Apollo’s Girl

apollo and lyreMusic/Art


Sometimes, you just get lucky. First it was at Juilliard’s Martin Luther King Day program (a legend among staff and students) in 2014. Julia Bullock sang and recited a little, but mostly listened to Davon Tynes. Bullock’s listening was entirely still, focused, as intense as her own readings and song. It emitted light, compelled absolute attention. I became a fan.

The next time I got that lucky was last year at the Met Breuer, when I stumbled into Met Live Arts’ Theatre of the Resist.  It was definitely beyond my well-worn paths, but a revelation.

For the past seven years, the Met’s current incarnation of Concerts and Lectures has exploded with programming that highlights the Met’s collections, the best and brightest of  today’s thinkers and doers and the imagination of Limor Tomer and her staff. It’s a brilliant combination. They have refashioned their mission, complementing traditional images with performances that explore contemporary issues from entirely fresh perspectives. The aesthetics and ideas are sophisticated but accessible, and nothing is ever dumbed down.

Part of Met Live Arts are its residencies – today’s A-list community of artists, many of color, with their own prodigious resources – like DJ Spooky (an experimental hip-hop musician), The Civilians (an experimental theatre collective); and Alarm Will Sound (contemporary classical music). The real magic is in how they manage to make experimental communicate. They are mostly a 21st-century version of the formally trained musicians who ventured into jazz mid-century, adding the complex rhythms and harmonies of bop and third stream to its basic traditions. They can do it all.

Which brings us back to Julia Bullock. She is the current artist-in-residence, and she is a wonder! Her enormous intelligence is coupled with a very big rolodex; she knows her peers and what they are capable of and is using them to create wide-ranging, free-form programs combining segments of poetry, instrumentals, and song. Sometimes she sings, sometimes she doesn’t, just listens to her collaborators. Either way, she remains riveting.

Her opening salvo was keyed to the Met’s exhibition of African-American folk art. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/16/arts/music/review-julia-bullock-met-museum.html?rref=collection2Fsectioncollection2Fmusic&action=click&contentCollection


400 years of free labor

Her next venture was a tribute to the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes (in which she reunited with Davon Tynes) and had the performance smarts to end with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City and the entire cast. It was exhilarating for its sheer quality and emotion. No dry eyes in this house!

There are several concerts left in her residency, but some are already sold out. Make the effort to reserve what you can; this is an exceptional series, part of a larger philosophy and practice at the Met, and you will be lucky to snag a seat.


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