The monthly concert series showcases celebrated classical musicians and gets off to a big restart with Marian Anderson Award-winning soprano Indira Mahajan, one of the foremost interpreters of the role of Bess in Porgy And Bess; internationally renowned pianist Navah Perlman and acclaimed PREformances’ official collaborative pianist Craig Ketter. Charney will also sing.
The evening’s repertoire features the works of Verdi, Puccini, Gershwin, Schumann and Strauss, with the artists also sharing their thoughts and challenges relating to the pieces with the audience.
Charney conceived PREformances to afford top professional classical musicians an opportunity to try out new concert repertoire in front of understanding audiences prior to performing it in major venues.
“The performers benefit from the slightly pumped-up pressure that any public performance brings, without any worry of a possible review,” says Charney. “They also get an extra chance to hone their performances in this day of massive budget cuts in the arts, which severely limits opportunities for ample rehearsal time.”
PREformances additionally offers composers the opportunity to hear their works performed while still in various states of progress, usually in anticipation of a big premiere.
“Last fall, for example, we featured Moshe Knoll’s new setting of Psalm 133, which will have its orchestral debut in the spring of 2014 with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra,” notes Charney. In such instances, “the audience simultaneously benefits from an up-close-and-personal, barrier-breaking opportunity to get inside the head of a top-notch performer [and] see what they think about, what their challenges may be, all while hearing the best classical concerts in New York City.”
An opera veteran and active recitalist and master teacher, Charney conceived her PREformance presentations, oddly enough, after losing her cell phone in a cab.
“I was on my way to my first parent-teacher conference and was running late,” she recalls. “The cab pulled up just when the conference was set to start and when I jumped out, I left my phone behind.”
As luck would have it, the next person to get in the cab was JCC executive director Rabbi Joy Levitt.
“Rather than giving the cell phone to the driver, she decided to check through the contacts and called the one labeled ‘Dad,’” Charney continues. “My dad called my husband and when the conference was over, I left to buy some cupcakes and head to the JCC.”
Ushered with cupcakes into the rabbi’s office, she explained how particularly grateful she was, “since I was about to head out of town for work and would uncharacteristically be away from my kids and would want easy access to communication,” says Charney. “She asked about my work and I explained I was heading to Philadelphia to make my debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra--a very big deal in the classical music world. She said, ‘I can't believe we have you in the neighborhood and aren't taking advantage! You should have performed your piece here first!’”
Charney replied that she’d actually been inspired by the process of preparing for the Philly concert to consider creating a concert series where she would involve “friends who are at the top of their game in classical music to come to my home to go through whatever they were preparing to perform.”
She would then invite an audience, which would voluntarily donate to charities chosen by her performers.
“I further explained that I had so wished I'd had this opportunity myself,” she adds. “Because of budget cuts at the since bankrupt Philadelphia Orchestra, there was only one rehearsal just a few hours before the concert. I would have killed for a chance to run the piece through with pressure--in front of people—before one of my only two opportunities to sing with this great orchestra. Joy then jumped up and said, ‘Don't do it in your home! Do it here! Call me the moment you get back from Philadelphia!’ Which I did.”
And so was born PREformances with Allison Charney. Past participants have included New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert, Metropolitan Opera tenor William Burden, Orchestra of St. Luke’s principal violist David Cerutti, pianist and frequent Yo-Yo Ma collaborator Joel Fan, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra—Stockholm’s principal cellist Kajsa William-Olsson, Grammy-winning flutist Carol Wincenc and Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Maria Zifchak.
Upcoming PREformances with Allison Charney are slated for Nov. 18 and Dec. 16. Funds raised from the concerts will support both The Basser Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania and special programs at The JCC in Manhattan that promote early detection of cancer and care for those living with breast and ovarian cancer.
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