Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Sō Percussion to perform world premiere with soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish Oct. 24 at Schwab

Experimental beat-oriented ensemble Sō Percussion teams up for a unique musical experience with Grammy-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish in a performance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, in Schwab Auditorium.

The program will feature a trio of American works—“The Winds of Destiny” by George Crumb, “Narrow Sea” by Roomful of Teeth member Caroline Shaw, and an excerpt from “Music for Wood and Strings” by Bryce Dessner, a guitarist for rock band The National. Shaw’s piece, which will have its world premiere at Penn State, is co-commissioned by the Center for the Performing Arts. Shaw and Crumb are Pulitzer Prize-winning composers.

Purchase tickets, which are $44 for an adult, $15 for a University Park student, and $34 for a person 18 and younger. A grant from the University Park Allocation Committee makes Penn State student prices possible.

Sō Percussion is known for infusing an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam” (The New Yorker) into its collaborative compositions and renditions of avant garde musical works. The group has performed from a repertoire of percussive-heavy pieces, including those by Steve Reich, David Lang, Paul Lansky, John Cage and Arvo Pärt. The ensemble has collaborated with artists across multiple genres, including electronic musician Dan Deacon; jam band Medeski, Martin and Wood; legendary avant garde drummer Bobby Previte; and Wilco percussionist Glenn Kotche. The group also has recorded background scores for NPR’s “Radiolab” and an HBO crime documentary about Robert Durst as well as more than 20 releases and numerous original works.

Upshaw is the winner of five Grammy Awards, including in 2014 for best classical vocal solo for her work on Maria Schneider’s “Winter Morning Walks.” She is comfortable performing traditional classical and operatic works as well as contemporary art songs. “Upshaw’s radiant vocalism and emotional delivery were riveting,” a Miami Herald critic wrote. “Her tonal luster and pristine musicianship continue to mark her as an artist of exceptional gifts.”

Kalish, whose discography spans more than 100 recordings of classical repertoire, is noted for his longstanding partnerships with a variety of artists, including Upshaw and especially soprano Jan DeGaetani. He founded the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, active in the 1960s and ’70s, and was a member of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players for more than 20 years. He is a leading professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He “was able to not only negotiate the most difficult passages and transitions, but he also gave the piece a power and sheen that solidified and unified the diverse elements into a coherent and comprehensible musical development,” wrote a critic for Broad Street Review

Sō Percussion also will perform at a Classical Coffeehouse event at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, at Hintz Family Alumni Center’s Robb Hall. The series is presented by the center and the Penn State Alumni Association in partnership with the Blue and White Society and the Council of LionHearts. The event is free for Penn State students, and to community members for a suggested $5 donation, and features complimentary refreshments. Seating is limited, but standing room is available.

Find more information about the performance and the Classical Coffeehouse.

Watch Sō Percussion perform an NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Watch Upshaw and Kalish perform at Kilkenny Arts Festival.

Artistic Viewpoints will not be offered before the performance. Shaw and some of the performers are scheduled to engage with the audience after the concert.

Chick King and Betty Scott sponsor the performance. WPSU is the media sponsor. Support is provided by the Pieter and Lida Ouwehand Endowment.