Charity spotlight: Riverkeeper

Riverkeeper was founded in 1966 under the name of the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and was originally a coalition of commercial and recreational fishermen who wanted to unite to protect the Hudson river. At the time, the Hudson river was devalued by local organizations and businesses, which used it as a means to get rid of waste, thus polluting it and making it not only unsafe for fishing, but virtually unsafe for the public to enjoy. In Ned Rorem’s The Lordly Hudson, poet Paul Goodman writes “This is our lordly Hudson and has no peer in Europe or the east.” Most of these workers would not ever be able to afford vacations to national parks and landmarks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, so the Hudson river was for them not only a workplace but their entire context for environmental pleasure. Since its founding, Riverkeeper (which became known as such in 1986) expanded to include local volunteers, environmental activists, and legal counsel. It has successfully won many cases forcing businesses to treat the Hudson river with the care it deserves. Today, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. serves as the Chief Prosecuting Attorney.

Patchwork Project feels that there is no better time than the present to support a localized environmental organization. Pollution of environmental landmarks is one of the many causes of global warming. Because environmental concerns have taken a backseat to other national issues, organizations like Riverkeeper will become increasingly significant in the quest for an improved planet. It is our hope that by improving our planet, we can help improve our America. While many parts of the Hudson river have been cleaned up thanks to Riverkeeper’s influence, many parts are still heavily polluted, causing them to continuously pollute the air, smell bad, and remain unsafe for swimming and fishing. But, let’s let the parts of the river that have improved be our guide and inspiration for what still needs our help. Turning our attention to the Hudson for this concert, which by no coincidence falls the day after Earth Day, will give Riverkeeper the means to continue its work, which will allow us to better serve our environment, which, in turn, will better serve us.

Kendra Wieneke, the director of “Our America,” and Executive Artistic Director of Patchwork Project, will be donating her time to Riverkeeper.

For more information, visit https://www.riverkeeper.org

To buy tickets for Patchwork Project presents: “Our America”, click here ouramericanyc.bpt.me

To donate to Riverkeeper, visit our donation page and specify that you would like your donation to benefit Riverkeeper. https://patchworkproject.co/contribute/

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Charity spotlight: the American Brain Tumor Association

The American Brain Tumor Association was founded in 1973 and still remains the only national advocacy organization that funds and supports brain tumor research. It also works with current patients and their caregivers to provide information and vital resources, always with a goal of recovery if it is at all possible. We want to help the ABTA because brain cancer is exceptionally aggressive and does not discriminate based on age, race, gender, lifestyle, creed, or nationality. Many of the performers on this program have experienced the loss of a loved one or someone they are very close to because of brain cancer. To this day, there remains no cure, leaving patients, no matter how pessimistic the prognosis, feeling powerless and without hope. We suspect that our audience has also been affected by this frightening disease. If we can draw attention and resources towards people who are affected, we can try to make sense of one aspect of life that seems rather senseless. Something that unifies this country is that we can be welcoming and supportive of the entire world. In the field of medicine, American research is unparalleled. In Ricky Ian Gordon’s song “A horse with wings,” he says “I wanna make a little mark before I go.” Through “Our America,” we hope to contribute to positive change by giving back through this and other worthy charities. Visit http://www.abta.org to learn more.

Will Berman, Lauren Frey, and Liz Lang will be singing for the American Brain Tumor Association on April 23 in honor of several friends and family members who have been affected by this horrible disease. To support these artists in their cause, click here.

To buy tickets to join us on April 23 at 2 pm, click here.

Patchwork Project in 2017

Dear friends,

We want to thank you for helping make Patchwork Project a reality in 2016. Our inaugural tour took us to seven cities and allowed us to present seven unique programs, individually crafted to speak to the dynamic of each specific audience. We met a lot of wonderful people along the way and drew a lot of inspiration for how to best serve our audiences in the future.

We both feel that we find ourselves in a very different America in 2017. It is of utmost importance to us that we evolve and grow to speak to current events. We founded this project not to promote American music first, but to highlight the diversity of American music and the many cultures, religions, and peoples that have found their place within it. We feel it is important, now more than ever, to promote music of female composers, music speaking to LGBTQ issues, music of Jewish-American and Muslim-American musicians, and music by creators who have sought refuge here.  

Inspired by the quote, “When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence,” we have decided to donate 100% of the proceeds of our 2017 projects to a set of charities that are near and dear to us. The arts unite us unlike anything else. If we can allow more opportunities for unity, for the coming together of artists and audiences, then we will have done our job and done it well. Additionally, we invite you to make a donation to your favorite charity in honor of Patchwork Project.

