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New season of Shriver Hall Concert Series will honor history and embrace new works

The Shriver Hall Concert Series announced its 2019-2020 season on March 26, marking the first full season to be held in their newly renovated hall located on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus since its reopening earlier this month.

The programming choices reflect a mission to honor the series’ history while embracing new works and up-and-coming performers. Highlights include performances of works by several living composers, including the premiere of a piece by Nina C. Young commissioned by the series; the Baltimore premiere of the song cycle “Cycles of my Being” by MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner Tyshawn Sorey; and a recital by pianist Richard Goode marking 50 years since his Shriver Hall Concert Series debut.

Many of the more recently written pieces seek to engage in larger social and political issues according to executive director of the series, Catherine Cochran. “I think this is a season of dialogue, both musical as well as societal dialogue,” she said.

Set for a February 2020 performance, “Cycles of My Being” came about through multi-instrumentalist and composer Tyshawn Sorey’s collaboration with National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes. The 40-minute work describes life as a black man in America and features Grammy-nominated tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who has been touring the work around the country since its world premiere in February 2018.

“The way that Brownlee has programmed this [concert] is so interesting,” said Cochran. “He paired it with [Robert Schumann’s] ‘Dichterliebe.’ They’re two big cycles telling the stories of men – obviously in very different circumstances – but they’re both journeys of young men and their experiences.”

Nina C. Young’s “The Glow that Illuminates, The Glare that Obscures” adds to a body of work that often explores the interaction between humans, technology and environment. This world premiere sees the American Brass Quintet using electronics, pre-recorded material and the physical space of Shriver Hall in its performance.

The Shriver Hall Concert Series began commissioning and premiering new music during its 50th anniversary season in 2015-2016.

“The inclusion of new music is a deliberate choice,” said Cochran. “People like Nina C. Young are coming out of the tradition” of chamber music.

At the same time, fans can continue to rely on the series to usher some of the best classical musicians in the world to Baltimore stages. Looking forward to Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020, the series will welcome luminaries Midori Gotō (otherwise known simply as Midori) and Jean-Yves Thibaudet for an all-Beethoven program in January.

The Discovery series – which remains free to the public -- presents rising stars of classical music in their Baltimore debuts. A notable performer includes the 20-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year award and the cellist who gained a worldwide audience when he performed at the 2018 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Other unique programs include what Cochran describes as “the very rare opportunity of a viola recital by one of the great violists of our time.” German violist Tabea Zimmerman will be joined by pianist Javier Perianes for a program featuring works by South American, Spanish, and German composers.

The Shriver Hall Concert Series has been providing educational programs and world-class performances of chamber music to Baltimore audiences for over 50 years. Though independent from the university, the series’ concerts have traditionally taken place at Shriver Hall on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University.

The series had to seek alternative venues throughout the 18-month renovation of the hall. Costing $14 million, the new Shriver Hall features larger, more comfortable seats and a wealth of state-of-the-art technology including a new sound system, projection system and movie screen.

Barring the Discovery Series and Spring 2020 Lecture Series – which are both free – general admission tickets are $42. Student tickets cost $10 and a series subscription is $249.

Elizabeth Nonemaker covers classical music for the Baltimore Sun as a freelance writer. Classical music coverage at The Sun is supported in part by a grant from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The Sun makes all editorial decisions.

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