Special to the Journal
Deep in the pandemic, when the concert halls were shuttered, the Boston Festival Orchestra now and then used the Boston Athenæum as a practice space, and their music filled the building. A friendship began, and from that, an artistic collaboration.
Now, in an innovative multidisciplinary artistic collaboration, the Boston Festival Orchestra (BFO) and the Boston Athenaeum have formed a partnership to reflect on special Athenaeum exhibitions through the lens of chamber music.
With three 2023 chamber music concerts in the intimate setting of the Athenaeum’s Henry Long Room, the BFO will perform compelling and relevant repertoire that blends the familiar with the unknown, according to BFO conductor Alyssa Wang. “The concerts will span many time periods, cultures and mediums, prodding us to ask questions such as: Who is art for? In what ways can we use art to connect with our heritage? In what ways can we use art to reconcile with the past?” she said.
Each chamber music concert will reflect on a specific Athenaeum exhibition:
• February 9 – Materialia Lumina, the BFO pairs new and old works of classical music with stunning selections of artists’ books showcased in the Athenaeum’s current gallery exhibition, Materialia Lumina / Luminous Books.
• April 8 – Performing previously hidden and game-changing voices in classical music, the BFO reflects on the ramifications of an exclusionary past and reconsiders the constructs of race, gender, and class. The music is inspired by Re-Reading Special Collections, a new Athenaeum initiative to reinterpret and recontextualize works of art from its permanent collection.
• June 22 – A Place I Never Knew explores a series of photographs by local photographer Tira Khan., The BFO will use music to reflect bridges among Khan’s Indian, American, British heritages.
Departing from tradition, the concerts will include opportunities for audience participation. Concert-goers will be able to walk through the featured exhibits and converse with artists during the receptions following the concerts.
“For many audience members, these events may serve as the first introduction to the Boston Athenaeum or the Boston Festival Orchestra,” said Boston Athenaeum director Leah Rosovsky. “We hope that by mixing communities we strengthen the entire arts and culture community of Greater Boston.”
All three concerts are in the Henry Long Room at the Boston Athenaeum, 10 ½ Beacon St., Boston.
• Thursday February 9 at 6 p.m.
• Saturday April 8 at 3 p.m.
• Thursday June 22 at 6 p.m.
The concerts are free to BFO subscribers, Athenaeum members and the general public, but registration is required at: bostonathenaeum.org/events
The Boston Festival Orchestra, founded in 2019, brings the highest caliber of artistic performance to the Greater Boston community through its Summer Stage, Chamber Series, and partnerships with local nonprofits. By employing local professional musicians, presenting creative and relevant programming, and engaging with the community through education and outreach programs, the BFO fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment that enriches the culture of the city. Since its inaugural season in 2021 – when they became Boston’s first orchestra to perform live concerts since the start of the pandemic – the BFO has grown to become one of Boston’s celebrated music institutions, redefining young leadership in classical music and what it means to make music today.
Founded in 1807, the Boston Athenaeum is a unique combination of library, museum and cultural center. The Athenaeum’s present home at 10 ½ Beacon St., designed by Edward Clarke Cabot, opened in 1849 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1965. One of the country’s oldest and most distinguished independent libraries, the Athenaeum’s circulating collection includes over half a million books, from works published in the 1800s to the latest best sellers. Special collections include active research holdings of 100,000 rare books, maps and manuscripts, and 100,000 works of art, from paintings and sculpture to prints and photographs. Members, visitors and the community enjoy a year- round calendar of cultural programs – – book talks, exhibitions, concerts, speakers, social gatherings and other opportunities for connection. The Athenaeum is a member-supported not-for-profit institution that everyone is invited to join. Bostonathenaeum.org