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“1/2 price wine and National Symphony Orchestra” read the sign outside of Acre 121, in that order. This leaves a slightly sad impression as to which of the two Acre’s manager thought would be the bigger draw. But whichever it was, the midscale BBQ restaurant was packed on Wednesday, the first night of the NSO’s newish social experiment dubbed “NSO in your Neighborhood.” This week through Monday, Jan. 9, small chamber ensembles made up of NSO musicians are fanning out throughout Columbia Heights (broadly defined), playing a series of free public concerts at nontraditional venues such as BloomBars and All Souls Church.
Judging by Wednesday’s capacity crowds, it’s already a hit. The other concert that night, at Busboys and Poets, was also standing room only. A totally unscientific poll of two audience members found that everyone had come specifically for the music; 50 percent came after seeing an announcement on Busboys’ Facebook page, and the other 50 percent because their brother was related to one of the musicians.
The selections throughout the week are pretty eclectic, so check the schedule before heading out. Busboy’s customers were treated to a fairly conventional program of a string quartet and quintet by Beethoven and Dvořák. Acre 121’s was all over the map, including a pair of jarring modern works by David Anderson and NSO cellist David Teie, bookended by baroque pieces by J.S. Bach and Michael Haydn. But the highlight was a Celtic reel and a Norwegian “devil’s tune” played by Glenn Donnellan on a garish eight-string Norwegian fiddle. (He also owns a baseball bat he’s converted to a violin.)
“NSO in your Neighborhood” is an expansion of a couple pre-existing community performance models, one with THEARC in Southeast, and the other with the Columbia Heights Educational Campus. But it’s the first of its kind held at multiple sites throughout a residential neighborhood. The NSO had asked participating venues what kind of performance they wanted, then sent around a sign-up sheet to orchestra members, leaving it up to them to form ensembles and pick their programs. Cellist Rachel Young says musicians jumped at the opportunity. It’s something they’ve done regularly as part of their American Residency Program, in which the orchestra hits the road and plays at schools, rec centers, and nursing homes throughout a designated state (this year’s is Kentucky, in February). But so far, it hasn’t happened nearly enough in D.C. itself.
If the Columbia Heights location is a bid by the NSO to reach out to new demographics—-i.e. black, Latino, and hipster audiences—-Wednesday’s concerts showed mixed results. The Acre 121 crowd was just as overwhelmingly white as a typical NSO performance, and the dress code was more Brooks Brothers than A.P.C.; Busboys’ crowd was much more diverse. Both were on average younger than 40, which is a good sign for those of us who worry about classical music’s long-term prospects. In any case, breaking out of the marble mausoleum that is the Kennedy Center and playing to people where they live is exactly the kind of thing the NSO need to do more of. Plus, violinist Joel Fuller remarked, “We don’t usually get to have drinks on stage.”
All performances free and open to the public; some require prior registration. Schedule online and below:
Wednesday, January 4
7:00-9:00pm Acre 121, 1400 Irving St., NW CHAMBER MUSIC
NSO musicians Glenn Donnellan, violin; Ruth Wicker Schaaf, viola; David Teie, cello; and Jeffrey Weisner, bass, play works featuring a variety of classical composers, eras of music and styles.
7:00-9:00pm Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th St., NW CHAMBER MUSIC
NSO musicians Alexandra Osborne and Joel Fuller, violins; Mahoko Eguchi, viola; Rachel Young, cello; and Anthony Manzo, bass perform classical works.
Thursday, January 5
10:00-11:30am Sitar Arts Center, 1700 Kalorama Rd., NW ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION
Professional arts administrators from the greater Washington region participate in a roundtable discussion addressing the topic of fundraising for arts education. To register, visit the Sitar Arts Center site or call (202) 797-2145.
Friday, January 6
4:00-5:00pm Sitar Arts Center, 1700 Kalorama Rd., NW ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE: Viva Violins
NSO violinists Elisabeth Adkins, Holly Hamilton, Jane Bowyer Stewart and Linda Schroeder, perform classical works for children, youth and families.
7:00-9:00pm Columbia Heights Educational Campus, 3101 16th St., NW FULL ORCHESTRA CONCERT: A World of Music
The National Symphony Orchestra performs classical works highlighting artistic and cultural influences from around the world.
This event is free but tickets are required.
National Symphony Orchestra Ankush Kumar Bahl, conductor
Program to include:
DVORÁK: Carnival Overture DEBUSSY: Clair de lune COPLAND: El salón México VIVALDI: “Winter” from The Four Seasons BRAHMS: Tragic Overture WALKER: Lyric for Strings MÁRQUEZ: Danzón No.2 GRIEG: Peer Gynt Suite No.1
This event is free but tickets are required. To reserve tickets, email us or call (202) 416-8112.
Sunday, January 8
10:15-11:00am BloomBars, 3222 11th St., NW KINDERKONZERT: Follow That Fiddle!
Almost anything can become a musical instrument, when you look at it the right way. In this special Kinderkonzert, NSO member Glenn Donnellan plays multiple fiddles including his Electric Slugger
— a violin made from a baseball bat! This performance is designed for ages 4 & up.
1:00-3:00pm All Souls Church, 2835 16th St., NW CHAMBER MUSIC
NSO musicians Heather LeDoux Green, violin; Daniel Foster, viola; and Lisa Emenheiser, piano, play classical works.
This event is free but tickets are required. To reserve tickets, e-mail us or call (202) 416-8112.
2:00-3:30pm GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St., NW ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
At 2pm, NSO members will kick off GALA Hispanic Theatre’s traditional community celebration, Fiesta de los tres reyes magos/Three Kings Day, the most popular holiday event in the Latino community.
2:00-3:30pm The Wonderland Ballroom, 1101 Kenyon St., NW DANCE AND MUSIC COLLABORATION
NSO violinist Glenn Donnellan and additional NSO colleagues perform with dancers Kelly Moss Southall, Maura Gahan and Gregg Corbino.
3:00-4:00pm St. Stephen’s and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, 1525 Newton St., NW ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
NSO trombonists Craig Mulcahy and Barry Hearn, and guest trombonists Dave Murray play classical works.
7:00-8:00pm BloomBars, 3222 11th St., NW HIP-HOP AND CLASSICAL MUSIC COLLABORATION
An artistic exchange with NSO musicians Alexandra Osborne and Joel Fuller, violins; Mahoko Eguchi, viola; Rachel Young, cello, and Peabody Award-winning Hip Hop artist Asheru and rising jazz/R&B vocalist Tamika Love Jones. The collaboration will celebrate the music of Afro-French composer and violin virtuoso Chevalier de Saint-Georges, also referred to as “The Black Mozart”.
Monday, January 9
5:30-6:30pm Washington DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St., NW CHAMBER MUSIC
NSO musicians Natasha Bogachek, violin; Zino Bogachek, violin; Eric DeWaardt, viola; and Yvonne Caruthers, cello, play classical works. This event is a part of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Open House and Locally Grown Festival.
5:30-6:30pm The Dance Institute of Washington, 3400 14th St., NW DANCE AND MUSIC COLLABORATION
Performances by students from the Dance Institute of Washington and NSO musicians Glenn Donnellan, violin; Ruth Wicker Schaaf, viola; David Teie, cello; and Jeffrey Weisner, bass, followed by a question and answer session.