Inaugural concert of fall 2020 features Grammy-nominated quintet

By EDYTH MOLDOW

Imani Winds, COURTESY.

The Performing Arts Series is providing the gift of music — a means to uplift, encourage and strengthen the college community — in a time of uncertainty and pandemic-era stress. 

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Mahaney Arts Center’s Digital Stages project is holding an online concert every Friday night at 7:30 p.m. from Sept. 25 through Nov. 13 — all of which are free and available to all through their website. 

During the first concert on Friday, the Grammy-nominated group Imani Winds kicked off the season with a wind quintet performance featuring works by John Harbison, Jeff Scott Paquito and D’Rivera. 

Assistant Professor of Music Matthew Evan Taylor opened the event by performing his own music — including an alto improvisation. Taylor noted that the quintet has always avoided being pigeon-holed as one type of sound despite their classical blend of instruments. 

“What they’ve done is, in many ways, expanded what a chamber group in classical music can do by working on projects some chamber groups wouldn’t even consider doing, which makes them forward-thinking and inclusive,” Taylor said.

Consistent with the college’s mission to diversify the Performing Arts Series through a more inclusive curriculum, Imani Winds’s music weaves together  contemporary sounds with a more traditional foundation.

 “For a group like this that has a Swahili name and that has been around for over 20 years, there are still not a lot of Black groups like this in classical music and even fewer back when they started,” Taylor said. “Their legacy is partially the normalcy of seeing Black faces and Black bodies performing classical music at a virtuosic level.”

In the U.S., classical music has customarily excluded people of color, erasing them from both its image and dialogue — groups like Imani Winds are helping change this tradition. Starting off the season with a BIPOC group was a way of signifying solidarity with antiracist causes and the Black Lives Matter movement, according to Taylor.  

Five of the eight concerts left to come this fall originate from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and have been curated by cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han. As a grand finale to this semester, the Jupiter Quartet will return to the stage to provide an ode to classical music. Though Taylor anticipates that the new virtual format will require artists to rethink their performances, students can listen to and interact with talented artists to gain a rich and stress-alleviating musical experience while staying safe.