niche.

Hub New Music: “to hear the things we cannot see”
Saturday, February 24 at 3pm | Multicultural Arts Center, East Cambridge
Free with RSVP

Hub New Music, a “nimble quartet of winds and strings” (NPR), has built a national reputation for commissioning and performing fresh, dazzling, and ambitious contemporary works. Hear them in their hometown for the world premiere of a work by Marcos Balter and more.

An Evening with Audra McDonald
Tuesday, February 27 at 8pm at Symphony Hall

Audra McDonald returns to Boston in a one-night-only engagement with an orchestra of local musicians. An icon on stage and screen, the six-time Tony Award-winning McDonald lends her luminous voice and committed stage presence to Broadway favorites, standards, and more.

Pedrito Martinez (Danny Clinch)

Arturo Sandoval and Pedrito Martínez
Friday, March 8 at 8pm | Berklee Performance Center

Two generations of brilliant Cuban musicians come together when Arturo Sandoval and Pedrito Martinez share a double bill at Berklee Performance Center! Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is an undisputed legend: a protégé of Dizzy Gillespie, who helped him defect from Cuba, he helped redefine the sound of Cuban jazz as a founding member of Irakere. Percussionist Pedrito Martinez, born in Havana, grew up surrounded by rumba music, and became a specialist in rumba and Afro-Cuban percussion, bringing his folkloric music to his musical partnerships.

Sierra Hull (Allen Clark)

Sierra Hull 
Saturday, March 9 at 8pm | Sanders Theatre

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and brilliantly talented multi-instrumentalist Sierra Hull returns with her band for an evening of virtuosity, honesty, and heart. She creates music inspired and informed by bluegrass but with a soundscape and point of view all her own. Folk, pop, and bluegrass come together with Hull’s heartfelt and clever lyrics and often-ethereal vocals for an unforgettable evening of music.

Zahili Zamora’s Jazz Ensemble
Saturday, March 9, 3pm | Bethel A.M.E. Church, Jamaica Plain 
Free with RSVP

Born in Manzanillo, Cuba, pianist Zahili Gonzalez Zamora started playing piano at the age of six, and graduated from the National School of Music with a performance degree. Her rich musical background, career experience, and extraordinary improvisation skills make her a modern Latin jazz leader and an influential musician. In 2018, with funding from The Boston Foundation, her Afro-Cuban jazz Trio, MIXCLA, released its self-titled album, which features her original tunes and received two nominations from the Boston Music Awards (2018 & 2019).

Jess Gillam, saxophone and Thomas Weaver, piano
Tuesday, March 12 at 7:30pm | Longy’s Pickman Hall

English saxophonist Jess Gillam is delighting the music world with her outstanding talent and irresistible personality. Gillam’s program will show off her range and versatility. Recent recital programs have spanned the Renaissance and Baroque, through the twentieth century, to the present day. Passionate about inspiring and bringing joy to people through music, Gillam invites audiences around the world on journeys of musical discovery through her electrifying performances and eclectic programming.

Alan Cumming (Robert Torres)

Alan Cumming is Not Acting His Age
Friday, March 15 at 8pm | Sanders Theatre

Scottish-American polymath Alan Cumming returns with his new cabaret show Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age, an evening of story and song celebrating and exploring his puckish, eclectic spirit and joie de vivre, with a joyful and mischievous exploration of that most communal of pastimes: aging!

Miho Hazama and m_unit 
Saturday, March 16 at 8pm | Berklee Performance Center

Grammy-nominated composer and conductor Miho Hazama is one of the most promising and talented composers/arrangers of her generation. Lauded in DownBeat as one of “25 for the Future,” Hazama creates inventive, complex, and surprising compositions for m_unit, the 13-piece jazz chamber orchestra that she leads.

Orchestre de Paris, Klaus Mäkelä, conductor
Yunchan Lim, piano soloist
Sunday, March 17 at 7pm | Symphony Hall

Two young superstars lead the way when the Orchestre de Paris makes a return to Celebrity Series for the first time since 1993/94 with three important pieces that all premiered in the City of Light. Conductor Klaus Mäkëla, just twenty-eight, already has a major career, with prestigious appointments at Paris, Oslo, and the Concertgebouw. Yunchan Lim, who in 2022 became the youngest pianist to win the Cliburn Competition and attends the New England Conservatory, takes the soloist part for Prokofiev’s breathtaking, fiendishly difficult Second Piano Concerto.

Max Raabe & Palast Orchester (©Frédéric Batier)

Max Raabe & Palast Orchester
Dream a Little Dream (Tickets on sale January 9, 2024)
Tuesday, March 19 at 8pm | Symphony Hall

For the first time in Boston since 2012, Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester bring the glamour and sophistication of Weimar-era Berlin to Symphony Hall with a cool, contemporary twist. Swing and cabaret big band classics from Germany’s Roaring Twenties meet Broadway and Tin Pan Alley standards by Cole Porter and Irving Berlin in this irresistible concert.

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