FAIRBANKS — “Fairbanks Concert Association.” What comes to mind?
The word “concert” in the organization’s name probably has you thinking “concert” in the traditional meaning of the word: a musician on stage, solo or backed up by a band, performing to a packed house. You’re half right; FCA is that. But it’s much more.
FCA stretches the definition of concert to include music, dance, theater, song, comedy, literally packing all forms of performing arts under the umbrella of entertainment. It’s that vast umbrella term — “concert” — that allows FCA to bring a wide-ranging season of performers to Fairbanks this year.
“We don’t address a single audience. We try to address everyone and add to the community,” FCA executive director Anne Biberman said. “We try to serve as many audiences as possible.”
FCA’s season includes 13 hot performances, the most performances the group has hosted in a single year, with everything from one of the nation’s best modern dance groups to big names in the jazz world to a cirque performance to foot-stomping zydeco fresh off the bayou.
Unless noted, all performances take place at Hering Auditorium. More information about tickets, season tickets and each performance can be found online at FCA’s web page, www.fairbanksconcert.org, or by calling 474-8081.
Here’s a look at the 2012-2013 season of the Fairbanks Concert Association.
Modern dance is a hard sell, because we as viewers tend to have a preconceived notion of a troupe on stage, writhing in some sort of interpretative, hard-to-comprehend body language. Biberman is adamant this is not the case with Parsons.
“We were looking for a company that elicits a ‘wow’ response,” she said. “I saw their opening night performance in New York. Parsons was the company that elicited the response I was looking for.”
Don’t be misguided — Parsons is a dance troupe that exudes as much athleticism on stage as it does talent and grace. Parsons is an internationally renowned troupe that has, since 1985, toured an average of 32 weeks per year, to a total of more than 250 cities, 35 countries, six continents and millions of audience members. It has been featured on PBS, Bravo, A&E Network and the Discovery Channel. This summer, members Steven Vaughn and Christina Ilisije attended the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival to teach classes to Fairbanks dancers and choreographed a seven-minute piece that reflects life in Interior Alaska and the residents here.
The Parsons performance is the opening concert of the season.
• 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 21. After the performance, dancers will host a question-and-answer session with audience members. www.parsonsdance.org
Riders In The Sky
Riders In The Sky are old-school country cool, channeling the spirit of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. It’s definite C&W — “comedy and western” — and a favorite of Fairbanks audiences. The group has been performing for more than 30 years and has made several appearances in Fairbanks in years past. According to the group’s website, Riders In the Sky have been inducted into the Grand Ol’ Opry, are in the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame, the Country Music Foundation’s Walkway of Stars, and the Walk of Western Stars along with Autry, Rogers, John Wayne and other cowboy legends. They have won two Grammies, have been the Western Music Association’s “Entertainers Of the Year” seven times and won “Traditional Group of the Year” and “Traditional Album of the Year” multiple times.
• 4 p.m., Sept. 30. www.ridersinthesky.com
New York Polyphony
New York Polyphony is establishing a reputation as one of the world’s finest vocal chamber ensembles and has received acclaim from both critics and audiences alike. NPR praised the quartet as a “rich, natural sound that’s larger and more complex than the sum of its parts”
This is the only FCA event taking place at Davis Concert Hall. “Davis was built for New York Polyphony,” Biberman said. “Davis was built for acoustics, and this is where New York Polyphony will shine.”
The quartet applies not only refined musicianship and stunning harmonies but also a uniquely modern sensibility to its varied repertoire, which ranges from medieval melodies to cutting-edge contemporary works.
• 8 p.m., Oct. 13. www.newyorkpolyphony.com. Note: This concert takes place in Davis Concert Hall on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.
In the Footsteps of Django
Django Reinhardt was a master gypsy jazz guitarist born in Belgium in 1910. Despite the years since his birth and passing, his legacy and gypsy guitarist style lives on through his grandnephew, Lulo Reinhardt. “The audience sometimes expects me to play exclusively in the style of Django Reinhardt, but I have found a style of my own, and I’m happy and grateful that the people love it,” Lulo Reinhardt states on his website.
When Biberman heard Lulo perform at a booking conference, he was tops on her list to bring to Fairbanks. At the conference, technical difficulties prevented Lulo from using his sound equipment. “He went unplugged and it was amazing,” Biberman said.
• 4 p.m., Oct. 21. www.lulo-reinhardt-project.de
Metta Quintet isn’t a group to put in one category. It’s a little bit of everything.
“You can’t classify Metta because they are all over the place,” Biberman said. “They are very cutting edge but with JazzReach, they have different programs on all the jazz greats.”
JazzReach is an interactive program that brings jazz into schools and exposes students to all facets of the jazz world. Because Metta Quintet is a part of the JazzReach program, the group will be in Fairbanks for about a week, visiting Interior schools and exposing students to the world of jazz. Each visit also comes with a curriculum matcher with which teachers can work.
