Clockwise from top left: Sō Percussion, Brianna Thomas, Chanticleer, Leonidas Kavakos, Flor de Toloache, PUBLIQuartet, Conrad Tao, War and Treaty
Caramoor is thrilled to present a full summer season of 35 live, in-person performances this year, with an intensive seven-week festival (June 19–Aug 8) followed by two post-season concert series (Aug 13–Sep 12). All held outdoors on the cultural arts destination’s idyllic Westchester campus, this year’s offerings illustrate its continued commitment to adventurous programming across the genre spectrum, with world premieres of new Caramoor commissions from Saad Haddad and Shodekeh and a new piece by Valerie Coleman; U.S. premieres by Natalie DietterichKate Moore and Hilary PurringtonNew York premieres of important new works by Douglas J. Cuomo and Nico Muhly; and two major experiential, site-specific works by John Luther Adams and Donald Nally. Other festival highlights include an Opening Night Gala featuring Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; solo recitals by guitarist JIJI and pianists Richard Goode and Conrad Tao; the return of the annual Jazz Festival, American Roots Music Festival and Pops & Patriots concert; a special 91st birthday celebration for Stephen Sondheim; and performances by a starry lineup of artists and ensembles, including Alarm Will Sound, Apollo’s Fire, ChanticleerLeonidas Kavakos, Amjad Ali Khan & Sharon IsbinPekka KuusistoJoan OsbornePhilharmonia Baroque Orchestra, PUBLIQuartetSō PercussionThe CrossingThe KnightsVerona Quartet with David Fung, and Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Caramoor’s orchestra-in-residence for the past 42 summers.
Caramoor has been committed to public health and safety since the start of the pandemic, and the 2021 festival has been designed in accordance with all the latest state and federal guidelines. All between 60 and 90 minutes in duration and without intermission, the summer concerts will as always take place outdoors, in the Venetian Theater and other venues on the picturesque estate, now with reduced capacity. As well as attending concerts, visitors are invited to explore Caramoor’s newly renovated, landscaped Italianate and woodland gardens; interact with nature and architecture on socially distant walks and picnics; and discover the site-specific sound art installations of Sonic Innovations (Fridays through Sundays, June 11–Oct 10). With more than 80 acres of woodlands, gardens, sound art and outdoor performance space, the Westchester cultural arts destination is well-positioned to participate responsibly in New York’s re-opening process. Just one hour’s drive from Manhattan, Caramoor remains the premier destination for “bucolic, picnic-friendly settings with a programming philosophy that balances hedonism and exploration” (New York Times).
Kathy Schuman, Caramoor’s Artistic Director, comments:
“We’re so fortunate that our outdoor venues enable us to have a full concert season this summer. Despite some operational differences, this year’s program remains as robust and varied as ever. We can’t wait to welcome audiences back to Caramoor for programs that run the gamut from celebratory to reflective. I think we’ve all deeply missed the kind of magical experience that comes from sharing live music in the company of others.”
Experiential, site-specific open-air works: The Forest and Ten Thousand Birds
Two major experiential, site-specific, open-air contemporary works highlight this year’s summer lineup. The first of these, The Forest (July 3) – created in response to the pandemic and the particular problems it presents for choral performance – is the creation of Donald Nally, conductor of two-time Grammy-winner The Crossing, dubbed “America’s most astonishing choir” (New York Times). Drawing on new amplification technology to create an immersive soundscape, Nally’s work places the singers 30 feet apart from one another in Caramoor’s wooded grounds, where audience members will follow a special route at socially distanced intervals, experiencing the music as they walk. Set to a libretto based on the singers’ own recollections of lockdown isolation, the music “creates an otherworldly atmosphere of peace and serenity, … provid[ing] a sense of hope in a dark time” (Opera Wire).
Next, following the success of John Luther Adams’s site-specific percussion piece Inuksuit at Caramoor three years ago, Alarm Will Sound – “one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene” (New York Times) – gives an open-air account of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer’s 70-minute work Ten Thousand Birds (July 11). Composed expressly for the chamber orchestra and customized for Caramoor by Alarm Will Sound’s Artistic Director, Alan Pierson, who will discuss his process in a pre-concert conversation, Adams’s work draws inspiration from the different species’ birdsongs heard at each performance location, captured in minute detail to evoke the cycle of a single day. Audience members will be encouraged to walk around and experience the music from multiple perspectives, as when Alarm Will Sound premiered the piece, leaving St. Louis Magazine “stunned in a good way – and moved beyond measure.”
