“Night” Release 3: Folk and Classical –The best of Both Worlds

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PHOTO CAPTION: Tift Merritt (l) a folk singer/song writer who has often been compared to Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris, is joining Simone Dinnerstein (r), arguably the best-selling classical pianist of the past three years, in a concert debuting their new CD Night.  The concert, presented by ClaverackLanding, takes place at Club Helsinki, Hudson, on Saturday, March 23rd beginning at 8 pm.   For tickets ($30.00 each) and further information go to www.ClaverackLanding.org or call Club Helsinki directly at 518.828.4800.   Photo Credit Lisa Marie Mazzucco.

Folk and Classical –The best of Both Worlds

HUDSON – On Saturday, March 23rd, Club Helsinki will host two of the best performers in their fields.

Tift Merritt, a folk singer/songwriter and Simone Dinnerstein, a classical pianist known for her vision, originality and expressive interpretation, will be appearing together to introduce their collaborative CD, Night.  The recording, a Sony Classical production, is being released on March 19th, just days prior to this appearance.

A powerful folk musician known for her thoughtful songs and strong style, Merritt has been compared to Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris.  In fact, the first time Harris heard Merritt, she said, “She stood out like a diamond in a coal patch.”  Her recordings have frequently landed on Top Ten Lists including those published in Time and The New Yorker.  She’s opened for the legendary Elvis Costello and even participated in the epic Dylan tribute concert, I’m Not There.  Her selection was notable – “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”.   Merritt has been called “a force to be reckoned with” more than once and The Wall Street Journal featured her on a list of songwriters that included Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Leonard Cohen.

In addition to Merritt’s singing and songwriting skills, she is an accomplished photographer and also hosts an artist-to-artist interview radio show called The Spark with Tift Merritt that is broadcast and produced in the burgeoning art colony of Marfa, Texas.  Stream the show at www.marfaspark.com.

Dinnerstein burst on to the classical music scene in a flash of brilliant light.  Her first recording, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, for which she raised the funds herself, skyrocketed to the top of the 2007 charts.  It ranked No. 1 on the Billboard Classical chart its first week of sales and was named to many “Best of 2007” lists including those of The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. Since then, she has released three additional recordings, all of which have landed on “top” listings.  Most significantly, in 2011, Dinnerstein’s work on Bach: A Strange Beauty, was included in NPR’s 100 Favorite Songs from all genres.

Such exemplary recognition indicates two minds constantly striving to be the best.  And, in so doing, each of these women is noted for pushing the boundaries of her genre – giving fans a new approach to traditional sounds.  It is this common need to explore and expand that brought the two performers together.

Merritt, who learned to play the guitar by ear from her Father, and Dinnerstein, formally trained in classical schools including The Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music, were both booked to appear at a fund-raiser for Barack Obama in 2007.  Backstage, while awaiting their separate introductions, they started playing together – just to pass the time.  The result was a recognition that both the similarity of their constant quest for pushing boundaries as well as their disparate learning styles might make for an interesting collaboration.

Shortly after that, the two got a 5-day residency at Duke University – complete with funding for two composers with whom they could work, and the considerable support and enthusiasm of the Director of the Arts program, Aaron Greenwald.  That gave them a chance to explore and rehearse – and, not coincidentally, present two concerts displaying the result of their time together.

The process since then has been one of growth.  Merritt, who only plays by ear, needs to record their rehearsals, then step back and learn the notes each evening before moving on to the next  improvisation.  Dinnerstein has had to revisit  her  understanding of how classical music is constructed.  In fact, she says she’s  had to “give up some of the notes” in order to make the collaboration work.

She even added  string plucking – from the bowels of the piano, as a suitable accompaniment on one song.  (And boy,” she says, “It’s not easy to make the strings hit the same notes each time you pluck them.”)

The concert, just the second since the CDs debut, will include not only songs played together, but songs each musician will present solo.  So the range of music extends from classical to folk to a whole new genre – ripe for further exploration.  And these two women are more than willing to continue doing what they do best – pushing boundaries, pulling disparate sounds together, melding the best of both worlds.

The concert takes place on Saturday, March 23rd beginning at 8 pm.  Presented by ClaverackLanding, it is being held at Club Helsinki, 405 Columbia Street, Hudson.  Tickets are $30.00 each and can be obtained at www.ClaverackLanding.org or by calling Club Helsinki at 518.828.4800.

Concerts and education programs of ClaverackLanding, great music in great spaces, are supported in part by Herrington’s, Hudson River Bank & Trust Company foundation, T.Backer Fund, JSL Computer Services, and many generous individuals and business sponsors.