We hope that our concerts this calendar year will reflect America and American music as we see it– stronger in its diversity, multi-faceted, ever changing, serving humanity. We are very excited about our 2017 season and hope that you will join us in spirit or in person for one of our events. Our first concert will be in April in New York City— more details coming soon.

We thank you for your continued support of Patchwork Project!
Will and Kendra

TOMORROW in Barrington, IL!

Here’s a little write-up I did for a local paper about our Barrington concert:

A few months ago, I identified a hole in American concert repertoire.

As a classical musician, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make what is sometimes considered a dying art form relevant to today’s audiences. Many companies and organizations have tried, some successfully, to address this issue by creating programs targeted specifically at young professionals, by commissioning new works that cross and combine musical genres, or by modernizing opera and concert programs from the standard repertoire to speak to today’s fast-paced, technologically driven society. I support and advocate all of these solutions, but none of them address the hole that I’ve identified: despite these efforts, there still remains a language barrier.

You see, if you go to an art song concert– that is, a concert of classical songs not from an opera– in Germany or France, you’ll find native speakers singing in their native language for other native speakers. The richness of the European musical tradition has cast such a shadow on the United States that you will rarely find American singers singing American songs for American audiences. Not only that, but even in this country, American Art songs are often thought of as second-rate– quite normally taking their place as party pieces at the end of a concert or recital.

I have long been a passionate supporter of American song, which is what drove me to found Patchwork Project, a new concert production organization devoted entirely to American concert repertoire. And it is with great pleasure that I bring our inaugural concert tour for a stop at Barrington’s White House on Wednesday, August 3 at 7:30 pm.

We’ve designed a program performed entirely in English that features American song, opera, and folk music spanning the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I was blessed in high school to have a vocal instructor and fine arts department that encouraged the exploration of all musical styles– not just classical– and this program really reflects that. There are bits of Samuel Barber’s iconic 1953 Hermit Songs programmed alongside Brooklyn-based composer Gabriel Kahane’s 2006 Craigslistlieder, which feature texts from, you guessed it, Craigslist personal ads. There are heartwarming arias from an opera based on Louisa May Alcott’s canonical Little Women (one of my very favorite books) and songs featuring the poetry of e.e. cummings, Walt Whitman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Rosemary Benet. There are songs that tell the stories of lauded American women Nancy Hanks Lincoln and Kitty Oppenheimer, and we round this all out with a few cabaret songs, a little musical theater, and some Bob Dylan for good measure. All of these things come together to weave our “Tapestry of American Song”.

All in all, this is not your average classical concert! This is a vibrant, unique survey of American classical music crafted with the American audience in mind. I’ve been thrilled with it’s reception by audiences in New York City and Westchester and cannot wait to bring it home to Barrington, where my love and passion for this music was first cultivated over ten years ago.

Please join us for a wonderful event at Barrington’s White House on Wednesday, August 3 at 7:30 pm. General admission is $20; $15 for students and seniors. Tickets are available now at: patchworkbarrington.bpt.me. For more information, please visit our website: http://patchworkproject.co.

 

It’s up to you, New York, New York!

It’s hard to believe that we open our New York concerts in under two weeks! I am filled with so much excitement – what was merely a vision is actually being brought to life.

One of the main facets of my vision for Patchwork Project was finding a musical home, not just for me, but for our collaborators and our audiences. It is not by accident that we are performing all American music. These concerts are a celebration of our heritage and a statement about the possibilities that lie ahead for our great country, no matter how dismal and disheartening the current state of affairs may seem.

For this reason it is very meaningful to me that we would begin our tour in my home, New York State. Anything and everything that I believe about music was born out of New York being my home – from the proximity to the Metropolitan Opera to the proximity to many of the composers whose music we will be singing. What we can offer in return is to give back to a place by which we have been given so much. Our first concert in New York will be at Andrus on Hudson, a nursing home in my hometown of Hastings. Andrus has always been very nurturing of local artists and it is special to be able to bring what we have there for the residents. It is my way of saying thank you to Hastings for always supporting my musical development. Would that the worldwide musical home that I find as my career furthers be as lovely as the one I came from in Hastings.

