Collaboration. It's at the heart of many of NPR Music's finest moments. And it's in the DNA of the intrepid Kronos Quartet, which some 40 years ago began working with composers around the globe to spotlight new music.
Opening our 10th anniversary concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., Kronos, true to form, gave an appreciative audience both a world premiere and an extraordinary surprise collaboration.
The band began its set with a soulful rendition of "House of the Rising Sun," in which lead violinist David Harrington belted out like a blues singer. Then, in a hair-raising arrangement by Jacob Garchik, music by the young Egyptian electro-folk artist Islam Chipsy ricocheted in frenetic waves.
Written for Kronos' open access education initiative Fifty for the Future and called "Zaghlala," the piece had not been heard by any audience anywhere. The music refers to blurred vision caused by strong light hitting the eyes. Kronos' violist Hank Dutt drove the pulsating beat, swapping his viola for the Middle Eastern dumbek. Kronos also conjured up Gershwin's "Summertime," inspired, Harrington noted, by Janis Joplin's mesmerizing version.
Finally, at the end, came the Wilco moment.
Harrington announced the last tune, "Born Alone," as belonging to one of the group's favorite bands — Wilco. As the strings fired up a brand new arrangement, created for this event, Jeff Tweedy himself emerged from back stage to sing his song.
It was a stunning collaborative moment. All genre pigeonholes seemed to fall away as these artists of singular purpose converged.
- "House of the Rising Sun" (Traditional)
- "Zaghlala" (Islam Chipsy)
- "Summertime" (George Gershwin)
- "Born Alone" (Wilco)
All arrangements by Jacob Garchik.
Kronos Quartet is
David Harrington and John Sherba, violin
Hank Dutt, viola
Sunny Yang, cello
Director: Colin Marshall; Producers: Colin Marshall, Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey; Technical Director: Josh Rogosin; Live Mix Engineer: Shawn "Gus" Vitale; Mix Engineer: Scott Fraser; Supervising Producer: Mito Habe-Evans; Managing Producers: Bob Boilen, Jacob Ganz, Jessica Goldstein, Abby O'Neill; Creative Director and Producer: Peter Glantz; Concert Videographers: Bronson Arcuri, Kara Frame, Nickolai Hammar, Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Niki Walker; Photographer: Beck Harlan; Production Assistant: CJ Riculan; Editor: Nickolai Hammar; Special Thanks: The 9:30 Club; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann, Keith Jenkins.
Kronos Quartet appears courtesy of Kronos Performing Arts Association. For Jacob Garchik's arrangement of "The House of the Rising Sun" and Islam Chipsy's composition "Zaghlala," permission provided courtesy of Kronos Performing Arts Association.