Metta Quintet will host multiple concerts while in Fairbanks, and a ticket gets you in to any performance you chose. More information on the venues and performances will be made available as the event draws near.
Featuring 10 to 12 musicians, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia and New Zealand, South America and North America. Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1998.
Because of its background and touring prowess, think jazz group meets world music meets U.H. house band, as one band leader referenced them.
“This is a really big show,” Biberman said. “It’s not our typical holiday show fare, but yet it is our holiday show.”
• 8 p.m., Dec. 7. www.pinkmartini.com
It’s a cirque show. What more do you need to know?
And as such, it will have the classics that cirque fans have come to love — the acrobatics, contortionists, visual optics, dance, unicyclists and illusion all wrapped in a story.
Cirque Mechanics was founded in 2004 by Boston native and German Wheel artist Chris Lashua after the success of his collaborative project with the Circus Center of San Francisco. Cirque Mechanics quickly established itself as a premiere American circus, with its unique approach to performance, inspiring storytelling and innovative mechanical staging. Spectacle Magazine hailed it as “the greatest contribution to the American circus since Cirque du Soleil.”
• 4 p.m. Jan. 20. www.cirquemechanics.com
Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas
The Scottish/Celtic music scene is big in Fairbanks.
Going on that premise, the Celtic music duo of Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas are likely to bring down the house with their evenings of Celtic and Scottish grooves. “Their music is beautiful — it’s fire and grace,” Biberman said.
The Boston Globe held the duo in high regard: “ ... you would think they’d been playing together for centuries. While his fiddle dances, her cello throbs darkly or plucks puckishly. Then (Haas) opens her cello’s throat, joining Fraser in soaring sustains, windswept refrains, and sudden, jazzy explosions. Their sound is as urbane as a Manhattan midnight, and as wild as a Clakmannan (Scotland) winter.”
The Good Lovelies
And lovely they are, but don’t confuse their mix of folk, country and jazz as the run-of-the-mill girl group.
Funny and upbeat, with just a pinch of sass, the Good Lovelies’ textbook three-part harmonies, constant instrument swapping and witty on-stage banter have enlivened the folk music landscape since they joined forces in 2006 for their first show at Toronto’s funky Gladstone Hotel. The group is made up of Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough and Sue Passmore but easily channel Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt in their haunting, melodic performances.
• 8 p.m., Feb. 16. www.goodlovelies.com
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
If one group did anything to put world music at center stage of the universe, it is Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Assembled in the early 1960s, in Durban South Africa, by Joseph Shabalala, who still leads the group, Shabalala took the name Ladysmith Black Mambazo — Ladysmith being the name of Shabalala’s rural hometown; Black being a reference to oxen, the strongest of all farm animals; and Mambazo being the Zulu word for ax, a symbol of the group’s ability to “chop down” any singing rival who might challenge them.
The group has played Fairbanks before, and with its mix of African rhythms and Christian inspiration, it’s been a sold-out hit.
“This was one our our best-attended shows that FCA had, and we’ve had requests to bring them back,” Biberman said.
• 8 p.m., March 15. www.mambazo.com
For those unlucky Fairbanksans who’ve never been able to travel to the bayous of Louisiana, no worries. The music of the bayous is traveling to you.
Author Garrison Keillor calls BeauSoleil “the best Cajun band in the world.” And with the awards and honors the band has earned, including multiple Grammys, he just might be right.
The concert association wanted to bring up a Cajun band for some time now, and FCA settled on BeauSoleil. “They’ve been playing forever and are excellent at what they do,” Biberman said.
8 p.m., March 22. www.rosebudus.com/beausoleil
The Step Crew
The Step Crew brings together three styles of dance — Ottawa Valley stepdance, Irish stepdance and tap. With virtuosic dancers and musicians from the likes of The Chieftains, Cherish The Ladies and Bowfire, this cast of outstanding talent takes you on a dance journey as champions in their respective art forms show audiences the amazing similarities and differences between these three captivating styles.
• 4 p.m., April 14. www.stepcrew.com
Bruce Adolphe with Marija Stroke and Mark Steinberg
The renowned composer Bruce Adolphe is an author, innovative educator and a versatile performer. He is the resident lecturer and director of family concerts for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, founding creative director of The Learning Maestros and the comic keyboard quizmaster of Performance Today’s weekly public radio program Piano Puzzlers. Adolphe comes to Fairbanks with pianist Marija Stroke and violinist Mark Steinberg of the Brentano Quartet for an evening which will combine his own compositions, classical repertoire and, of course, piano puzzlers.
• 8 p.m. May 3. www.bruceadolphe.com
For more information
• Unless noted, all performances take place at Hering Auditorium. More information season tickets and each performance can be found online at FCA’s web page, www.fairbanksconcert.org, or by calling 474-8081. Tickets are available by calling Alaska Tix at 490-2858, online at www.fairbanksconcert.org or at Grassroots Guitar on College Road. Season ticket packages are still available through the FCA office.
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at @FDNM features.