CONCERT PREVIEW: Advocate for underrepresented composers and new music, Chelsea Randall performing at The Foundry on June 25
Chelsea Randall will perform at The Foundry on June 25. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Randall.
Stockbridge West — The fact that Chelsea Randall began playing the piano at the age of eight, until age nine – “a bit older than most children start” – was the first of several unconventional chords that the New York-based pianist and educator York has struck during his career. As a dedicated advocate for underrepresented composers and new music, Randall seeks to create new dialogues between the old, the new and the unknown as a performer and collaborator – as evidenced in the program she brings to The foundry Friday, June 25, launch of “American Mavericks,” a performance, commission and research project celebrating new repertoire for solo piano rarely played by black American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries.
“This is a landmark project on black American composers with the ultimate goal that at some point, hopefully soon, these works will not just be spotlighted – they will be presented in dialogue and connection with other great masterpieces that we know and love, and just be part of the great art,” Randall told The Edge. She pointed out that until then we need broadcasters, d artists and educational institutions to do the work of “drawing attention specifically to underserved groups and amplifying[ing] this diversity”, which the great halls and venerable institutions have been slow to achieve.
Part of Randall’s mission when teaching young students is – from the very beginning of study – to place often overlooked works alongside what she calls traditional characteristics of Western classical music. , “just with the Chopin [and] Mozart… so that students see that there is an equal footing between these different musical periods, cultures and traditions. By placing one next to the other, it enriches the whole canon of music.
“My own goal as an artist and artistic director is to amplify the work of overlooked, new and historically underrepresented composers – with [an aim] expand the dialogue about what classical music is [and] how it should be presented,” Randall said pointing to artists such as george walker, Regina Harris Baiocchi, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Jules Eastman, Ondine Smith Moore, Daniel Bernard Romanian, Dorothee Rudd Mooreand H. Leslie Adams. Following the launch of the project in Berkshire – marked by a solo recital highlighting the monumental and late masterpieces of composer George Walker, in honor of the centenary of his birth – Randall will take “American Maverickson the road to New York, San Diego, Pasadena and San Francisco.
The scope of Randall’s interests is hardly one-dimensional. While the music seems to take center stage (his grandmother, a classical pianist, lent Randall her piano to start taking lessons), a keen interest in literature awaits behind the scenes.
“I was very interested in literature and poetry and was actually going to pursue a career in publishing, editing and writing,” said Randall – who eventually enrolled in college in majoring in English – hobbies close to her heart. She describes her musical training as non-traditional, attending a conservatory while remaining grounded in a strong writing and publishing practice on the side, which she openly cites as enriching her practice as a musical artist. Meanwhile, “if it weren’t for [my grandmother]I never would have had [music] as part of my life.
A penchant for research proved helpful (if not instrumental) to Randall’s advocacy work. Leader among his goals? “Breaking down barriers between artists and audiences,” she explains, outlining what drew her to The Foundry – a multidisciplinary arts venue in the heart of the Berkshires.
“I was really attracted to Amy [Brentano’s] mission to create a space that showcases highly stimulating, diverse, experimental work with the goal of connecting people through art in an educational way,” said Randall, who prioritizes interaction with his audience. “It’s really important to me to encourage them to come with me on a journey of discovery by making the music I play accessible, giving them avenues of understanding and connecting with those pieces that they don’t necessarily know by offering them context and context,” all in the hopes of leading them to what Randall calls nuggets — information that leads to a rich, informed listening experience.
The “American Mavericks” project is a natural extension of Randall’s mission as an artist – namely, a desire “to draw attention to the fact that the Western canon represents a great deal of influence from different peoples and cultures, and it needs to be continually expanded for the art to move forward.She refers to the music featured in this project as “typically American music in that it just contains an incredible melting pot of influences” that spans the gamut of western classical to spirituals, from pop and folk to jazz and world music.
It’s not a knee-jerk reaction to the seismic events of the past few years, resulting from what Randally calls “the tragic murder of George Floyd.” This is an intentional and deliberate attempt to present this work from a place of understanding research – of really wanting to present art, in all of its multiple and rich forms, to an audience that we suppose, will appreciate the proverbial dots connected.
“All of these composers work with idioms that create this broad dialogue in themselves,” Randal says of one “that deserves to be more actively performed, taught, and studied.”
REMARK: Praised for her sensitive and intuitive playing, pianist Chelsea Randall brings a unique and often interdisciplinary approach to her programming, forging connections across centuries and genres. She is co-founder and artistic director of EXTENSITY, a New York-based concert series featuring cutting-edge programming by emerging and established artists working in a variety of disciplines, including music, fine art and multimedia. EXTENSITY aims to foster connections between musical traditions, artistic practices and eras with a focus on underrepresented and new voices; furthermore, it creates platforms for artists and audiences to interact and make new discoveries through receptions, artist talks, lectures and events. For more information, visit Chelsea Randall’s website.