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Preview: ATB Welcomes Back Violinist Johnny Gandelsman

Kelly Gallagher ‘22

Senior Advisor 

Whether you grew up listening to Bach or can’t tell him from Beethovan, violinist Johnny Gandelsman’s interpretation of Bach’s classic cello suites is a thrilling revelation. As Gandelsman transcribes the cello suites for violin, he brings out a joyful, “folksy” element (as The New York Times describes it) that makes listeners want to leap to their feet and dance. Gandelsman, who has previously performed at the College of the Holy Cross as a member of Silkroad Ensemble, will be welcomed back to campus next week by Arts Transcending Borders as he shares his newest projects with the community. 

Gandelsman will kick off his return with a lunchtime concert, On Bach, at 12 p.m. on Monday, October 4. The performance will feature Gandelsman on the violin as well as cellist Jan Müller-Szeraws, artist-in-residence at the Department of Music. Yonca Karakilic, Director of Arts Transcending Borders, described the concert as “a way to shine some light and perspective on Bach” through the two different instruments. To continue the theme of perspective, the concert will conclude with a conversation between the performers and composer Osvaldo Golijov, Loyola Professor of Music, to explore the major ideas in the music. The 45-minute performance will take place in Brooks Concert Hall, where seating is limited, so ATB will be livestreaming the performance in order to welcome the broader public. 

During his Tuesday evening concert, Gandelsman will introduce his audience in Hogan Ballroom to both his interpretation of Bach and to three selections from his new work, “This is America.” The project has its roots in the experience of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when artists on hiatus reconsidered how they can contribute to their fields, especially in the context of the protests and increased national focus on racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Gandelsman decided to commission 20 short, solo violin works from a diverse pool of composers. The composers range in degrees of prominence, musical traditions, racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, and age. The project aims to provide a platform especially to voices that are often not featured on the national stage, yet are exploring and expanding the meaning of American music.

Photo Courtesy of Arts Transcending Borders

Gandelsman’s music captivates listeners coming from a variety of experiences with music, which makes his performance an especially rich opportunity for the entire campus community. In a Zoom interview with The Spire, Ms. Karakilic shared her perspective on how exploring new music helps students maximize the college experience, saying “You don’t have to come with a musical background, you don’t have to play an instrument, but these are the kinds of things that feed our soul and open up our worldview to our experiences, to new experiences, and to the experiences of those around us.” She reflected that the jargon of the classical music world might intimidate new listeners, but emphasized that music holds something for everyone. “I think it’s always a question of coming to the experience with an open heart and open ears. There’s so much that can be found there, it doesn’t matter if you know the music or not. There’s so much you can take out of it when you open yourself up to that experience.” She concluded by commenting on how opening oneself up to music and listening deeply is “almost like a mindfulness experience,” which she hopes all students will find fulfilling.

Gandelsman’s performance will continue to contribute to the vibrant creative life on campus throughout the semester. Three of the pieces in “This is America” were commissioned by the Vail Dance Festival with the intention of choreographing dance to the music (the piece premiered this summer). In this spirit, a Music Theory class and Dance Composition class at the College will collaborate on a piece. The classes have already begun to study the performance from the Vail Dance Festival, and they’ll meet with Gandelsman to discuss the collaboration process. Gandlesman will also visit Nativity School. 

Be sure to RSVP for On Bach, which will occur in Brooks Music Hall on Monday, October 4, at 12 p.m., or to join the livestream. Tickets are available for purchase for “This is America” on Tuesday, October 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the Hogan Ballroom. Links regarding both events are available on ATB’s Events Calendar page, as well as in a 9/28 email from ATB. 

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