NY Times review of debut “GALA NYC” performance at Brooklyn Lyceum

Cellist Mike Block started up a new concert series in Brooklyn called the Gala NYC. I was pleased to be a part of the debut concert on May 7. Here’s a reprint of the review from the New York Times.


Genres and Styles Without Borders, in a Brooklyn Series

Published: May 10, 2011

The border-hopping proclivities of classical composers and performers have become more pronounced in recent years, resulting in a freewheeling blend of genres and styles. Gala NYC, a new series (the name means Global Art, Local Audience) founded by Mike Block, a Juilliard-trained cellist and disciple of Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, aims to promote this healthy eclecticism by combining performers from varying disciplines.

The inaugural concert on Saturday evening in the warehouselike space of the Brooklyn Lyceum featured Mr. Block; Anastasia Khitruk, a Russian violinist; Jefferson Hamer, a folk singer and songwriter; John Hadfield, a percussionist; Kinan Azmeh, a Syrian clarinetist; Kyle Sanna, a guitarist; and Josh Meyers, a bass player. There was a pleasantly informal, spontaneous air to the proceedings, a jam session of sorts. The musicians explained the genesis of their various collaborations.

Some reflected the Middle Eastern heritage of Mr. Azmeh, like a traditional Arab piece in which a haunting, evocative clarinet melody unfolded over gentle cello and percussion accompaniment. Mr. Block introduced the work as the evening’s first installment of a trilogy about men suffering in love. Mr. Azmeh’s clarinet wailed rhapsodically in a rocking arrangement based on Syrian wedding music and floated soulfully in a work inspired by the morning after Thanksgiving.

The lineup included effective arrangements of the traditional folk song “Barbara Allen” and Vivaldi’s Double Violin Concerto in A minor. Ms. Khitruk offered a passionate rendition of a virtuosic work, “The Golem,” written for her by Michael Colina, and Mr. Hamer demonstrated his appealing voice in several selections.

The event concluded with audience participation: three women relayed memorable (and prosaic) details of their lives, to an improvised accompaniment.

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