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Entertainment Highlights: Brooklyn Rider Presents Works of Inspiration

  • Brooklyn Rider, made up of, from left, Johnny Gandelsman, Eric Jacobsen, Nicholas Cords and Colin Jacobsen, play to a packed house at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction on Monday. The group performs tomorrow night at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Brooklyn Rider, made up of, from left, Johnny Gandelsman, Eric Jacobsen, Nicholas Cords and Colin Jacobsen, play to a packed house at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction on Monday. The group performs tomorrow night at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Violinist Colin Jacobsen listens to the rest of the quartet for a moment while playing with Brooklyn Rider at the Main Street Museum. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Violinist Colin Jacobsen listens to the rest of the quartet for a moment while playing with Brooklyn Rider at the Main Street Museum. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Brooklyn Rider, made up of, from left, Johnny Gandelsman, Eric Jacobsen, Nicholas Cords and Colin Jacobsen, play to a packed house at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction on Monday. The group performs tomorrow night at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Violinist Colin Jacobsen listens to the rest of the quartet for a moment while playing with Brooklyn Rider at the Main Street Museum. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

That fear of falling into a creative rut that nags many bands as they try to produce new material probably won’t be a great concern for the avant-garde string quartet Brooklyn Rider. This is a group whose very career is based in looking for inspiration in familiar and unlikely places, and challenging conventional notions of what a string quartet does.

Look no further for evidence of the band’s creative versatility than the Brooklyn Rider Almanac, which will have its world premiere tomorrow night at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center for the Arts. The Almanac finds Brooklyn Rider reaching out to musicians and composers outside of the classical music realm, who created new pieces for string quartets that are inspired by artists of the last 50 years. It’s a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Hop, one of the commissioners of the project.

“There are a lot of composers who are really straddling between the worlds these days of rock and classical, and doing it really successfully,” Brooklyn Rider violist Nicholas Cords said this week. “I think our idea in creating a collection of these pieces is to hopefully create a tapestry where we can talk about culture and the question of inspiration in a broad way. That’s kind of at the heart of what we’re doing.”

The musicians who created the five Almanac pieces are as diverse as the creative forces that inspired their works.

The words of novelist John Steinbeck fueled guitarist Bill Frisell’s contribution to the Almanac, while jazz pianist Ethan Iverson found inspiration in the work of choreographer Mark Morris. Another pianist, Nik Bartsch, turned in an Igor Stravinsky-influenced work, and Australian musician Padma Newsome wrote his piece with the art of Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira in mind. Finally, Greg Saunier, drummer of the indie rock band Deerhoof, composed a piece that was inspired by Royalton composer and former Dartmouth classics professor Christian Wolff. Put together, the Almanac pieces and the names behind them should make for a great conversation about the sources for artistic influence. And that’s exactly what Brooklyn Rider hopes to achieve.

“In some ways, we’re creating an almanac for the 21st century,” Cords said. “I don’t know that our goals would be to alter the thinking of the art world, necessarily, but we are trying to make a statement about who we are, where we are now, what inspires us to do what we want.”

Brooklyn Rider’s own creative output in the four years since they last played at the Hop rivals what some artists achieve in a lifetime.

High-profile performances at Carnegie Hall and the South By Southwest music and arts festival in Austin, Texas, and a 2011 album of string quartets by the famed composer Philip Glass, have bolstered the band’s reputation far beyond the classical music sphere. More importantly, it’s been a fertile and intense period of collaboration across diverse musical and artistic mediums as Brooklyn Rider remains true to its classical roots, and at the same time pushes the limits.

That balancing act can be seen in Brooklyn Rider’s program tomorrow night. Apart from the Almanac pieces, the band will perform Beethoven’s Opus No. 131, a piece from late in the composer’s career that Cords called “one of the great pinnacles of the string quartet, and perhaps of Western classical music.” But first, they’ll play Seven Steps, a direct response to Beethoven’s piece that is one of the group’s first efforts at composition.

“We’re not really out to rail against that sort of classical music establishment. It’s kind of where we came from,” Cords said. “What we are out there to do is to make sure that we’re being inclusive of that audience, but also finding ways that new audiences can actually feel a part of this thing as well.”

Brooklyn Rider performs at the Hopkins Center for the Arts’ Spaulding Auditorium at 8 p.m. tomorrow ($25-$40).

Best Bets

The Hop will also be home to a performance of Ganesh Versus the Third Reich by Australia’s Back to Back Theatre Company at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday in the Moore Theater. Ganesh, which The Guardian newspaper of London named one of the best theater pieces of 2012, imagines the elephant-headed Hindu god traveling to Nazi Germany to reclaim the swastika, once a Hindu symbol of harmony, from its misappropriation by the Nazis. The cast, like all Back to Back productions, is comprised of actors with perceived disabilities ($25-$40).

∎ Hard-working Vermont roots rock band Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck will give area fans a first listen of their to-be-released, environmentally-themed album Eden in a concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph. The band is pulling out the stops for this show, bringing in a horn section and the Cobra Dance Troupe for a multi-media performance. The show doubles as a benefit show for Building A Local Economy, an organization dedicated to supporting businesses and farmers in the White River Valley, and the first 100 ticket buyers are invited to a pre-show chili dinner sponsored by BALE at 5:30 p.m. ($25, advance; $20, day of show).

