The Spring 2017 Signature Series Features Diverse Musical Performances, from Beyoncé's Band to the Lord of the Rings, and Beyond

By 
Tori Donahue
December 19, 2016
Composer Howard Shore
Tigran Hamasyan
Howard Shore '69
Craig Hella Johnson, director of Conspirare
Courtesy of Tigran Hamasyan
Image credit: Dave Green
Courtesy of Craig Hella Johnson

The Signature Series at Berklee presents an incredible season of performances by Berklee students, faculty, alumni, and world-renowned musicians. The spring 2017 half of the series includes Conspirare’s Grammy-nominated oratorio Considering Matthew Shepard, the Great American Songbook Orchestra’s performance of music from Laurel Canyon, a 10-year anniversary celebration of Beyoncé's original all-female band, Tigran Hamasyan’s innovative jazz collaborations, Howard Shore’s epic The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Six Movements, and the world premiere of the new musical The Kiss. 

All concerts take place at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC) except for Considering Matthew Shepard and The Music of Lord of the Rings, which will be held at Boston's Symphony Hall. The BPC is located at 136 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. Tickets are available at berklee.edu/bpc or at the BPC box office, or call 617-747-2261 for more information. Boston's Symphony Hall is located at 301 Massachusetts Avenue. Tickets are available at bso.org or by calling 888-266-1200. Both venues are wheelchair accessible.

Considering Matthew Shepard

Sunday, February 5 at 3:00 p.m. at Symphony Hall

Celebrated Grammy Award–winning choral ensemble Conspirare comes to Boston to perform Craig Hella Johnson’s new musical masterwork, Considering Matthew Shepard. The piece tells the story of the shocking hate crime committed against Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was brutally beaten and left to die in a Wyoming field at age 21, and its aftermath in 1998. Johnson, who has studied songwriting and music publishing among other subjects with Berklee Online, was inspired to write a musical response to this tragedy after Shepard’s story haunted him for years.

Led from the piano by Johnson, the Grammy-nominated (Best Surround Sound Album) Considering Matthew Shepard showcases the award-winning artistry of Conspirare’s singers and instrumental chamber ensemble. This three-part fusion oratorio speaks with a fresh and bold voice, incorporating a variety of musical styles seamlessly woven into a unified whole. Johnson sets a wide range of poetic texts by Hildegard of Bingen, Lesléa Newman, Michael Dennis Browne, and Rumi. Poignant passages from Matthew’s personal journal, interviews with and writings from his parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, newspaper reports, and additional text by Johnson and Browne are poignantly appointed throughout the work. Making the occasion all the more powerful, Judy and Dennis Shepard will be in attendance at the event.

Admission: $20 / $30 / $40 / $60

The Great American Songbook: The Music of Laurel Canyon

Sunday, February 26 at 7:00 p.m.

From the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, some of the most memorable and iconic American popular music was written by residents of Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. They made music together, wrote songs together, and created an indelible imprint on popular culture. The Great American Songbook pays tribute to the music of James Taylor, the Doors, the Mamas and the Papas, the Eagles, Joni Mitchell, and more, as well as showcasing photography by legendary photographer Henry Diltz. The Great American Songbook Orchestra features Berklee's outstanding student vocalists, performers, and arrangers. The concert will be hosted and narrated and hosted by Diltz.

Admission: $8 / $12

Beyoncé's Original All-Female Band: A 10-Year Anniversary Concert

Thursday, March 2 at 8:00 p.m.

Beyoncé's original all-female band celebrates its 10-year anniversary at Berklee College of Music, led by Tia Fuller, a professor in the Ensemble Department. The band will include original members Nikki Glaspie '04 (drums), Bibi Mcgill (guitar), Brittani Washington (piano), Divinity Roxx (bass), Katty Rodriguez (tenor sax), Crystal Torres (trumpet), Marcie Chapa (percussion), and students in Berklee's Beyoncé Ensemble. In addition, current Beyoncé dancer Ebony Williams '05 will choreograph and perform with students from Boston Conservatory at Berklee on select songs.

The group will feature music from Beyoncé's albums B-Day, The Beyoncé Experience, and Live at the Wynn Theatre from when they toured with her, but it will also perform some of her newer material. Berklee alumnus Nikko Ielasi '15 is the musical arranger, and current Berklee student Josh Foster is the student musical director.

Admission: $12/ $18 / $24

The Ninth Annual Berklee Middle Eastern Festival: The Music of Tigran Hamasyan

Wednesday, March 8 at 8:00 p.m.

The Ninth Annual Berklee Middle Eastern Festival will feature guest artists from the region, as well as Berklee students, community musicians, visual artists, and dancers from all over the world to celebrate the music of the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Mediterranean. Directed by Christiane Karam, festival founder and associate professor, the Berklee Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble will explore the musical map of Armenia in a stunning collaboration with celebrated Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan. Known for melding jazz, folk, progressive rock, and classical forms, Hamasyan has established himself as one of the most innovative artists of his age, winning first place in the 2006 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition at the age of 19. The concert will also feature the Pletenitsa Balkan Choir, led by Karam, and Berklee World Strings, led by Eugene Friesen, a Grammy-winning Berklee professor.

Admission: $8 / $12

Africana Studies Presents: Black Music Matters

Thursday, March 9 at 8:00 p.m.

This concert will celebrate songs from the black music tradition. Guest performers will include: influential guitarist Ernie Isley '16H, a member of the Isley Brothers, whose music continues to be sampled by artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, and Gwen Stefani; Patrice Rushen, successful composer, music producer, music director, music educator, pianist, and singer-songwriter of "Forget Me Nots," among other songs; Morris Hayes, the former music director for Prince who has also worked with Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and George Clinton, among others; and Stokley Williams, lead singer and drummer for long-running R&B group Mint Condition, a 2017 Grammy nominee.

Admission: $8 / $12

The Music of The Lord of the Rings

Wednesday, April 19 at 8:00 p.m. at Symphony Hall

Composer and Berklee alumnus Howard Shore’s epic The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Six Movements is a monumental effort that expresses J. R. R. Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s films as an immense symphonic work. This iconic work will be performed by the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra, featuring top Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee musicians and vocalists. 

Admission: $43.50—$92.50

World Premiere Musical: The Kiss

Wednesday, April 26 and Thursday, April 27 at 8:00 p.m.

In Vienna in 1943, two women are on the brink of independence, and the notorious artist Gustav Klimt is driven to capture them both. Inspired by the sensual portraits of Gustav Klimt, this world premiere musical answers the question, "Who is the woman in The Kiss?" with a Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee cast. Book and lyrics by Cheryl Coons and music by Peter Eldridge, professor of voice.

Admission: $8 / $12