After our concert in Hastings we head to the Big Apple to perform at the National Opera Center, a place that for many a young singer often seems like a daunting representation of auditions and competitions. Back when we were Eastman students, Kendra and I used to take many a weekend trip down to NYC for 2-3 Young Artist auditions at a time. These trips punctuated our musical lives and forced us to put our Eastman education to work. These trips were yet another example of us searching for our musical home. On our Monday night performance in Marc A. Scorca Hall we are looking to take a step away from all that. We will be premiering a beautiful piece written for us by Pamela Stein Lynde, a fellow graduate of Westminster Choir College and ALSO a former student of my beloved teacher, Sharon Sweet. There is something so invigorating about singing Pamela’s piece, which allows us to create something entirely new and invite our audience to expand their perception of classical vocal music. We have the opportunity to share everything we have developed over the years, from school to professional life. We hope to transform the room from a place where singers and musicians are constantly asking for permission (whether it be acceptance to a program or being hired by a major opera company) to a place where we celebrate our home – American singers, American composers, and a New York recital hall.

As these concerts approach I am also filled with so much gratitude for all the people who share in our excitement, whether this be through a donation, buying a ticket to one of our concerts, or e-mails of encouragement and support. This, our Patchwork Project, has already become bigger than us. It’s about you. We are finally ready to share the meat of the project – the music! New Yorkers, join us, and hopefully you, too, can find a new expressive home right along with us.

Concerts are:

Saturday July 23 at 3 PM

Andrus on Hudson, 185 Old Broadway, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706

$10 Suggested Donation

 

Monday July 25 at 7:30 PM

Marc A. Scorca Hall

The National Opera Center, 330 Seventh Ave (7th floor), New York, NY 10001

$15 Tickets, purchased at http://patchworknyc.brownpapertickets.com

 

 

Patchwork Project update, May 4, 2016

Hello! Kendra here. A big thanks to all of you who have supported Patchwork Project so far! We are halfway through our fundraising campaign and have been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work to craft and plan our inaugural tour. Just a few things we want to share with you:

  1. Concert announcements are COMING SOON! It has taken us longer than anticipated to get everything in place but we’re close and can’t wait to share these details with you.
  2. We will be selling t-shirts featuring our beautiful Patchwork logo to help support our shows. Like us on facebook for information on how to purchase.
  3. It’s not too late to support us by donating to our indiegogo campaign. There are a lot of great perks up for grabs including concert recordings, free t-shirts, and more!

May the fourth be with you!

Patchwork Project, in my own words – Will’s edition

When I think about what inspires me to make music, a few things come to mind. I think about all of the beautiful music out there waiting to be explored. I think about the legacy of all of the musicians who have come before me and the dialogue that exists between us, whether this be composers or the musicians who bring their works to life. Inherent in this is so much craft. Part of this involves tradition. For centuries musicians have written treatises describing the rights and the wrongs of their art. We have settled on the correct ways for music to be interpreted. We have celebrated the bel canto technique, which prescribes vocal non-negotiables. And, we have also acknowledged the place of artists who break the rules, for without them, change and growth would not be possible.

For me, this whole project is about putting craft into practice. When I was at Eastman studying with the late Rita Shane, I was often told “there are many ways people do sing, but there’s only one right way and this is it.” From age 18, the importance of understanding the legacy of all of the greats was instilled in me. Listening to greats like Richard Tucker and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was not only meant as a source of enjoyment, but also to understand everything the music I had only begun working on could become. In the same way that singers of the past launched everything they were taught in conjunction with everything they felt into their musical lives, I am looking to make my musical home.

The idea that keeps coming back to me is that there is a need in this world for diversified art. There is not enough room for us all to do the same thing, but there is so much room for creative process. When Maria Callas sang Vissi d’arte, the last thing on her mind was copying what came before her. The way she felt the Italian language and communicated the deepest truths about Floria Tosca were based on her elevated understanding of life and her devotion to a tradition of singing that seemed to be forgotten. When I think of all the great American music out there, I can’t help but wonder, “why not?!”

We have so many wonderful regional opera companies, but the song recital is not ubiquitous in the United States in the same way. Let’s cross over into new territory. Let’s build new appreciation. Let’s listen to music in new settings and with different audiences. It is through this newness that we participate in the tradition of celebrating music in our civilization. We can find pride in the relevance of music in our native tongue. And, we can lessen the gap between the fanciest classical performances and people like you and me, who just want to have a good time.

I am so excited to share all of this with you this summer. For me, this project is about the art being as important as the artists and the artists being as important as the audiences. This, our “Patchwork Project,” seeks to thread together craft and musical works with new audiences, new cities, and new friends.

Support our project by clicking here.

