Brooklyn-based and Grammy-nominated orchestral collective The Knights return to Caramoor for an evening of innovative, exciting, and elegant orchestrations. The program features steel pan percussionist and fantastic young composer Andy Akiho performing his Fantasy for Steel Pans and Orchestra, Judd Greenstein’s Flute Concerto written for The Knights’ flutist Alex Sopp, works by the French masters Ravel and Fauré, as well as a selection of dances from On the Town in celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial.
Eric Jacobsen, conductor
Andy Akiho, steel pans
Alex Sopp, flute
Ravel Le tombeau de Couperin
Andy Akiho Fantasy for Steel Pans and Orchestra
— Intermission —
Fauré Pavane, Op. 50
Judd Greenstein Flute Concerto
Bernstein Three Dance Episodes’ from On the Town
Complimentary Garden Listening Tickets for Members at the Family Level and above
The Knights are a collective of adventurous musicians, dedicated to transforming the orchestral experience and eliminating barriers between audiences and music. Driven by an open-minded spirit of camaraderie and exploration, they inspire listeners with vibrant programs that encompass their roots in the classical tradition and passion for artistic discovery. The orchestra has toured and recorded with renowned soloists including Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, Béla Fleck, and Gil Shaham, and have performed at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, and the Vienna Musikverein.
The Knights evolved from late-night chamber music reading parties with friends at the home of violinist Colin Jacobsen and cellist Eric Jacobsen. The Jacobsen brothers, who are also founding members of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, serve as artistic directors of The Knights, with Eric Jacobsen as conductor. The Knights are committed to creating unusual and adventurous partnerships across disciplines; they perform in traditional concert halls as well as parks, plazas, and bars, all in an effort to reach listeners of all backgrounds and invite them into their music-making. Since incorporating in 2007, the orchestra has toured consistently across the United States and Europe.
The Knights have had an exciting 2017-18 season, a highlight of which was a U.S. tour with genre-defying Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital and Syrian clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh. Tour repertoire came from around the world, with arrangements and transcriptions by the artists themselves, and features the world premiere of Azmeh’s Triple Concerto for Clarinet, Mandolin, Violin and Orchestra. The Knights’ will complete their second Home Season in Brooklyn, in partnership with the downtown venue BRIC, presenting family concerts, evening performances, and a characteristically wide-ranging roster of guest artists. Programs include a collaboration with Puerto-Rican composer Angelica Negrón on her drag opera, a night of German lieder with Katja Herbers, as well as an exploration of the pervasive influence of Eastern European folk music. The Knights’ 2017 summer season encompassed a world premiere by composer Judd Greenstein and an East Coast premiere by Vijay Iyer; their tenth consecutive appearance in Central Park’s Naumburg Orchestral Concerts series; their fourth year at Tanglewood, a performance at the Ravinia Festival with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham; and a collaboration with choreographer John Heginbotham at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
In 2015, The Knights launched a partnership with BRIC with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As part of that initiative, The Knights performed with master violinist Gil Shaham on a North American tour, and on Shaham’s Grammy-nominated recording of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto. This partnership was continued when The Knights’ launched their first Brooklyn Home Season in 2016-17, in residence at BRIC. Each Home Season residency includes evening performances, family concerts, and engagement programs for local audiences, families, and public school students. The residencies allow The Knights to incubate their artistry and explorations at home, expanding connections within communities through music, before representing the best of Brooklyn around the globe. October saw the orchestra’s Opening Weekend, with a musical program featuring Master Peter’s Puppet Show, a multimedia concert with visual artist Kevork Mourad. December’s concerts celebrated a Brooklyn Schubertiade, showcasing local artists in an intimate salon evening of art, poetry, and music, where Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon read the world premiere of a new poem, set to music by The Knights. February’s program highlighted the world premiere of a new work by Andy Akiho, winner of the 2015 Rome Prize; and April showcased mainstays of classical canon alongside new Brooklyn composers, including works by Haydn, Mozart, and Gabriel Kahane.
