The Crypt Sessions

Classical Music at the Church of the Intercession Crypt

Presented by Unison Media
Curated by Andrew Ousley

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The Crypt Sessions Season 3

Unison Media is proud to welcome you back to Season 3 of its acclaimed concert series The Crypt Sessions, curated by Andrew OusleyPlease sign up to our mailing list for the chance to purchase tickets as soon as new concerts are announced! We look forward to another amazing year.

Also, we were honored to have Conrad Tao’s Crypt Session be selected as one of The New York Times’ “Best Classical Music Performances of 2017”!

And let us please take a moment to thank our amazing, amazing sponsor Yamaha for generously providing their world-class pianos!

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Official Sponsor of The Crypt Sessions

Lara St. John

March 14 & 15, 2018 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: “Consummate Badass” is not a moniker often ascribed to Classical musicians, but if anyone has earned it, it’s superstar violinist Lara St. John. Why, you may ask? Well, I’ll give you a few reasons: 1) she owns an iguana, and has performed with it on stage, 2) She was the first classical musician to start her own record label in 1999, 5 years before Radiohead (take that Thom Yorke!), 3) She called out Game of Thrones for not using a live cellist in their theme song (you know, the “duhn duhn, duh duh duhn duhn, duh duh duhn duhn,” one).

She’s essentially the Daenerys Targaryen of stringed instruments – the L.A. Times even called her “a volcanic violinist with a huge, fabulous tone that pours out of her like molten lava. She has technique to burn and plays at a constant high heat.” So there’s that…

Lara will come to the Crypt on March 14 & 15 with the absurdly talented pianist Matt Herskowitz to perform her haunting, heart-pounding program “Lavuta: Violin Beyond the Pale.” The music, which she recorded for her acclaimed album Shiksa, features a collection of her favorite Eastern European folk tunes, re-imagined by some of today’s top composers. Have you ever wanted to hear “Hava Nagila” transformed into an epic, eight-minute violin showpiece? Lara’s got you covered…

The Short Version: “Wildly Enjoyable” is not a phrase often used to describe a Classical music concert, but this is going to be a thrilling, moving, deeply-memorable night of music making from one of the leading-lights of the art form.

*Thank you to our sponsor Yamaha for the piano!*

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The Location

The Church of the Intercession Crypt is located on West 155th and Broadway in New York City, convenient to the 1, C, B and D trains. Once you reach the church, follow the cemetery path on the northern side until you see the double doors to the crypt.

Past Concerts

Attacca Quartet

February 1, 2018 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: The Attacca Quartet – universally praised as one of the top American string quartets by small, unimportant news outlets like NPRThe New York Times, and the Washington Post – return to the Crypt Sessions, following up their heart-rending Season 1 performance of Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross with what is simply one of the most extraordinarily powerful, transcendently life-affirming pieces of music ever written: Beethoven’s final String Quartet, the towering Op. 132.

Beethoven had been deaf for more than 25 years when he wrote this piece, and the sounds he created out of that long internal silence are almost otherworldly at times. The beating, bleeding heart of it is the miraculous, 18-minute central slow movement, which Beethoven wrote after recovering from a terrible illness and titled “Hymn of thanks to God from one who is healed.” Tomes have been written on this deeply-moving expression of the human condition, and any words here will fall short of the performance that this remarkable ensemble will give it on February 1st.

The Short Version: Join us for an evening you will never forget – one of the finest quartets performing today, playing one of the most life-changingly beautiful, profoundly human pieces of music ever composed.

*Thank you to our sponsor Yamaha for the piano!*

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David Greilsammer

September 27, 2017 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: After a Summer Break, Season 2 of The Crypt Sessions continues on September 27, 2017 with pianist and conductor David Greilsammer – hailed by The New York Times as “one the most accomplished and adventurous musicians of his generation” – giving the only New York performance of his acclaimed Labyrinth program.

(David had been scheduled to perform on April 5, but had to withdraw due to illness. Fortunately pianist/composer/all-around-phenom Conrad Tao was able to jump in and perform in his stead…you can read The New York Times review of that show here – spoiler alert, it was amazing.)

David’s performance takes Leoš Janáček’s haunting piece On An Overgrown Path, and interrupts each movement with works by C.P.E Bach, Mozart, and Jean-Féry Rebel, and two U.S. premiere works of Israeli composer Ofer Pelz, turning the path into a musical maze that winds in on itself before finding its way out.