Other large ensemble performances: Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, The Knights, OSL & more
The 2021 summer season features seven further large ensemble performances. Grammy-winning vocal group Chanticleer – “the world’s reigning male chorus” (New Yorker) – returns to Caramoor for a program of “awakening”-themed music spanning six centuries, which sees the “Lauda Jerusalem” from Monteverdi’s transcendent 1610 Vespers rub shoulders with Lerner and Lane’s “On a Clear Day” and a new commission from Grammy-nominated composer Ayanna Woods (July 23).
“One of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products” (New Yorker), Grammy-nominated orchestral collective The Knights gives the New York premiere of Nico Muhly’s violin concerto, Shrink – destined to “become a 21st-century classic” (Limelight, Australia) – with its dedicatee, iconoclastic Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto. Also on the program are Bach’s Third Brandenburg Concerto, Beethoven’s “Serioso” String Quartet and Starburst by Bernstein Award-winner Jessie Montgomery (July 30). Muhly and Kuusisto will join Knights conductor and co-founder Eric Jacobsen for a pre-concert conversation, as well as giving an intimate duo performance together the previous day (see below).
Having long made Caramoor its summer home, Orchestra of St. Luke’s  – “one of the most versatile and galvanic ensembles in the U.S.” (WQXR) – returns for two Sunday afternoon concerts: a program under the baton of internationally recognized conductor Tito Muñoz, showcasing “sublime” (New York Times) guest violinist Tai Murray in the world premiere of Fanfare for Uncommon Times by Valerie Coleman (June 27), followed by the Summer Season Finale (Aug 8). Drawing Caramoor’s official 2021 summer season to a close, this all-Bach program comprises three of the Baroque master’s violin concertos, all directed from the instrument by former Gramophone Artist of the Year Leonidas Kavakos.
Two other eminent U.S. ensembles also return to Caramoor in Baroque repertoire. Joined by British soprano Rowan Pierce, San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra – “America’s leading historically informed ensemble” (New York Times) – plays an all-English program of music by Gibbons, Blow, Locke and Purcell (July 18) under the leadership of Richard Egarr, now completing his inaugural season as its Music Director. Similarly, after wowing audiences at the 2018 festival, Grammy-winning Cleveland orchestra Apollo’s Fire returns with “Love in Venice,” a program of Italian Baroque favorites featuring soprano Erica Schuller and tenor Brian Giebler, led by Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell (Aug 1).
Finally, to celebrate Independence DayCurt Ebersole and the Westchester Symphonic Winds return for their annual Pops & Patriots concert (this time without fireworks). Two guest vocalists – soprano Candice Hoyes and baritone Jorell Williams, both alumni of Caramoor’s Bel Canto Young Artists program – will perform a medley of Gershwin songs, and the program also includes patriotic tunes, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, a special tribute to Duke Ellington, and more (July 4).
Solo recitals: Conrad Tao, Richard Goode and JIJI
This summer, Caramoor presents solo recitals by two American pianists at very different stages of their careers. “The kind of musician who is shaping the future of classical music” (New York magazine), rising star pianist-composer Conrad Tao (July 15) has already accrued a string of honors including the Avery Fisher Career Grant and Gilmore Young Artist Award. Following a May appearance with his trio in the Music Room, he makes his Caramoor solo recital debut with a program of his own improvisationBach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, Schumann’s Kreisleriana and Guggenheim fellow Jason Eckardt’s Echoes’ White Veil, a piece heard at Tao’s Carnegie Hall debut two years ago, when the “performer and composer came together with complete sympathy” (New York Classical Review).
