Opus 21 News
• Opus 21 receives a 2008 Chamber Music America Commissioning Award
• Read the New York Times review of Opus 21’s April 28, 2007 concert at Symphony Space
• Opus 21 awarded the 2006 First Prize for Adventurous Programming from Chamber Music America & ASCAP
• Download the debut issue of the Opus 21 Newsletter “Backstage” (Winter 2007)
About The Ensemble
Described by The New Yorker as “a vibrantly broad-minded new-music group,” Opus 21 features works by composers from many different genres, including contemporary classical, jazz, pop, and world music, as well as those whose works fall in the hard-to-define categories in between. The ensemble was founded by composer Richard Adams and gave its debut performance at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City in Spring 2003. Opus 21 has since established itself as a truly innovative new music group, and has revamped the traditional concert-going experience by presenting side by side a diversity of art music and crossover works geared toward audiences with eclectic, wide-ranging musical tastes.
Comprised of virtuoso performers from diverse musical circles, Opus 21 is capable of performing works by composers from many different genres. Its programming has ranged from the contemporary classical works of William Bolcom, John Harbison, and Steve Reich, to the jazz compositions of Dave Brubeck and Fred Hersch; from the art rock music of Frank Zappa to a collaborative performance with legendary Motown pianist Joe Hunter.
Opus 21 is committed to the creation and premiering of new works by both established and emerging American composers. Over the past three seasons, the group’s ambitious commissioning program has led to nineteen new compositions by composers from a wide variety of musical backgrounds. Those who have written for the ensemble include classical composers Eve Beglarian, Martin Bresnick, Chen Yi, Michael Daugherty, Kamran Ince, Tania Leon, and Daniel Bernard Roumain; eight-time Grammy Award-winning jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera; world renowned jazz pianist Fred Hersch; Motown Records’ original bandleader and member of the Funk Brothers, Joe Hunter; as well as Opus 21 musicians Tom Knific and Trent Kynaston, and ensemble artistic director Richard Adams. Recent guest artists have included world music percussionist Jamey Haddad, who tours with Paul Simon; new music flute virtuoso Patti Monson; and guitar legend Gene Bertoncini.
The goal of Opus 21 is to create a collaborative venue for performers, composers, and audiences whose interests extend beyond a single type of music. Its programs seek to increase public awareness and understanding of art music in the twenty-first century, introduce the public to works it might not otherwise hear, and build bridges between audiences of different musical backgrounds. The group also maintains an open call for scores in order to be able to present the music of both established and emerging composers. In all its activities, Opus 21 is committed to the proposition that great music is without boundaries.
Opus 21 is an independent, not-for-profit performing arts organization.
Comments From The Artistic Director
The name Opus 21 is intended to signal the group’s dedication to the works and art music of the 21st century. Our goal is to transcend the boundaries of the traditional concert program by challenging the notion of what constitutes acceptable repertoire for a serious music concert. Most people have an interest in more than one type of music, but on most concerts one encounters the music of only a single genre. Opus 21’s concerts are different. With a roster of accomplished musicians from classical, jazz, rock, and world music circles, Opus 21 is capable of performing the music of many different genres, opening up new possibilities in terms of programming.
Opus 21’s concerts aren’t about variety for variety’s sake. An important aspect of the programs is how pieces of different genres relate to one another. The juxtaposition of genres, at times highlighting a common thread and at other times emphasizing stark contrasts, is presented in a way that is intended to bring new understanding to the works and enhance the listening experience. For example, an authentic African drumming piece followed by a contemporary classical work incorporating African rhythms allows audiences to hear something from within a given musical tradition and then hear how a contemporary composer interprets or utilizes elements of that tradition.
An Opus 21 concert is an “event” – a serious art music experience that breaks from many of the norms of a classical music concert. The atmosphere is more informal. The programs are a collage – fast-paced, with quick transitions and dramatic contrasts – and offer the opportunity to experience something out of the ordinary.
Opus 21 is dedicated to building bridges between audiences of different backgrounds and believes the first step in achieving this at its concerts is by bringing together accomplished, dynamic performers from a variety of musical circles. The diversity of the musicians is central to Opus 21’s activities. The ability of performers from different genres to share the same stage and the collaborative efforts that emerge from this lie at the heart of what Opus 21 is all about.
– Richard Adams