The 2016-17 season saw the release of the celestial-themed album Azul on Warner Classics with longtime collaborator Yo-Yo Ma; an EP release with Gabriel Kahane of his song cycle Crane Palimpsest; a debut at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center as part of the inaugural “SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras;” and the New York premiere of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s song cycle Unremembered, which The Knights also performed at Tennessee’s Big Ears Music Festival. They rounded out the season with a European tour, which took them to the Easter Festival at Aix-en-Provence for six performances with celebrated guest artists pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Bertrand Chamayou, and violinist Renaud Capuçon; along with three concerts across Germany, including one at the new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg where the ensemble’s performance was lauded as one of the best in the new hall (Hamburg Abendetter).
Counted among the highlights from recent seasons are: a performance with Yo-Yo Ma at Caramoor; the recording of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto on master violinist Gil Shaham’s Grammy-nominated 2016 release, 1930’s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2, as well as a North American tour with Shaham; residencies at Dartmouth, Penn State, and Washington DC’s Dumbarton Oaks; and a performance in the NY PHIL BIENNIAL along with the San Francisco Girls Chorus (led by composer Lisa Bielawa) and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, which featured world premieres by Rome Prize-winner Bielawa, Pulitzer Prize-winner Aaron Jay Kernis, and Knights violinist and co-founder Colin Jacobsen. The ensemble made its Carnegie Hall debut in the New York premiere of the Steven Stucky/Jeremy Denk opera The Classical Style, and has toured the U.S. with banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, and Europe with soprano Dawn Upshaw. In recent years The Knights have also collaborated with Itzhak Perlman, the Mark Morris Dance Group, Joshua Redman, Silk Road virtuoso Siamak Aghaei, and pipa virtuoso Wu Man. Recordings include 2015’s “instinctive and appealing” (The Times, UK) the ground beneath our feet on Warner Classics, featuring the ensemble’s first original group composition; an all-Beethoven disc on Sony Classical (their third project with the label); and 2012’s “smartly programmed” (NPR) A Second of Silence for Ancalagon.
The Knights’ roster boasts remarkably diverse talents, including composers, arrangers, singer-songwriters, and improvisers, who bring a range of cultural influences to the group, from jazz and klezmer to pop and indie rock music. The unique camaraderie within the group retains the intimacy and spontaneity of chamber music in performance.
The Knights are proud to be known as “one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products…known far beyond the borough for their relaxed virtuosity and expansive repertory” (The New Yorker). The unique camaraderie within the group retains the intimacy and spontaneity of chamber music in performance. Through the palatable joy and friendship in their music-making, each musician strives to include new and familiar audiences to experience this important art-form.
Eric Jacobsen, Artistic Director, conductor, and cellist
Hailed by The New York Times as “an interpretive dynamo,” conductor and cellist Eric Jacobsen has built a reputation for engaging audiences with innovative and collaborative programming projects. Jacobsen is co-founder, Artistic Director, conductor, and cellist of The Knights. Also a founding member of genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider, he is credited with helping to ensure “the future of classical music in America” (Los Angeles Times). In December 2012, Jacobsen was selected from among the nation’s top visual, performing, media, and literary artists to receive a prestigious United States Artists Fellowship.
Jacobsen founded The Knights with his brother, violinist Colin, to foster the intimacy and camaraderie of chamber music on the orchestral stage. As conductor, Jacobsen has led the “consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble” (The New York Times) at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the 92nd Street Y, to Central Park’s Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, and (Le) Poisson Rouge, as well as the Vienna Musikverein, Dresden Musikfestspiele, Cologne Philharmonie, Düsseldorf Tonhalle, and the National Gallery of Dublin.
Also in demand as a guest conductor, Jacobsen led Camerata Bern in the first European performance of Mark O’Connor’s American Seasons, with the composer as soloist. He has conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with soloist Wu Man, the Alabama Symphony, the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in Columbus, Ohio, the Deutsche Philharmonie Merck, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. In the 2015-16 season, Jacobsen celebrated his inaugural season as Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic and his second seasons as both Music Director of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and Artistic Partner with the Northwest Sinfonietta.
A dedicated chamber musician, Jacobsen is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, participating in residencies and performances at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hollywood Bowl, and across the U.S., as well as in Azerbaijan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and Switzerland. With Brooklyn Rider, dubbed “one of the wonders of contemporary music” (Los Angeles Times), he has taken part in a wealth of world premieres and toured extensively in North America and Europe.
