Moving from January to the month of May, the New York Guitar Festival returns in 2016 with an intensely focused week of concert programming from May 8th to May 14th, followed by a full day of free workshops, master classes, and panel discussions on May 15th. In its new season of spring, the Festival continues a long-standing tradition: spotlighting a global range of guitar styles and cross-cultural mash-ups.
The 2016 roster includes Nigel North, a master of Renaissance lute; South African guitarist Derek Gripper (making his NYC debut!) whose recordings of Malian music mesmerically evoke the centuries-old West African kora; the Memphis-based, country blues singer-songwriter Valerie June; veteran sound-sculptor & ECM recording artist David Torn; pipa virtuosa Min Xiao-Fen, who weds traditional Chinese melodies with the bebop anthems of Thelonious Monk; alt-jazz pioneer and Wilco sideman Nels Cline; Living Colour’s Vernon Reid; rising star William Tyler of the “American Primitive” finger-picking style; and Austrian jazz guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, to mention a few.
But perhaps the most influential musician at NYGF ’16 will be present in spirit only: the late Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who was born 101 years ago in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Why celebrate her centennial plus one? NYGF Founder & Artistic Director David Spelman observes, “Her one-hundredth anniversary met with little fanfare last year, aside from events in her home state as well as a fantastic remembrance of her in a British newspaper, The Guardian
. Bob Dylan called Rosetta Tharpe a ‘force of nature’ and ‘one of the most important figures in 20th-century music,’ yet there’s been a scant notice on the New York cultural scene of her achievements. We’d like to change that.” This year’s New York Guitar Festival opens with a Mother’s Day concert at Brookfield Place Winter Garden in honor of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Guest Curator Luther Dickinson, of North Mississippi Allstars, brings the creme de la creme
of Delta blues and gospel artists to share the stage in tribute. Spelman adds, “We hope this event spurs recognition of Sisten Rosetta among contemporary performers. The style of electric guitar playing she invented spoke to and to a large extent shaped the musicality of The Who, The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Rod Stewart, and countless others. And yet – shockingly – she’s never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
The New York Guitar Festival welcomes three new venues this year: The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe; the Williamsburg, Brooklyn concert hall National Sawdust (formerly a sawdust factory in the 1930s); and the East Village’s world music club DROM. “We’re overjoyed to be partnering with The Met,” says Spelman. 2016’s Guitar Marathon will take place at The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, and this year’s edition of the Alt Guitar Summit, curated by Joel Harrison, unfurls over two nights: one at National Sawdust, one within the intimately lit exposed brick walls of DROM. “New music in historic structures?” Spelman muses. “That could
be a theme this year, but with the Marathon, this time, it’s less about a specific repertoire and more about reverberance between sound and space. Rather than be confined to a single stage, the music will flow throughout the entire complex – in the Fuentidueña and Langon chapels, in the Pontaut Chapter House and Early Gothic Hall, as well as outside in the open-air Trie Café. The Romanesque and Gothic architecture of The Cloisters will become a member of the band, so to speak, as the sense of time evoked by vaulted ceilings and 12th-century limestone resonates with Simon Shaheen’s Middle-Eastern oud, or the eloquence of Nigel North’s Renaissance lute melodies, or with the ‘drone doom’ distorted guitar of Dylan Carlson from the band Earth,” Spelman states, “which I can’t wait to hear in this context.”
Since 1999, WNYC Radio has served as the media partner to the New York Guitar Festival. This year, it’s also a host. John Schaefer will MC a live concert podcast from the Greene Space for a future edition of his signature radio show, New Sounds
. Musical guests to be announced... The 2016 Festival will conclude on Sunday, May 15
with the launching of New York Guitar Festival Academy, to be held at The New School. “I’ve long wanted to expand the educational components of the Festival, and this takes an important first step in that direction,” Spelman explains. The Academy will present interviews with Festival artists as well as panel discussions on improvisation, instrument design, and compositional trends. “Our ambition is for the Academy to become the TED Talks of all things guitar,” says Spelman.
More events will be announced on the New York Guitar Festival website: http://www.newyorkguitarfestival.org