To visit Meredith Monk’s West Broadway loft, you used to have to call upstairs from a pay phone, and she would throw down a sock with the key to the building tucked inside. Then once inside, you’d trudge up five very long flights of stairs. Later there was a buzzer, and this year, an elevator arrived to carry you up. The change is symbolic of a career that has gone from performances for devoted, cult-like audiences to opera houses echoing with applause, and awards that could fill every nook and cranny of that same loft.
New York City will resound with the sound of Meredith Monk’s music as her 50th anniversary is celebrated far and wide in venues large and small—from (Le) Poisson Rouge to Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall to its Weill Recital and Stern Auditorium to BAM’s Harvey Theater—over the next year.
The spectacular musical celebration opens, appropriately, on the composer’s 72nd birthday, November 20, with a concert at (Le) Poisson Rouge that features Ursula Oppens and Bruce Brubaker performing Monk’s piano music composed between 1972 and 2006, with several new arrangements by Monk and Brubaker. The range of Monk’s keyboard imagination will be front and center at (Le) Poisson Rouge, as it is on her most recent CD, “Piano Songs,” which was released by ECM on May 6th.
The following evening, November 21, the American Composers Orchestra, along with members of Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble will perform Monk’s much-heralded “Night” at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. “Night” was originally a part of Monk’s music theater oratorio “The Politics of Quiet.” She revised and orchestrated it in 2010 for eight vocalists and chamber orchestra.
“On Behalf of Nature,” Monk’s poetic inquiry into our relationship to nature and the fragility of the earth’s ecology, receives its New York premiere as part of BAM’s Next Wave Festival, December 3-7. Quick recognize her radical genius and her pioneering interdisciplinary work, BAM has presented nine of her works since 1976.
Her New York appearances continue through the spring with a concert on February 16 at Weill Recital Hall, where the vibrant Ensemble ACJW presents a Monk premiere (title to come) for eight instrumentalists.
The St. Louis Symphony and Chorus will be joined by longtime members of Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble Theo Bleckmann and Katie Geissinger for the New York premiere of Monk’s 2010 “WEAVE for Two Voices, Chamber Orchestra and Chorus.” The 22-minute composition was originally commissioned by Grand Center, Inc. and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, who presented the Los Angeles premiere at Disney Hall in 2010. The concert takes place on March 20, at Carnegie’s 2804-seat Stern Auditorium.
A sampling of Meredith Monk’s friends from all corners of the music world—opera star Jessye Norman, music man-about-town DJ Spooky, saxophonist/composer John Zorn, clarinet player Don Byron, composer/percussionist Lukas Ligeti, Bang on a Can All-Stars, violinist Todd Reynolds, percussionist John Hollenbeck, violist Nadia Sirota, composer/keyboardist Missy Mazzoli and Victoire, among others will join Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble in a four-hour celebration of the dazzling array of her work at Zankel Hall on March 22.
Then five weeks later, May 2, Zankel Hall will again be filled with Monk’s music, this time performed by former and present vocalists and instrumentalists of her Ensemble. Classic hits from the seventies and eighties, as well as selections from Monk’s most recent master works, “On Behalf of Nature, “impermanence” and “mercy,” are being readied for a concert that goes forward and backward in time, celebrating an artist who has proven herself timeless.