The former co-Artistic Director of the Marlboro Music School and Festival, Grammy- and Avery Fisher Prize-winner Richard Goode (June 25) is widely recognized as “one of the finest pianists in the world” (Washington Post). Also one of today’s foremost interpreters of Classical and Romantic repertoire, he gives a recital combining Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 101, a late masterpiece, with music by BachSchumann and Debussy. As the New York Times notes, “It is virtually impossible to walk away from one of Mr. Goode’s recitals without the sense of having gained some new insight, subtle or otherwise, into the works he played or about pianism itself.”
Also giving a solo recital at Caramoor this summer is Korean guitarist JIJI (July 22), first prize winner at the 2016 Concert Artists Guild International Competition. A passionate advocate for new music, she performs her “Unbound” program, for which she commissioned virtuosic new solo guitar works from eight contemporary composers, including Iceland’s Gulli Björnsson, Latvia’s Krists Auznieks and distinguished Cuban-American Tania León, winner of the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Her Caramoor recital features the U.S. premieres of new works by Natalie DietterichHilary Purrington and Kate Moore.
Chamber concerts: PUBLIQuartet, Verona Quartet, Sō Percussion and more
Three string quartets anchor Caramoor’s chamber lineup this summer. The winner of Chamber Music America’s Visionary Award, PUBLIQuartet (June 24) asks “What Is American?,” exploring our nation’s diverse musical heritage through recent compositions by Vijay Iyer and Jessie Montgomery, as well as two works – a reconception of Dvořák’s “American” Quartet and a celebration of Ornette Coleman’s influence on free jazz – from the Grammy-nominated quartet’s “Mind | The | Gap” project, which uses group improvisation to bridge the gaps between musical genres.
The Verona Quartet (July 16) was the 2017-18 incumbent of the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet residency, one of the mentoring programs through which Caramoor nurtures emerging young artists. “An outstanding ensemble” (New York Times) that was recently recognized with Chamber Music America’s prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award, the group returns this summer with a program of BeethovenPuccini and a quintet by 20th-century Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz with pianist David Fung.
This season’s Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence is the Callisto Quartet (July 1), Grand Prize-winner of the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Bookended by two great Classical quartets by Haydn and Beethoven, the Callisto’s program showcases the world premiere performance of a new Caramoor commission from Saad Haddad, whose work straddles East and West, achieving a “remarkable fusion of idioms” (New York Times). His new piece represents the most recent addition to Caramoor’s “String Quartet Library for the 21st Century” initiative, for which 22 new works have been commissioned to date.
Besides collaborating on the New York premiere of ShrinkPekka Kuusisto and Nico Muhly (July 29) offer an intimate and adventurous evening for violin and piano. Kuusisto, whose New York appearances are few and far between, has been credited with “the most personal sound of any classical violinist now alive” (Telegraph, UK), while Muhly, the youngest composer ever commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, is one of contemporary music’s leading lights. Together, the duo’s “extraordinary technical finesse shines with the talent of two stars” (The Age, Australia).
Two less traditional instrumental groupings complete Caramoor’s summer chamber lineup. Sō Percussion (July 25), the percussion quartet known for its “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam” (New Yorker), reprises Forbidden Love, a work written for the group by Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Wolfe, of which its interpretation proved “a stunning experience” (New York Classical Review) at Carnegie Hall. Together with music by Angélica Negrón, Jason Treuting and Kendall K. Williams, the program also features the world premiere of a new Caramoor commission from Shodekeh, a groundbreaking beatboxer, vocal percussionist and breath artist “with an attention-grabbing talent and a laid-back charm” (New Music USA). Shokedeh will appear as a special guest in the concert, before which Sō Percussion will also give free pop-up performances earlier in the day.
American electric and acoustic guitarist Nels Cline, best known as a member of Grammy-winning alt-rock band Wilco, joins another alum of Caramoor’s Ernst Stiefel String Quartet residency – the Aizuri Quartet, which is “an adventurous quartet, always in the moment” (Boston Globe) – for the New York and live world premieres of Seven Limbs by Douglas J. Cuomo (July 9). Written expressly for the artists, Cuomo’s virtuosic, improvisatory evening-length piece was inspired by the Tibetan Buddhist practice of purification. Representing a “distinctly American voice” (Opera News), the composer will also join Cline for a pre-concert conversation.