Colin Jacobsen, Artistic Director, violinist, and composer
As the Washington Post observes, violinist and composer Colin Jacobsen is “one of the most interesting figures on the classical music scene.” A founding member of two game-changing, audience-expanding ensembles — the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and orchestra The Knights — he is also a touring member of Yo-Yo Ma’s venerated Silk Road Project and an Avery Fisher Career Grant-winning violinist.
Jacobsen’s work as a composer developed as a natural outgrowth of his chamber and orchestral collaborations. Jointly inspired by encounters with leading exponents of non-western traditions and by his own classical heritage, his most recent compositions for Brooklyn Rider include Three Miniatures — “vivacious, deftly drawn sketches” (The New York Times) — which were written for the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Islamic art galleries. Jacobsen collaborated with Iran’s Siamak Aghaei to write a Persian folk-inflected composition, Ascending Bird, which he performed as soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, in a concert that was streamed live by millions of viewers worldwide. His work for dance and theater includes Chalk and Soot, a collaboration with Dance Heginbotham, and music for Compagnia de’ Colombari’s theatrical production of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.
Andy Akiho, steel pans
Described as “mold-breaking,” “alert and alive,” “dramatic,” and “vital” by the New York Times, Andy Akiho is an eclectic composer and performer of contemporary classical music. Recent engagements include commissioned premieres by the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble ACJW; a performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and three concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Akiho has been recognized with awards including the 2014-15 Luciano Berio Rome Prize, the 2015 Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund, a 2014 Fromm Foundation Commission from Harvard University, the 2014 American Composers Orchestra Underwood Emerging Composers Commission, a 2014 Chamber Music America (CMA) Grant with the Friction Quartet and Jenny Q. Chai, a 2012 CMA Grant with Sybarite5, the 2012 Carlsbad Composer Competition Commission for the Calder Quartet, and the 2011 Finale & ensemble eighth blackbird National Composition Competition Grand Prize. Additionally, his compositions have been featured on PBS’s News Hour with Jim Lehrer and by organizations such as Bang on a Can, American Composers Forum, and The Society for New Music.
Akiho was born in 1979 in Columbia, South Carolina, and is based in New York City. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina (BM, performance), the Manhattan School of Music (MM, contemporary performance), and the Yale School of Music (MM, composition). Akiho is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in composition at Princeton University. He has attended the Aspen Music Festival, Heidelberg Music Festival, HKUST Intimacy of Creativity Festival, Bang on a Can Festival, Silicon Valley Music Festival, Yellow Barn Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest Festival, and Avaloch Farm Music Institute, where he is the Composer-in-Residence. Akiho’s debut CD No One To Know One, on Innova Recordings, features brilliantly crafted compositions that pose intricate rhythms and exotic timbres around his primary instrument, the steel pan.
Alex Sopp, flute
Alex Sopp is a musician and artist living in Brooklyn.
As the flutist of yMusic, The Knights, and NOW Ensemble, the New York Times has praised her playing as “exquisite” and “beautifully nuanced.” Comfortable in many genres, Alex has commissioned, premiered, and recorded with some of the most exciting composers and songwriters of our time, including Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens, Ben Folds, Jonsí of Sigur Ros, Philip Glass, Paul Simon, Andrew Norman, Bruce Hornsby, Son Lux, Gabriel Kahane, St. Vincent, Anohni, Judd Greenstein, José González, My Brightest Diamond, The Dirty Projectors, and The National. A sought-after soloist, Alex made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony, and has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of David Robertson. In addition to her three main musical families, she plays frequently as a guest with the International Comtemporary Ensemble (ICE), and has made regular appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Deutsche Kammerphilarmonie Bremen, the Mariinsky Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Louisiana Philharmonic.
In addition to playing the flute, Alex is a singer and a visual artist. Most recently, she has appeared as a multi-disciplinary performer and singer in theater director John Tiffany’s production of “The Ambassador,” a staged song cycle written by Gabriel Kahane. Her voice can also be heard on several albums, including the yMusic + Ben Folds collaboration, So There. In addition to several handmade stop-motion animation films used as music videos, Alex’s paintings grace the covers of records by such artists as Ben Folds and The Knights, and can be seen in private collections
Alex grew up in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. She completed both her Bachelors and Masters degrees at The Juilliard School.