Gary Dunning, President and Executive Director
Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro
Featuring Becca Stevens, Alicia Olatuja, Parker Quartet
Friday, January 22, 2016, 8pm — Sanders Theatre
(Boston) Celebrity Series of Boston will present jazz pianist and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient Billy Childs with vocalists Becca Stevens and Alicia Olatuja and the Parker Quartet in Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro on Friday, January 22, 2016, at 8:00pm at Sanders Theatre, Memorial Hall, Harvard University, 45 Quincy Street, Cambridge.
Tickets start at $50, and are available online at www.celebrityseries.org, by calling CelebrityCharge at (617) 482-6661 Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m., or at the Harvard Box Office, Holyoke Center, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge.
This performance marks the Celebrity Series debut for Billy Childs and Alicia Olatuja. Becca Stevens made her Celebrity Series debut in 2015’s Stave Sessions, and the Parker Quartet performed with Rob Kapilow in 2009.
When Billy Childs was 11 years old, his older sister introduced him to the work of singer-songwriter, Laura Nyro (1947-1997). Her blend of Broadway inspired melodies, jazz improvisation and socially conscious lyrics stayed with him, and in 2014 Childs released his two Grammy Award winning tribute, Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro. Joined by an extended ensemble including saxophone, harp, guitar, string quartet, and vocalists, Childs brings us an evening of Nyro’s songs made famous by other artists including Barbra Streisand, The 5th Dimension, Patti LaBelle, and Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Billy Childs has emerged as one of the foremost American composers of his era, perhaps the most distinctly American composer since Aaron Copland – for like Copland, he has successfully married the musical products of his heritage with the Western neoclassical traditions of the twentieth century in a powerful symbiosis of style, range, and dynamism.
A native of Los Angeles, Childs grew up immersed in jazz, classical, and popular music influences. His prodigious talent at the piano earned him public performances by age six, and at sixteen he was admitted to the prestigious USC Community School of the Performing Arts, going on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree in Composition under the tutelage of Robert Linn and Morton Lauridsen.
By the time of his graduation from USC, Childs was already an in-demand performer in the L.A. jazz scene. Soon thereafter he was discovered by trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard, with whom he embarked on a successful performing and recording tour. He recorded and performed with a number of other influential jazz musicians including J.J. Johnson, Joe Henderson, and Wynton Marsalis before landing a record deal with Windham Hill Records in 1988. Since then Childs has written and produced I’ve Known Rivers (1995) on Stretch/GRP, The Child Within (1996) on Shanachie, and two volumes of “jazz/chamber music” (an amalgam of jazz and classical music) – Lyric, Vol. 1 (2006) and Autumn: In Moving Pictures, Vol. 2 (2010); the recordings earned him two GRAMMY awards and five nominations.
Simultaneously with his recording career, Childs has occupied a parallel niche as an in-demand composer. His orchestral and chamber commission credits include Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin, The Los Angeles Master Chorale, The Kronos Quartet, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, The American Brass Quintet, The Ying Quartet, and The Dorian Wind Quintet.
Thus far in his career, Childs has garnered thirteen GRAMMY nominations and four awards: two for Best Instrumental Composition (Into the Light from Lyric and The Path Among The Trees from Autumn: In Moving Pictures) and two for Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist (New York Tendaberry from Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro and What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? from To Love Again). In 2006, Childs was awarded a Chamber Music America Composer’s Grant, and in 2009 was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was also awarded the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2013, and most recently, the music award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2015.
In her teens, Becca Stevens studied classical guitar, and maintained an affinity for her home state’s Appalachian folk music traditions, while also developing her voice singing jazz standards with her peers and mentors in local clubs. After graduating from the high school program at the North Carolina School of the Arts with a major in classical guitar, she moved to New York to attend The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. It was there that she received a BFA with high honors in vocal jazz and composition, and where she met the musicians with whom she formed the Becca Stevens Band. Stevens quickly began building a diverse body of work, and earning the respect and admiration of her peers. She launched her recording career with her 2008 debut album Tea Bye Sea and its popular 2011 follow-up, Weightless.
Stevens has also emerged as an in-demand collaborator, lending her vocal, compositional and instrumental skills to a diverse array of projects. Since 2004, she has served as a lead singer of Travis Sullivan’s Björkestra, fronting a genre-bending 18-piece jazz orchestra interpreting the songs of Björk on three albums and countless live performances. She has also toured, recorded and written lyrics for jazz pianist Taylor Eigsti, singing on five songs on his landmark 2010 album Daylight At Midnight. She performed at Carnegie Hall as featured singer with jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, and premiered new works and performed at Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival in collaboration with Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke.
Stevens has toured as part of drummer/composer Eric Harland’s all-star band, written for and duetted with up-and-coming vocalist José James, and has written, recorded, and/or performed live with such notable artists and players as Esperanza Spalding, Ambrose Akinmusire (for who Stevens composed the song “Our Basement (Ed)”), Dave Douglas, Gabriel Kahane, Tal Wilkenfeld and Aya Nishina – among many others.