Jazz and Broadway: Wynton Marsalis, Sean Jones, Sondheim and more
Caramoor is delighted to welcome back the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, its Pulitzer Prize- and nine-time Grammy-winning artistic director, for a special gala concert. Presented in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center, this festive performance will take place at the Opening Night Gala (June 19), which includes a celebratory pre-concert dinner.
Two further events will also be presented in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center. The Brianna Thomas Band performs “All Around Ella” (July 2), an homage to the great Ella Fitzgerald led by Thomas, a vocalist with a “strong voice and a big range, descended from Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter and routed through Dianne Reeves, with clarity and confidence and a little dirt” (New York Times). The annual Jazz Festival (July 31) returns with a stellar lineup, including the Alexa Tarantino Quartet, whose vibrant young frontwoman was named one of the Top Five Alto Saxophonists of 2019 by the JazzTimes Critics’ Poll; Jeremy Bosch, lead vocalist of the acclaimed Spanish Harlem Orchestra; Endea Owens and The Cookout, led by the bassist named Lincoln Center’s Emerging Artist of 2019; and the Brandon Goldberg Trio, whose 15-year-old frontman is already a “a gifted pianist and composer, a sensitive interpreter, and an inventive improviser” (JazzTimes) with two albums to his name. The all-day event will culminate with an uplifting closing set from Sean Jones, two-time winner of Downbeat magazine’s Rising Star award and former lead trumpet of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
In place of last year’s cancelled 90th-birthday concert for Stephen Sondheim, Caramoor celebrates the Tony-winning composer and lyricist’s  91st birthday (July 10), presenting Broadway stars Betsy Wolfe (WaitressFalsettos), Scarlett Strallen and Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), and Ben Davis (Violet) in an evening of favorite Sondheim numbers from CompanyFolliesSweeney ToddMerrily We Roll AlongAnyone Can Whistle and more, hosted by Tony-winning Music Director Ted Sperling.
American roots and world music: The War and Treaty, Joan Osborne, Natu Camara and more
Caramoor offers a rich and varied American roots and world music lineup this summer. Presented for the first time in collaboration with City Winery, the annual American Roots Music Festival (July 24) returns with sets from the Rad TradsUpstateRuthie Foster and more, concluding with The War and Treaty. Named Folk Alliance International’s 2020 Artist of the Year, and known for its soul-infused sound, the band is fronted by the husband-and-wife duo of Tanya Blount and Iraq War veteran Michael Trotter Jr., who recently recounted his story for CBS Sunday Morning.
Singer-songwriter Joan Osborne (July 17), a multi-platinum selling recording artist and seven-time Grammy nominee who has performed alongside Luciano Pavarotti, Stevie Wonder, Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan, makes her Caramoor debut. Born in Ivory Coast and raised in Guinea, singer-songwriter Natu Camara (June 26) is “a force of musical nature” (WGXC), whose West African heritage, charged performance style and passion for social justice make her a unique presence on the world music scene. The Watkins Family Hour (Aug 6) is a bluegrass collective led by siblings Sara and Sean Watkins, who form two-thirds of the Americana group Nickel Creek, while Sara is also a member of I’m With Her. Of their eclectic, rotating-cast variety shows, NPR writes: “They listen to each other, they pay attention to each other, and it’s glorious.”
The leading exponent of the 19-string Indian sarodAmjad Ali Khan, and his sons Ayaan Ali Bangash and Amaan Ali Bangash join American classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, “the preeminent guitarist of our time” (Boston magazine), for “Strings for Peace” (July 8), in which they find common ground between Western art and folk music and Northern India’s great classical tradition.
Both taking place on Friends Field, two events will be presented in the more casual format of Caramoor’s “Concerts on the Lawn” series. Hailing from Russia, Lithuania, the U.S. and Switzerland, Ljova and the Kontraband (Aug 5) draw on family backgrounds in traditional folk music to create their own distinct blend of “Brahmsian tone, Bartókian lines, hiccupping Hungarian rhythms, Klezmer soul and the sexy plaintiveness of tango and the blues” (NewsDay), while family band Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas (Aug 7) “have long been amongst the best proponents” (All About Jazz) of the Creole blend of blues and country known as zydeco. Indeed, the Cha-Chas have won the coveted Big Easy award for Best Zydeco Band several years running, while frontman Nathan Williams has also been honored with the Zydeco Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Post-festival series: “Concerts on the Lawn” and “Beginner’s Ear”
Even after the official summer festivities draw to a close, there will be more live music at Caramoor in a pair of casual concert series. Held on three Friday evenings in August, “Concerts on the Lawn” presents performances by the women of Flor de Toloache (Aug 13), who offer a powerful take on traditional Mariachi music; all-female bluegrass band Della Rae (Aug 20); and jazz vocalist Shenel Johns, whose “Power to the People” program is presented in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center (Aug 27).