Here’s what the artist has to say about the program: “Each one of us has been, at some point in life, lost, disoriented, or in search for a safe and luminous path. This feeling of disorientation, leading at times to inner chaos, can also serve as the force that will push us to begin the pursuit of new routes, new ideas, and new emotions. Walking through the daunting sounds of Janáček’s music, and exploring the mysterious alleys of various enigmatic pieces from early baroque to our present days, I have decided to embark on a musical journey to the heart of a beautiful, abstract, and dazzling labyrinth.”

The Short Version: “Crypt”…”Labyrinth”…close enough. When you get to hear a pianist of this magnitude playing a program of such haunting depth and potency, words all but lose their meaning anyways…

*Thank you to our sponsor Yamaha for the piano!*

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Alyson Cambridge

November 15, 2017 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version:

Soprano Alyson Cambridge takes a break from singing at the world’s top opera stages (as well as modeling, acting and hosting…nbd…) to present a very special program in the Crypt: William Bolcom’s acclaimed song cycle “From the Diary of Sally Hemings.” The eighteen imagined diary entries tell the life story of Thomas Jefferson’s slave-turned-mistress, grappling with issues of race, regret, respect and love that are as relevant today as they were back then.

Cambridge has been hailed by critics as “radiant, vocally assured, dramatically subtle and compelling, and artistically imaginative” (Washington Post), noted for her “powerful, clear voice” (New York Times) and “revelatory, sensual, smoky readings” (Opera News). We’re excited to have her join us in the Crypt.

The Short Version: In these times of racial division, there are lessons to be learned from the past. No better story to learn from than this, and no better storyteller than Alyson Cambridge.

*Thank you to our sponsor Yamaha for the piano!*

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Alexandre Tharaud

April 4, 2016 | Wine & Cheese 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: Internationally-renowned French pianist Alexandre Tharaud will perform Bach’s towering Goldberg Variations, one of the most technically-demanding, transcendent works ever written. Tharaud’s recent recording of the piece was among the New York Times‘ “Best Recordings of 2015,” and he performed the work by candlelight shortly after the ISIS shootings in Paris.

The Short Version: An intimate, intense evening of music with one of today’s greatest pianists.

*Thank you to our sponsor Yamaha for the gorgeous CFX piano!*

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The Attacca Quartet

June 8, 2016 | Wine & Cheese 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: One of chamber music’s brightest voices, the Attacca Quartet perform with a sense of commitment and maturity far beyond their years. For the Crypt, they will perform Haydn’s great masterwork The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross, arranged for quartet by Andrew Yee and the Attacca themselves. The work is an extended meditation on the final moments of life.

The Short Version: Four young stars perform a work that could not be more perfectly suited to the Crypt space.

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Christina & Michelle Naughton

August 25, 2016 | Wine & Cheese 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: The beautiful, talented young twin sister piano duo Christina and Michelle Naughton bring their near-telepathic talents to the Crypt, performing one of the most staggering works ever written: Messiaen’s haunting, gripping, wrenching Visions de l’Amen.

The Short Version: Just don’t miss this one.

*Thank you to Yamaha for not one, but TWO pianos!*

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Gregg Kallor, Joshua Roman, and Elizabeth Pojanowski

October 26 & 28, 2016 | Wine & Cheese 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version:When you’re pianist/composer Gregg Kallor, instead of celebrating Halloween with a $5 mask and one too many Kit Kats, you give the world premiere of your new musical rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-tale Heart for piano and mezzo-soprano-slash-rockstar Elizabeth Pojanowski. A collaboration with On Site Opera, the The Tell-tale Heart features a semi-staging setup by the always-awesome director Sarah Meyers, whom you might know from a little place called The Metropolitan f-ing Opera. Oh, and if you’re Gregg then you also perform your cello sonata, Undercurrent, as well with cello superstar Joshua Roman, just for good measure.

The Short Version: The perfect, creepy-tastic way to end the 2016 season and enjoy the work of some of NYC’s fastest-rising musical talents.

