Season No. 102 of Maverick Concerts begins on June 30. It’s not a season we would have recognized four decades ago when I first started attending Maverick. In those days, there were Sunday afternoon concerts only. Most of them were played by string quartets; the others were classical ensembles or soloists. This year begins with a famous jazz pianist, and instead of nine or ten concerts per season there are now 19 — not counting young people’s concerts, one of which actually kicks the season off on the morning of the 30th.
There have been two major changes in recent years. One is the increasing number of “non-classical” (jazz and folk) concerts which are now dominating Saturday nights. The other, more subtle, is the introduction of programming themes for the summer. This year, the theme is “Americans in Paris,” seven concerts concentrating in part on the work of Ned Rorem, the American composer who turns 95 in October. Rorem chronicled his years in Paris in a widely-read book, “The Paris Diaries,” which became notorious because of his open discussion of his homosexual affairs. Music by Rorem is featured on four of the concerts, and another (July 22) will be preceded by a pre-concert talk about Rorem and will include music by two of his students.
Maverick’s Music Director, Alexander Platt, says “creating a theme for each season at the Maverick is always the most pleasurable chore — especially as here in Woodstock, we have an audience that wants to be challenged, as well as entertained. With this year marking the centenary of the death of Claude Debussy, who died in 1918 as German bombs fell over Paris, I thought a summer that featured much of the very greatest French chamber music would be a welcome tonic, in what is doubtless going to be a long, hot summer in these fractured United States. And with the upcoming 95th birthday of Ned Rorem — who is surely up there with Gershwin, Cole Porter, James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, and Hemingway and Fitzgerald as one of the very greatest “Americans in Paris,” it was so wonderfully easy to bring in a stateside connection; indeed, the idea of France being a place of refuge for those who need to temporarily escape America seems once again relevant — maybe not physically, but philosophically, as the very inspirations of our rights and freedoms have their roots in Gallic soil.”
String quartets are a little less dominant in Maverick programming than they once were, but there are still plenty of them: seven, to be exact. They are: Escher String Quartet, July 8 (with Rorem on the program); Dover Quartet, with baritone Andrew Garland, July 15 (Rorem); Shanghai Quartet (25th Maverick anniversary), with bassoonist Peter Kolkay, July 29; Jupiter String Quartet, with pianist Daniel Gortler (Rorem Piano Sonata!), August 5; Danish String Quartet, August 12; Amernet String Quartet, August 19; and Borromeo String Quartet, August 26 (Rorem). I believe the three piano trios (piano, violin, cello) may set a record for one season: Trio Con Brio Copenhagen (July 1); Lincoln Trio (Rorem students), July 22; and Trio Solisti, concluding the season on September 2. The Lincoln Trio concert has been chosen to dedicate to longtime Maverick supporter and bench-builder Jay Wenk, who died recently at the age of 91. Wenk was himself a trained composer (Eastman School and Juilliard) who was dedicated throughout his life to the cause of contemporary music.
Other classical programs this season include Imani Winds with pianist Andrew Russo, July 14 (“Bastille Day in Paris: Celebrating the World of Josephine Baker,” so it’s not entirely classical); pianist Pedja Muzijevic (special Friends of the Maverick Concert, August 11); and the now-legendary Maverick Chamber Orchestra concert conducted by Maverick’s Music Director Alexander Platt, August 25, 6 p.m.. This year the orchestra celebrates Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday anniversary in a collaboration with two other institutions. Pianist Blair McMillen travels over from Bard College to play Bernstein’s “Seven Anniversaries.” And the orchestra will perform Bernstein’s “Songfeast,” an arrangement by Platt and Robert Osborne, with singers from the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice.
The jazz programs begin on June 30 (8 p.m., as with all the jazz concerts) with legendary pianist Kenny Barron. Now in his mid-70s, Barron was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2010. The list of musicians with whom he has collaborated includes Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Yusef Lateef, Ron Carter, Stan Getz, and many others. He also taught jazz at Rutgers University for more than a quarter-century. The Bill Charlap Trio presents a jazz tribute to Leonard Bernstein on July 7. Maverick’s own Executive Director Kitt Potter, who has performed widely in the area as a vocal stylist, makes her Maverick Debut on July 28 with a band of local jazz celebrities. Fred Hersch returns to Maverick on August 4 in a duo with guitarist Gilad Hekselman. The final Jazz at the Maverick concert of the season marks the debut of the Nilson Matta Brazilian Voyage Quartet on September 1.
Popular children’s singer Elizabeth Mitchell opens the Young People’s Concert series (and the season) on Saturday, June 30, at 11 a.m. Other Young People’s Concerts this season are by pianist Katya Grineva (July 14), the Lincoln Trio (July 21), and the New Muse 4tet with violinist Gwen Laster on August 4 (a program called “No Racism, No Hate, No Fear”). The other special events of the season are Maverick Prodigies (a new feature last year) with Jake Sorgen on Friday, July 6, at 8 p.m.; and “A Multimedia Celebration of Maverick Concerts” presented by Blauweiss Films on Thursday, July 26, at 8 p.m.