Conceived by New York Times writer Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim to bring mindfulness to the concert experience, the “Beginner’s Ear series returns on three Sundays in late summer. As last season, each event in the series will open with a guided meditation and conclude with a group discussion, to help listeners feel the music more deeply and build community through their shared experiences of silence and sound. Moderated by Da Fonseca-Wollheim herself, the first event features violinist Alexi Kenney, an alumnus of Caramoor’s Evnin Rising Stars mentoring program (Aug 15). Next, Amadi Azikiwe moderates a collaboration between “rising star” violinist Layale Chaker (BBC Music) and Opus Klassik Award-winning Syrian clarinet virtuoso Kinan Azmeh, with meditation coach Thomas Droge (Aug 29). The series concludes with a performance by violinist Rubén Rengel, another Evnin Rising Stars alum, and cuatro-player Jorge Glem, moderated once again by Da Fonseca-Wollheim (Sep 12).
Sound Art on display
A high point of visits to Caramoor is the chance to discover a unique collection of sound art nestled in the idyllic grounds. Collectively titled Sonic Innovations, this rotating annual exhibition is curated by Chicago-based sound artist Stephan Moore. Six works will be on display this summer, all featuring artists working beyond the realm of concert music. The centerpiece of this year’s exhibition is in“C”, a site-specific sound-sculpture commissioned from MacArthur Fellow Trimpin. Comprising a 16-foot-high, Cshaped frame supporting two octaves of chimes, this interactive installation will play works especially composed by Trimpin for the range and acoustics of the chimes. Composers Christopher Cerrone, Anna Clyne, Missy Mazzoli and Nico Muhly have also composed short pieces that will be played by the sculpture this summer. Sonic Innovations 2021 also includes Ranjit Bhatnagar’s Stone SongTaylor Deupree’s t(ch)imeMiya Masaoka’s Listen AheadSpencer Topel and Hana Kassem’s Undercurrent, and Annea Lockwood and Bob Bielecki’s Wild Energy, which takes visitors on a fantastical tour of sounds occurring outside the range of human hearing. Trimpin’s piece will be officially inaugurated on June 12 when he and the other sound artists will participate in a Sound Artists GatheringTrimpin: The Sound of Invention – a Peter Esmonde documentary featuring The Kronos Quartet – will be available for online viewing for the full duration of Sonic Innovations, with a special virtual screening, followed by a live Q&A with Trimpin and Stephan Moore, on June 15.
About Caramoor
Caramoor is a cultural arts destination located on a unique 80-plus-acre estate with Italianate architecture and gardens in Northern Westchester County, NY. Its beautiful grounds include the historic Rosen House, a stunning mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides enriching the lives of its audiences through innovative and diverse musical performances of the highest quality, Caramoor mentors young professional musicians and provides music-centered educational programs for young children. Getting to Caramoor is simple by car or public transportation. All parking is free and close to the performance areas. Handicapped parking is also free and readily available. By car from New York City, take the Henry Hudson Parkway north to the Saw Mill River Parkway north to I-684 north to Exit 6. Go east on Route 35 to the traffic light (0.3 miles). Turn right onto Route 22 south, and travel 1.9 miles to the junction of Girdle Ridge Road where there is a green Caramoor sign. At the junction, veer left and make a quick right onto Girdle Ridge Road. Continue on Girdle Ridge Road 0.5 miles to the Caramoor gates on the right. Approximate drive time is one hour. By train from Grand Central Station, take the Harlem Division Line of the Metro-North Railroad heading to Southeast, and exit at Katonah. Caramoor is a 3.5-mile drive from the Katonah station, where taxi service is available.