Banjo virtuoso Bèla Fleck with noted string quartet Brooklyn Rider will be featured Nov. 18 as part of the Signature Series sponsored by Samford University’s Leslie S. Wright Fine Arts Center. The performance is at 7:30 p.m.
The quintet will perform classical works from Fleck’s recent album “The Imposter.” The program will include Fleck’s brand new title concerto for banjo, as well as “Night Flight Over Water,” a work specially written for banjo and string quartet.
Fleck is the winner of 15 Grammy Awards and has been nominated in more categories than any other artist in Grammy history. Beyond recording and performing with his bluegrass-fusion band, the Flecktones, for more than 25 years, Fleck has collaborated with musicians across multiple genres and from around the globe, from composer-bassist pal Edgar Meyer, former Alabama Symphony Orchestra composer-in- residence, to jazz pianists Chick Corea and Marcus Roberts. In a review, The New York Times said, “Mr. Fleck can lay claim to the title of the most popular living banjoist, having done much to push the instrument beyond bluegrass terra firma into jazz, classical and beyond.”
Brooklyn Rider is composed of Colin Jacobsen and Johnny Gandelsman, violin; Nicholas Cords, viola; and Eric Jacobsen, cello. This genre-bending quartet has taken the classical world by storm with their eclectic repertoire and stunning range of collaborations, according to Jaime Davidson, Wright Center assistant director. The four musicians have worked composers Derek Bermel, Lisa Bielawa, Ljova and Philip Glass, among many others. Equally integral to the quartet’s projects are creative collaborations with other artists including Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes, the trio 2 Foot Yard, singer/songwriters Christina Courtin and Suzanne Vega, and choreographers/dancers Lil Buck, Damian Woetzel and Wendy Whelan.
Fleck has been contemplating classical composing for many years, finally taking the plunge at the urging of Nashville Symphony CEO Alan Valentine. According to Fleck, “The fact that I had no qualifications whatsoever as a classical composer didn't seem to bother him, and honestly it bothered me only a little. I've always enjoyed dreaming up challenging scenarios, and then digging deep and working obsessively to attempt to pull them off.”
Explaining the concerto’s title, Fleck said, “Everyone knows the feeling of being the outsider, or the ‘other,’ that you really don’t belong. Working in so many different kinds of music beyond my native genre, I often do feel like an impostor, as though if anyone ever figured out the truth I'd be ejected immediately.”
Speaking about his collaboration with Brooklyn Rider, Fleck was effusive with his praise. “I listened to their music, and really enjoyed and respected their work,” he said. “I started out writing Night Flight Over Water by composing a dozen or so sketches. The initial idea was that the ones that really worked out for this combination of instruments were the ones that I would use to build the piece from. But these guys were so good that they made everything I had come up with sound amazing – so it was very hard to figure out what not to use.”
Tickets are $25-$50 with student tickets just $10. Signature Series package and season tickets are still available, as well, starting at $150. Tickets are available online at tickets.samford.edu or by calling the Samford Arts box office at 205-726-2853. Regular box office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
This performance is made possible through support of the National Endowment for the Arts, South Arts and the Alabama State Council on the Arts. More information on the entire Signature Series, including upcoming performances with Koresh Dance Company, Jon Batiste and more, as well as all other events held at the Wright Center can be found online at www.samford.edu/wrightcenter.by Jaime Davidson firstname.lastname@example.org