2010 saw the debut of Stevens’ first choral composition, Soli Deo Gloria, commissioned and performed by the Melodia Women’s Choir in New York. That piece was also commissioned to be reworked for jazz choir and performed at the New England Conservatory. More recently, she was a featured composer in the Mainly Mozart concert series in San Diego, for which her compositions were arranged for string quartet by her father William Stevens and Stephen Prutsman (Sigur Rós, Tom Waits, Kronos Quartet), and performed by Becca with the DeCoda String Quartet. She is also a featured singer and composer in Work Songs, a new work by Timo Andres, which premiered as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival in New York along with a world premiere of Stevens’ “A Contribution To Statistics”, a setting of a poem by Wisława Szymborska which Becca wrote for Gabriel Kahane, Ted Hearne, Nathan Koci, and Timo Andres.
Alicia Olatuja is originally from St. Louis Missouri, and is a Vocal Performance graduate of the Manhattan School of Music Masters program. She made her recital debut at Carnegie Hall and her professional debut as Sacagawea in the World Premiere operetta Corps of Discovery at the Opera Memphis and has also performed selected scenes at Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center. She wowed America at the 2013 presidential inauguration with her solo during the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s performance of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Alicia has sung with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir since 2007, often performs as a soloist with the Juilliard Jazz ensemble, and has sung with various recording artists such as Christian McBride, Chaka Khan and Bebe Winans. She has recently released her solo debut album, titled Timeless, on which she is joined by such acclaimed jazz artists as 3-time Grammy-Award winner McBride and husband Michael Olatuja (both on bass), Jon Cowherd and two-time Grammy-nominee Christian Sands (both on piano), Grégoire Maret on harmonica, Ulysses Owens, Jr., on drums and David Rosenthal on guitar. In 2011, Alicia performed as Sophie in the world premiere of the dramatic work by Tony-nominated composer Elizabeth Swados, “From the Fire,” both in New York and when the play was presented at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh Scotland.
Formed in 2002, the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet has rapidly distinguished itself as one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation. The quartet began touring on the international circuit after winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition as well as the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition in France. Chamber Music America awarded the quartet the prestigious biennial Cleveland Quartet Award for the 2009–2011 seasons.
The Quartet was founded and is currently based in Boston. The Parker Quartet’s members hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the New England Conservatory of Music and were part of the New England Conservatory’s prestigious Professional String Quartet Training Program from 2006–2008. Some of their most influential mentors include the Cleveland Quartet, Kim Kashkashian, György Kurtág, and Rainer Schmidt. The Parker Quartet recently joined the faculty of Harvard University’s Department of Music as Blodgett Artists-in-Residence.
About Celebrity Series of Boston
Celebrity Series of Boston was founded in 1938 by pianist and impresario Aaron Richmond. Over the course of its 77-year history, Celebrity Series has presented an array of the world’s greatest performing artists, including Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arturo Toscanini, Ignace Paderewski, Artur Rubenstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould, Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern, Andrés Segovia, Kirsten Flagstad, Marian Anderson, Luciano Pavarotti, Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, Martha Graham, Ballet Russe De Monte Carlo, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Mstislav Rostropovich, and the New York City Opera Company.
The Celebrity Series has been bringing the very best performers–from orchestras and chamber ensembles, vocal and piano music, to dance companies, jazz, and more–to Boston’s major concert halls for 77 years. The Celebrity Series of Boston believes in the power of excellence and innovation in the performing arts to enrich life experiences, transform lives and build better communities. Through its education initiatives, the Celebrity Series seeks to build a community of Greater Boston where the performing arts are a valued, lifelong, shared experience–on stages, in schools, at home– everywhere. For more information on Celebrity Series of Boston, call (617) 482-2595 or visit us online at www.celebrityseries.org.
The Celebrity Series of Boston, Inc. receives generous support from Amy & Joshua Boger, Leslie & Howard Appleby, The Garbis & Arminé Barsoumian Charitable Foundation, the Boston Cultural Council, the Stephanie L. Brown Foundation, Charlesbank Capital Partners LLC, the Susanne Marcus Collins Foundation, Deloitte LLP, Donna & Mike Egan, EMC, Foley & Lardner LLP, Gabor Garai & Susan Pravda, David & Harriet Griesinger, the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation, Paul L. King, The Royal Little Family Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Joseph McNay, Stewart Myers, the National Endowment for the Arts, Eleanor & Frank Pao, The Peabody Foundation, PTC, The John S. and Cynthia Reed Foundation, The D.L. Saunders Real Estate Corp., the Stifler Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Henri A. Termeer, Michael and Susan Thonis, Tufts Health Plan, Sanjay & Sangeeta Verma, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Nancy Richmond Winsten, Anonymous, and many others.