The 5 W’s of Patchwork Project

What the heck is it that we are doing?! Kendra breaks it down into the 5 W’s for you.

WHO: Me (Kendra) and my good friend, Will and a whole host of other awesome artists and people. (Check back on Friday for our “Friday Features” to get to know each of the guest artists that will join us on our inaugural tour!)

WHAT: Short term- a recital tour across the Midwest and Northeast with stops in Illinois, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and more. Long term- a platform for collaboration and creative concert presentation for up-and-coming artists.

WHERE: Your local church, your local bar, your grandmother’s house, a neighborhood park, a concert hall– anywhere where creative minds can meet to entertain and inspire local audiences with innovative, fun programs.

WHEN: Various dates in July and August, 2016

WHY: There are a lot of reasons that inspired us to get this project off of the ground. We don’t think there are enough recitals, we don’t think there are enough opportunities for collaboration among singers and between singers and instrumentalists, and we don’t think that there is enough creativity and flexibility in how concert programs are presented. We’re aiming to create a core program that will resonate with a greater, more diverse population than, say, the traditional art song concert. We chose to focus our project on the works of American composers because we think there is a lot of unexplored and under-performed repertoire in this genre  that we want to share with audiences across the country.

Like us on Facebook, follow this blog or email us (info@patchworkproject.co) for more information or to learn how you can get involved with our project!

 

Patchwork Project: In my own words

If you stare at it long enough

the mountain becomes unclimbable.

Tally it up. How much time have you spent

waiting for the soup to cool?

Icicles hang from January gutters

only as long as they can. Fingers pause

above piano keys for the chord

that will not form. Slam them down

I say. Make music of what you can.

–from “Against Hesitation” by Charles Rafferty (A Less Fabulous Infinity, Louisiana Literature Press, 2006)

 

When it comes to singing, my two favorite things are planning recitals and writing ornamentation.

I love the creative part of the process the most—getting to put my own stamp on things, combining things in new ways, taking the expected and turning it on its head. These are the times in classical music where I feel I am allowed to play—to experiment—to come up with something entirely new and entirely my own.

This is when I think we are at our best—when we find complete ownership of something. It doesn’t happen as often you wish it would; admittedly, it is vulnerable, a little scary. It takes a great deal of confidence and an even greater deal of skill. We work so hard to be able to let go.

And of course, all of this is so much easier when you are cradled in the creative cocoon of school. I was lucky enough to go to a school that’s known for its wonderful sense of community, where I had the opportunity to explore a staggeringly wide range of repertoire and musical experiences. I also was taught the great value of collaboration. I was always and continue to be so inspired by my friends and colleagues.

I’ve struggled since leaving school with a sense of “musical homelessness”. Like many post-grad emerging artists, I’ve been doing a lot of practicing on my own and not a lot of creative storytelling—not a lot of experimenting or innovating or collaborating. I’ve missed those things as I’ve found my network scattered across the country. I’ve strung together gig after gig, some great, others not so much, and watched as I and my friends and colleagues have embarked on the beginning of a very long, very uphill journey.

One day earlier this year, I realized that the only thing stopping me from having the kinds of experiences I was longing for was me. There was no reason why I couldn’t make something—why I couldn’t make the kind of thing that I love making—something real, something fresh, something unique. Something that was not about me at all but about all of us—coming together in whatever shape or form we can to learn from each other, better each other, grow with each other. In turn, our music would have something new to say—something that can change and adapt to fit whatever is most needed.

And so, that something is taking the form of the Patchwork Project. I’m calling all of my friends and seeing if they want to make something together. We’ll have a core program of both standard and lesser-known American repertoire that will travel across the country with Will and I, and be breathed new life in each city by a variety of wonderful guest artists. We want to celebrate the myriad ways in which music is made in this country and provide opportunities for collaboration between singers and instrumentalists that might not otherwise occur. We hope that this fresh take on the recital will allow us to reach a broader population—by letting our program be whatever it needs to be in each city and venue.

Mostly, we hope to make art with as many of you as possible. Each of us has a unique voice to bring to the project, and together, we can make something so much better than any of us could hope to make on our own. For our audiences, we hope to share a new story, one that reflects and honors the individual and collective voices of this nation. We’re passionate about telling stories and singing in our native language—we’re passionate about making connections and collaboration—we’re passionate about learning from each other and learning from you. When we patch all of these things together, we’re left with a vibrant quilt that’s as familiar as an old blanket. We hope you’ll take this storytelling journey with us, and can’t wait to see how it grows.

(Kendra Wieneke)