Four Questions: Brooklyn Art Song Society
Michael Brofman, the intrepid founder and artistic director of Brooklyn Art Song Society, has an exciting 10th season in store. As in previous seasons, concerts are arranged around a thematic core; unlike previous seasons, this year’s core is a little more esoteric: the notion of home. Questions of identity and belonging, and the way that song connects us to our roots, will be a major feature of this year’s programming. Particularly notable is the season’s finale, featuring the premiere of Daron Hagen’s The Art of Song, a co-commission with Philadelphia’s LyricFest.
1. What songs and song performers are you presenting this season?
For its 10th season, BASS returns to the Brooklyn Historical Society for monthly concerts, as well as special events at the Brooklyn Public Library and the Old Stone House. BASS is also proud to introduce a new outreach program in conjunction with Heights and Hills Senior Services. BASS has moved audiences for the last decade with inspired performances and innovative programming, and the 2019-20 season demonstrates why BASS has become an institution integral to the cultural fabric of Brooklyn.
BASS opens the season on Friday, October 4th with Home, five concerts that explore what it means to be from a place and part of a people. Part one features music inspired by the Roma people, including iconic songs by Brahms, Dvorak, and Liszt, as well as virtuoso violin works by Ravel and Sarasate. On Friday, November 1st, BASS presents a rare complete performance of Joseph Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, a series of masterful folksong arrangements in the fascinating language Occitan, spoken in southern France as well as parts of Italy and Spain. BASS begins 2020 with songs and piano works by two Polish masters, Frederic Chopin and Karol Szymanowksi. In February, BASS couples song cycles by Béla Bartók and Zoltan Kodaly with the monumental Diary of One Who Vanished by Leoš Janáček. Home concludes on March 7 with songs by Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius, including Grieg’s rarely heard masterpiece Haugtussa. Each concert in Home will be proceeded by a free lecture by some of New York City’s top musicologists and other experts. Featured speakers include Christiana Grigore of the Roma People’s Project, art historian Patricia Mainardi (CUNY), and musicologist Marilyn McCoy (Columbia University).
On Friday, June 5th, BASS concludes its mainstage series at the Brooklyn Historical Society with the world premiere of Daron Hagen’s The Art of Song, co-commissioned by Philadelphia’s LyricFest. An evening-length “cornucopia of song” for six singers and two pianists, this monumental work is a celebration of one of America’s most important living composers of song as well as a perfect culmination of BASS’s first decade of concerts.
In addition to BASS’s mainstage events, BASS will offer two special events around Brooklyn. On Friday, December 7th, BASS returns to the Old Stone House for its third annual ‘bonus’ concert for subscribers. This concert features the Folk Song Arrangements of Benjamin Britten. It’s free for BASS subscribers, and a limited number of tickets will be available to the general public. Also, on Sunday, May 10th, BASS presents its annual free concert at the Brooklyn Public Library, the fourth installment of The Dichter Project, which focuses on the greatest settings of the greatest German poets. This concert features iconic settings of Friederich Rückert by Brahms, Mahler, Schubert and both Clara and Robert Schumann. New this season, BASS will partner with Heights and Hills Senior Services to bring its programming free of charge to seniors from all over Brooklyn who lack access to the arts.
The 2019-2020 season features 40 of the most gifted interpreters of song today. Those making their BASS debuts include sopranos Amy Owens and Devony Smith (both alumnae of New York Festival of Song), contralto Sara Corden (Met Opera), and tenor Andrew Fuchs (Trinity Wall Street Choir). Returning favorites include sopranos Marnie Breckenridge (San Francisco Opera) and Kristina Bachrach, mezzo soprano Blythe Gaissert, tenor Dominic Armstrong, and baritone Steven Eddy (winner, Joy in Singing). For a complete list of artists and more information on all programming, please visit www.brooklynartsongsociety.org.
2. What makes your series unique?
BASS presents concerts the first Friday of every month at the Brooklyn Historical Society, programing large segments of the canon as well as the works of our time.
3. What stories do you seek to tell through art song?
BASS believes that the aesthetic values of art song, its directness of expression, intimate setting, and emotional honesty, are essential artistic experiences that should be fostered and preserved for future generations.
4. How are you engaging in socially relevant themes through art song?
In this, our 10th season, we are exploring the notion of “home,” a concept becoming increasingly fraught in our current political climate. As one example out of many in our upcoming season, our opening night concert, "Roma," has a pre-concert lecture by Cristiana Grigore of the Roma People's Project to bring awareness to the history and social issues affecting the Roma people.