“Night” Release 1: Simone Dinnerstein and Tift Merritt Join Forces at Club Helsinki

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CAPTION:  Classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein(r) has joined forces with singer-songwriter/folk music powerhouse Tift Merritt (l).  Together, they have created a new genre of music with elements of classical, folk and rock.  The pair will be performing work from their newly released CD NIGHT on Saturday, March 23rd beginning at 8 pm at Club Helsinki in Hudson. For tickets, go to www.helsinkihudson.com or www.ClaverackLanding.org .    Call 518.828.7513 for more information.

Simone Dinnerstein and Tift Merritt Join Forces at Club Helsinki

HUDSON – “Intimate, introspective and heart-felt.”  These are the words classical pianist, Simone Dinnerstein uses to describe the work she and folk artist Tift Merritt have recorded and will be performing at Club Helsinki in Hudson on Saturday, March 23rd.  The concert is presented as part of the 2013 ClaverackLanding season.

“Though the music isn’t at all classical,” she adds, “the songs have a really strong narrative.  They’re intimate – almost confessional.”   Not descriptions usually associated with a Dinnerstein concert.  Her reviews run more to exclamations like…”majestic originality”, “wonderfully expressive interpretations” and, of course “triumphant”.

The American pianist put her name on the classical map in 2007 when her first recording – self-produced – was ranked No. 1 by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The New Yorker.  Bach’s Goldberg Variations was such a success that her subsequent recordings Bach: A Strange Beauty, and Something Almost Being Said opened at high positions and easily topped the classical charts.  Dinnerstein has subsequently become Best Selling Instrumentalist of 2011 on the U.S. Billboard Classical Chart and was included in NPR’s 2011 100 Favorite Songs from all genres.

So how did she come to collaborate with Tift Merritt, a folk artist and song writer who has been compared to Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris? You can thank President Obama.

“We were both in Columbia, Missouri doing a benefit for the Obama campaign,” says Dinnerstein.  “We were all going to perform separately.  Then Tift and I decided to collaborate.  We figured out how we could play together and what that would sound like.  By the time we got on stage, it seemed completely natural.”  That was the beginning.

Five years later, the two have a new release (Sony classical) entitled Night.   Included are original Merritt songs, songs written specifically for the duo by Brad Mehldau and Patty Griffin, and the world premiere recording of The Cohen Variations  – a solo piano piece commissioned by Dinnerstein and based upon one of her favorite songs, Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. 

“It’s been one of my favorite songs for awhile,” says the pianist.  “Long before Tift and I began working on this CD, I had commissioned a composer, Daniel Felsenfeld, to write me some variations on Suzanne.  It took me awhile to figure out how to present them.  Then when Tift and I got together, I, all-of-a-sudden realized that this piece was a perfect way of presenting both genres.”  The piece is performed in a solo section of the CD.

Each of the performers has had to adjust to working outside of their comfort zones for this collaboration.  Dinnerstein says that every time they perform together, “it feels like a risk.”  That said, she adds, “I don’t think that’s a reason not to do it.”

Instead, they are learning how to approach new material from different perspectives.  When trying to interpret Merritt’s song, Feel the World, for example, Dinnerstein was initially stumped.  “In classical music,” she explained, “I don’t improvise.  Interpret, yes.  But deciding how to present the feelings of a song in partnership with a vocalist/guitarist was completely outside my realm of education.”

Songwriter Merritt had a little more experience in this area.  Her advice? ‘Less is more.’  The result is a pianist who is able to support the vocalist while still lending a strong personality of her own.  Together, the headliners are thrilled to have created a new genre of music.  “That’s what is so beautiful about this album,” concludes Dinnerstein.  “These songs can’t be pinned down to a specific category.  They exist in another world.  They’re special.”

Presented by ClaverackLanding, a Hudson, New York non-profit founded by Gwen Gould and dedicated to the presentation of great music in great spaces, the Helsinki event will be only the second time Dinnerstein and Merritt will be introducing their new recording.  In fact, the CD is scheduled for release on March 19th, just days before the March 23rd event.   And, if two headlining recording artists weren’t enough to sell NIGHT, the CD was produced by Grammy-winners Adam Abeshouse and Ryan Freeland.   All together, NIGHT is a risk worth taking.

For tickets, go to www.ClaverackLanding. Org or www.HelsinkiHudson.com.  For more information, call 518. 828.7513.  The show starts at 8 pm on Saturday, March 23rd.  Club Helsinki is located at 405 Columbia Street in Hudson, N.Y.

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.