Street Symphony is a remarkable Los Angeles-based organization that stages performances and workshops in homeless shelters, jails, and other places where classical musicians seldom appear. Previously, I’ve seen them at the Midnight Mission, a shelter and recovery center on L.A.’s Skid Row. On Saturday night, I attended a different kind of Street Symphony event at Inner City Arts, a specialized arts school. This was oriented more to the general public, although many associates and allies of the group were in the audience. The program consisted of Bach’s Cantata No. 82, “Ich habe genug,” interspersed with monologues by Linda Leigh, a longtime Skid Row resident who has established herself as a poet, teacher, and activist. The performance was a singularly intense and moving occasion; the only point of comparison that came to mind was Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s legendary account of “Ich habe genug,” in Peter Sellars’s staging. The soloist was the excellent bass-baritone Scott Graff, who sings with the L.A. Master Chorale; I had met Scott while writing my 2017 column about Street Symphony, at which time he was giving vocal lessons to a recovering addict named Brian Palmer. Three years ago came the tragic news that Brian had died at the age of forty-four. He was present in the performers’ thoughts last weekend. The beauty of the event resided in the organic way Leigh’s stories — about an educational trip to South Korea; about her experiences of birth, abortion, and miscarriage; about her conversations with rideshare drivers who pick her up on Skid Row — intersected with the raw, roiling emotion inherent in Bach’s cantata. No attempt to explicate or justify the connection was made, and none was needed; it simply happened. In purely musical terms, this was a superb account of the work, with precisely articulated and lyrically flowing work by Graff and with fluid accompaniments by Aaron Hill, Jin-Shan Dai, Alex Granger, Eva Lymenstull, Adan Fernandez, and Vijay Gupta, Street Symphony’s brilliant, charismatic leader. But in conjunction with Leigh it became a great deal more. Afterward, Gupta mentioned that Bach’s music would originally have been heard in conjunction with a sermon in church. Leigh’s monologues were a sermon of a kind, though they were free of dogma. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s catastrophic assault on the rights of women, the evening offered a kind of refuge, one free of easy consolation.
from Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise https://ift.tt/Pv8J5ae