Announcing the 2020-2021 Season of Concerts from the Library of Congress

The 2020-2021 season of Concerts from the Library of Congress will be all-virtual, in an unprecedented move to safely offer music and lectures to the public. The times require creative approaches from artists and presenters to responsibly offer programs, and we are doing what we can to provide remote access to the music and resources for which the Library is renowned.

The circumstances also require flexibility, which is why we are announcing the dates of each half of the season separately, with our exciting 2020 lineup available now and the 2021 portion to be announced in greater detail later this fall. You will be able to watch the concerts directly on their event pages on loc.gov/concerts, and often on Facebook and YouTube as well. In addition to the concert events, you will also find additional content in the form of lectures, conversations, collection spotlights, program notes and more, all accessible from each event “hub.”

Learn more about the season in this guest post from Anne McLean of the Music Division:

Jennifer Koh, credit Jürgen Frank

Concerts from the Library of Congress is going virtual for the 2020–2021 season. A wide-ranging lineup of more than 65 individual events — concerts, conversations, lectures, instrument demonstrations and much more — will launch on Oct. 23. Offered as webcasts on the Library’s platforms, each will come with an attractive package of manuscripts and images, artifacts and documents to engage viewers and draw them into a unique and memorable experience, available only at the Library.

“It’s a bold move, one that fits the history of the series as a pathbreaker in presenting, commissioning and broadcasting over its nearly 100-year history,” said Susan Vita, Chief of the Music Division.

Programs for this most unusual season reflect the richness and diversity of our American musical heritage, including new music from many voices; concerts showcasing distinguished African American performers and composers; premieres of Library commissions by Michael Abels, James Lee III and Igor Santos; and a minifest featuring contemporary Latino composers. For two virtual residency projects, we chose the JACK Quartet and violinist Jenny Koh, visionary artists fired by a passion to reflect diversity in our society.

“(Re)Hearing Beethoven” is a special seven-event festival running from Nov. 20 through Dec. 17.  The composer’s nine symphonies will be performed in transcriptions for solo, duo and chamber ensemble performances. Viewers will also have the chance to take a deep dive into the Library’s Beethoven treasures, which include a number of manuscripts, letters and first editions and some significant larger-scale items, among them the 1815 J.C. Heckel portrait that hangs in the Library’s Whittall Pavilion and the bronze statue by Theodore Baur on the balustrade of the Main Reading Room.

The Music Division started its voyage into the virtual realm this summer, taking its commissioning tradition into the digital domain with two successful projects: a live-streamed concert featuring the International Contemporary Ensemble and a commission from Suzanne Farrin, and the exciting 10-part Boccaccio Project, which shared short Library commissions by composers created in response to the pandemic.

Coming up in spring 2021, subject to confirmation, distinctive projects will spotlight outstanding African American composers and performers. The Ritz Chamber Players will premiere a Library commission by James Lee III, perform pieces by William Grant Still and Adolphus Hailstork and introduce a rarely heard quintet by the 19th-century French composer Louise Farrenc. Featured artists are Ann Hobson Pilot, longtime principal harpist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins.

Eight principal players from major American orchestras will also come together for a performance of Wynton Marsalis’ A Fiddler’s Tale and a Library commission by Michael Abels. Former U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith and composer Gregory Spears will talk about the process of creating their opera Castor and Patience. And drummer and bandleader Terri Lyne Carrington will be a 2020–2021 Library of Congress Jazz Scholar, conducting research, recording an educational video and giving a talk on jazz and social justice.

It has been heartening for our Concert Office team to receive enthusiastic responses from many of the artists we had expected to present in live concerts this season. They are working with us now to design virtual alternatives, recording their performances in venues, studios and conservatories around the U.S. and abroad: Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany and the U.K.

Later this season, we will introduce newcomers to American audiences in concerts by 22-year-old British saxophonist Jess Gillam and young performers from the New World Symphony. Recitalists will include pianist Steven Osborne and harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, and the Pavel Haas Quartet will partner with Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg. In addition, the excellent French period orchestra Ensemble Correspondances will recreate a salon evening at the Louvre Palace.

Stay tuned for new additions, and check the concert website (www.loc.gov/concerts) for updates.

Beyond the concert season, the Concert Office continues to develop new ventures for interactive experiences and educational videos for students, teachers and families, plus a series of panels, podcasts and performances recorded in the Coolidge Auditorium.

And a new Concerts from the Library of Congress LibGuide brings together a curated selection of “best-of” videos of past concerts, fascinating conversations with artists and composers and treasures from all over the Library. Add the link (//guides.loc.gov/concerts-pick-of-the-week) to your favorites and join us on the digital stage!

One Comment

  1. Melanie
    September 2, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Anne, David, Sue & all music division staff,
    Thank you so very much for continuing to provide all of us with musical offerings that open our ears, challenge us to listen in new ways, and expose us to new composers and compositions. Your creative ways of collaborating with musicians will stretch everyone a bit beyond their comfort zone with ways of working that they can carry into the future. I’ll be listening – and looking forward to the day when we can all safely return to the Coolidge Auditorium!

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