*Thank you to our sponsor Yamaha for the piano!*

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Lara Downes

February 1, 2017 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: Season 2 of The Crypt Sessions kicks off on February 1, 2017, with pianist Lara Downes (dubbed “Luscious, moody and dreamy” by The New York Times) performing a program remembering her father and his Harlem childhood, while also paying tribute to the many artists who made Harlem their home and inspiration.

You’ll hear music from Downes’ new album America Again (NPR loves it!) by Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Florence Price, Nina Simone, William Grant Still, as well as a world premiere by composer/violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain, and a spoken word tribute to Langston Hughes (it’s his birthday Feb 1!) by poet Joshua Bennett.

The Short Version: Come help us start off Season 2 in proper fashion, with one of our absolute favorite pianists who will make you laugh, cry, smile and generally feel all of the feels.

*Thank you to our sponsor Yamaha for the piano!*

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Conrad Tao

April 5, 2017 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: Season 2 of The Crypt Sessions continues on April 5, 2017 – we had planned to have David Greilsammer perform, but due to sudden and severe illness, he has withdrawn. Fortunately, the ridiculously, awesomely badass Conrad Tao has agreed to step in and perform what he fondly refers to as his “American Rage” program: Aaron Copland’s Piano Sonata bookended with works by Frederic Rzewski – a musical mix that moves from intense to overwhelming to tender, aching nostalgia. It’s going to be remarkable…

More on Conrad: he’s one of today’s most extraordinary young musical talents – The New York Times called him a performer of “probing intellect and openhearted vision” NPR called him “a musician of deep intellectual and emotional means” while TimeOut New York just called him “ferociously talented.”

The Short Version: Any opportunity to see Conrad Tao should be seized upon like a leopard seal seizes upon a slow-swimming penguin. Join us for an amazing evening of American Raging…

 

*Thank you to our sponsor Yamaha for the piano!*

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Joshua Roman

May 3, 2017 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: You might have been one of the millions to watch Joshua Roman’s post-election Bach Cello Suite performance (livestreamed on the Facebook page of TED, where Josh acts as a Senior Fellow). Either way, you should spend more time with this mind-boggling talented cellist/composer/curator, and we’re pleased offer you that opportunity on May 3, 2017, as Josh descends into the Crypt for a solo cello recital entitled Riding Light.

The music begins in darkness with Bach’s spare, haunting Suite No. 2 in D Minor, before moving through sonatas by György Ligeti and George Crumb – both written during the period of lovestruck adolescence, with music that alternates between shaded meditation and stormy intensity – and finishing with a composition of his of his own, the transcendently radiant Riding Light.

Roman performed in the Crypt with Gregg Kallor in last season’s finale concert of The Tell-Tale Heart, and his playing was praised by Berkshire Fine Arts, saying: “Roman is a musician who can afford to expose his talent in long drawn out single tones..often miraculously drawn from his instrument.”

If you aren’t quick enough to get tix to this performance, it’s worth noting that Josh will be performing a few days later (May 6, to be exact) at SoHo’s The Sheen Center – pick up tix here before they’re gone: http://sheencenter.org/shows/roman/

The Short Version: Come ride the lightning with us, in what promises to be a profoundly impactful performance by one of classical music’s brightest stars.

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Elizabeth Cree in the Crypt

May 31, 2017 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM

The Long Version: This September, the marvelous folks at Opera Philadelphia are going to premiere a new Gothic murder mystery opera called Elizabeth Cree, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, and starring mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack in the title role (she was literally described by The Telegraph as “a purringly elegant BMW of a singer”).

Because there’s no better place to hear Gothic murder mystery than in a Gothic Crypt, we’re going to be giving a special sneak preview of the music from the opera, featuring Maestro Puts at the piano, and Daniela and tenor Joseph Gaines (who’ll be singing the role of an old-time Music Hall star) singing some arias from the piece. Librettist Mark Campbell will also be on hand to speak about the piece with Kevin.

In addition to the Elizabeth Cree preview, we’ll also get to hear Daniela and Joseph perform some additional music from Benjamin Britten, Francis Poulenc and Henry Purcell – all of which will fit seamlessly into the overall mood of “creepy-sounding and death-related.”

So come join us for what’s sure to be an riveting, hair-raising evening of music-making.

The Short Version: Get an exclusive first listen to one of the most highly-anticipated new operas of the year, performed by three extraordinary talents.

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andrewousleyClassical Music concerts in a Crypt in Harlem – Lara St. John