∎ David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, a play about the ambition of two powerful Hollywood executives and the secretary who threatens to come between them, opens this weekend at Enfield’s Shaker Bridge Theatre. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The show continues Jan. 25 to 27 and Feb. 1 to 3 ($25, adults; $20, students).

∎ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder John McEuen marries his famous bluegrass banjo picking sound with the talents of classical pianist Alpin Hong in a show tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at Woodstock’s Town Hall Theatre. The audience will hear a special combination of their unique sounds in a show first performed to a sold-out crowd in Crested Butte, Colo., in 2011 ($33, advance; $35, day of show).

∎ BarnArts Center for the Arts in Barnard presents its latest mainstage production, the romantic comedy Almost, Maine, at 7 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday at Barnard Town Hall. Performed as a series of interrelated vignettes, Almost, Maine follows the residents of a fictional Maine town as they find love and lose it on a mid-winter’s night ($12, adults; $5, students).

∎ The alternative rock group Roz Raskin and the Rice Cakes travels from Providence, R.I., for a show with singer-songwriter Tara Greenblatt at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Main Street Museum in honor of artist Adrienne LaBombard’s birthday. Revelers are encouraged to wear fancy clothing ($5, BYOB).

Children’s and Family Performances

Steve Blunt and Marty Kelley perform a blend of entertaining stories and sing-along songs in the “Children’s Music Breakfast Club Show” at noon Saturday at Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction ($7).

Dance

The Old Sam Peabody Band will provide the music and Delia Clark will be the caller at the third Friday contradance and dinner at The Little Theater in Woodstock tomorrow evening. Dinner starts at 5:30, and dancing goes from 6 to 9. Lessons will be offered and singles are welcome ($8, suggested donation; teens and children free).

Folk

Jeff Warner performs a variety of traditional New England songs, including sailor songs and hymns, in tomorrow night’s edition of the Sunapee Community Coffeehouse. The evening begins at 7, and a hat will be passed for the performer.

∎ Tunbridge’s MountainFolk series kicks off 2013 with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Tunbridge Town Hall with the seven-piece Adam and Noah Band, led by brothers Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand. They’ll take a journey through Americana, bluegrass, jazz, rock and world music influences ($15, advance, tickets available at the South Royalton Market, the Tunbridge Store and at www.mtnfolk.org; $20 at the door).

Jazz

The duo of David Kraus and John Larouche performs Brazilian-style jazz at Artistree Community Arts Center and Gallery in Woodstock at 7 p.m. tomorrow.

New Age

The Claremont Opera House revives its tradition of onstage shows, where the audience joins the performers on the opera house stage, with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday by Pure Kirtan, a New Hampshire-based trio that draws inspiration from Sanskrit and Gurmukhi texts. Audience members will take part in a “co-formance” of chanting designed to lead to greater mindfulness ($17, advance; $19, day of show).

School Performances

Thetford Academy students wrote all the plays featured in the 16th annual Ten-Minute Play Festival, which will be performed at 7 o’clock tonight and tomorrow night in the school’s Martha Jane Rich Theater. It’s an entirely student-run production, with students acting in and directing their classmates’ plays ($5).

Comedy

Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction holds another comedy night at 7 on Saturday featuring comedians Tony Bates, Ralphie Joyal and Jason Lorber ($17).

Bar and Club Circuit

Sean Wyatt plays Bistro Nouveau in Grantham tomorrow evening at 6.

∎ Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon has The Woodshed Wailers performing tomorrow evening.

∎ Juliana Nicole plays a set at Jesse’s Restaurant in Hanover tomorrow at 6 p.m.

∎ The Bluegrassoles entertain diners at Shepard’s Pie Restaurant on Route 4 in Quechee.

∎ The funky dance band Mo’Combo comes to Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland at 9 p.m. tomorrow.

∎ Chad Gibbs & Friends play acoustic and electric rock at 9 p.m. tomorrow at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon. On Saturday, Dan Walker performs at the pub. As always, the pub has live traditional Irish music sessions at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

∎ Salt hill Pub in Newport has the Albany-based indie pop duo Sirsy at 9 p.m. tomorrow.

∎ Musical offerings at Canoe Club in Hanover include classical guitarist Jairo Sequeira tonight, the acoustic band Blackbird tomorrow, the jazz duo of Sabrina Brown and Fred Haas on Saturday, folk guitarist Doug Henry on Sunday, Joshua Hall on Tuesday and pianist Jonathan Kaplan on Wednesday.

Open Mics, Jams

Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock has an open mic led by Brian Warren at 8 p.m. Monday.

∎ Chad Gibbs hosts the Monday night open mic at Salt hill Pub in Hanover, starting at 7:30.

∎ Shepard’s Pie Restaurant on Route 4 in Quechee is the site of a Tuesday night open mic, starting at 6.

∎ The Colatina Exit in Bradford has an open mic on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

∎ There’s an open jam every Tuesday night from 7 to 9 at Tuck’s Rock Dojo in Etna.

∎ Wednesday night is open mic night at Skunk Hollow Tavern. It’s led by Gregory Brown and starts at 8:30.

∎ Anthony Furnari hosts an open mic at Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Entertainment Highlights appears each Thursday. Email news of upcoming shows and events to kbryan@vnews.com.

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