The Kronos Festival Returns With World Premieres and Global Sounds

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Kronos Quartet.
Kronos Quartet. (Wojciech Wandzel)

Kronos Quartet is all about connecting people across generations, cultures and borders, which is why the in-person return of the ensemble’s festival is an occasion to celebrate.

This year’s Kronos Festival, taking place April 7–9 at SFJAZZ, features an international array of music, including several world premieres. That includes Janety, a piece composed by Malian griot singer Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté in homage to Janet Cowperthwaite, the Kronos Performing Arts Associations’ executive director who has overseen 40 years of tours, commissions and recordings. Janety takes inspiration from the Malian tradition of tegere tulon, which are hand-clapping songs young girls sing in the countryside.

Janety will be performed by Jacob Garchik—a celebrated trombonist, arranger and this year’s artist in residence—along with student musicians from Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. Garchik has arranged over 100 pieces for Kronos Quartet, and his composition Upon A Star gets its Bay Area premiere at Kronos Festival on April 7. The festival closes on April 9 with a performance of another one of his works called Storyteller, which pays homage to another one of Kronos’ guiding lights: folk musician Pete Seeger.

Also on April 9, Bay Area-based Iranian classical singer Mahsa Vahdat performs the world premiere of her new piece, Where Is Your Voice. Korean-American composer and haegeum master Soo Yeon Lyuh performs Tattoo (Extended Version), also a world premiere. It’s a deeply personal piece about a terrifying incident where someone fired a gun at her car in Berkeley. That same evening, inti figgis-vizueta’s music by yourself, about private, late-night communions with the music that shapes us, will also be performed for the first time.

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Other highlights from the lineup include an April 7 performance of Cadenza on the Night Plane by Terry Riley, an experimental music luminary and key figure in the minimalist movement.

A centerpiece of the April 8 concert is My Lai Suite, which was adapted from an opera by composer Jonathan Berger and librettist Harriet Scott Chessman. Tells the story of Hugh Thompson, an American servicemen credited with stopping a massacre of civilians during the Vietnam War. This performance features vocalist Rinde Eckert and ’rưng, đàn bầu and đàn tranh stylings by Vân-Ánh Võ, the Bay Area’s foremost Vietnamese music master.

Ticketing information and the rest of Kronos Festival’s multifaceted musical lineup can be found on the festival’s website.