Bow & Ham­mer in­ter­weave clas­si­cal mu­sic and vis­ual art

Chicago Sun-Times - - SUN-TIMES AGENDA - HEDY WEISS SUN- TIMES THE­ATER CRITIC Email: hweiss@sun­ Twit­ter:@HedyWeis­sCritic

It is cham­ber mu­sic with a dif­fer­ence. That might be the best way to de­scribe the Eleve se­ries de­vised by Bow & Ham­mer, the wit­tily named duo com­prised of Ka­tryn ( Kit) Sa­toh ( the “bow,” on vi­o­lin) and El­iz­a­beth Newkirk ( the “ham­mer,” on piano). The se­ries is about to be­gin its sec­ond sea­son with a con­cert on Oct. 18 that will open with a per­for­mance of Mozart’s “Sonata in E Mi­nor for Vi­o­lin and Piano.” It will then move on to the evening’s cen­ter­piece, Bela Bar­tok’s “Sonata for Vi­o­lin and Piano No. 2 in C ma­jor,” which will fea­ture an all- im­por­tant ad­di­tional el­e­ment in the form of an en­vi­ron­ment- al­ter­ing in­stal­la­tion by vis­ual artist Yas­min Ali. The event will un­fold at Ova­tion Chicago, the hip loft space in the West Fulton neigh­bor­hood ( with col­lab­o­ra­tion from Rhine Hall Dis­tillery, the nearby small- batch, fam­ily- owned hand­crafted dis­tillery). And the goal is to mix top­notch mu­sic­mak­ing with el­e­ments that will break from the stan­dard for­mal­ity of clas­si­cal mu­sic con­certs.

“The word ‘ eleve’ can be trans­lated as ‘ el­e­vated,’ and the French use it when talk­ing about slow cook­ing,” said Newkirk, not­ing that in ad­di­tion to vis­ual artists, the duo’s guest per­form­ers can in­clude po­ets, ac­tors and other in­stru­men­tal­ists, all gath­ered to cre­ate a uniquely so­cial ex­pe­ri­ence with cham­ber mu­sic at its core. “That sense of ‘ eleve’ is a great source of in­spi­ra­tion for us — an idea that car­ries through to all our work, and con­nects to mak­ing lo­cally sourced, en­vi­ron­men­tally aware choices that re­sult in a higher level prod­uct through­out ev­ery as­pect of our op­er­a­tion.”

Ali, whose roots are Pak­istani, is a Chicagob­ased mul­ti­me­dia artist whose first art form was singing and song­writ­ing with her band, Slow­bots. At the same time, Ali has been de­vel­op­ing her fo­cus on mul­ti­me­dia in­stal­la­tions through Mozawa, a Chicago- based incubator fo­cused on artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tion between the medi­ums. Ali’s in­stal­la­tion for the Bar­tok is a work of tex­tile art in three parts, and she ex­plains her think­ing about it this way: “A defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic be­hind the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence is the de­sire to pre­serve your her­itage. By trans­plant­ing one ex­pe­ri­ence onto an­other, the re­sult of th­ese preser­va­tion ef­forts can be some­thing so en­tirely re­moved from the orig­i­nal as to ren­der it strangely fa­mil­iar and dis­torted si­mul­ta­ne­ously. “My in­stal­la­tion seeks to bring up key ques­tions re­gard­ing the asym­met­ri­cal align­ment of ex­pe­ri­ences and de­sires,” Ali ex­plained. “It’s like Bar­tok’s ef­forts to cap­ture the folk mu­sic tra­di­tions of Hun­gary and Tran­syl­va­nia: What does it mean to keep some­thing alive in a place it did not orig­i­nate from? The lilt­ing melodies of Bar­tok’s sonata in­spired me to uti­lize ma­te­ri­als and pro­cesses from my own up­bring­ing, but in a way that could re- frame their pur­pose. As in all my tex­tile work, the fab­ric has been up- cy­cled from my own fam­ily. The wood and hard­ware is an homage to the medium of the every­man.”

As Newkirk notes: “Ova­tion Chicago is a large, open, in­dus­trial space, and some of Yas­min’s work will be hung from the trusses.”

How did Sa­toh and Newkirk form their mu­si­cal part­ner­ship?

“We met at a cham­ber mu­sic fes­ti­val in Orvi­eto, Italy, in 2010, when we were right out of school, and by 2014 we were back there play­ing in the fes­ti­val,” said Newkirk.

Trained as a vo­cal­ist and vi­o­lin­ist, Sa­toh has worked with the­aters, opera com­pa­nies, com­posers, po­ets, ac­tors, and multi- dis­ci­plinary com­pa­nies “to pre­miere, pre­serve, or adapt works of di­verse gen­res rang­ing from cabaret bar songs to the large- scale sym­phonic or­ches­tral reper­toire.” She holds two Bach­e­lor of Mu­sic de­grees with dis­tinc­tion from the Univer­sity of Colorado in Vi­o­lin and Voice Per­for­mance.

Newkirk grew up on her fam­ily’s farm in In­di­ana and came to Chicago to pur­sue stud­ies in piano per­for­mance. She re­ceived her BA from Columbia Col­lege and her Master of Mu­sic de­gree from Roo­sevelt Univer­sity with a mi­nor in Col­lab­o­ra­tive Piano.

Both mu­si­cians are fer­vent be­liev­ers in col­lab­o­ra­tion, with Sa­toh view­ing cham­ber mu­sic “as a time­less man­i­fes­ta­tion of so­cial progress,” and Newkirk, an en­tre­pre­neur and ac­tivist as well as a mu­si­cian, “ded­i­cated to cre­at­ing con­certs that mir­ror the thought­ful­ness and thor­ough­ness of the slow food move­ment, and to cre­at­ing con­nec­tions and a ca­ma­raderie among other dis­ci­plines.”

Although this par­tic­u­lar Eleve con­cert is a one- off, Bow & Ham­mer will give re­peat per­for­mances of the Bar­tok else­where through­out the sea­son. And plans al­ready are un­der­way for the sec­ond of this sea­son’s three Eleve con­certs, with a trio by Shostakovich bring­ing a cello into the vi­o­lin and piano mix.

ELEVE WITH BOW & HAM­MER 8 p. m. Oct. 18, Ova­tion Chicago, 2324 W. Fulton, $ 15 – $ 20; bowand­ham­mer. com/ comin­gup/ lev

| SUP­PLIED PHOTO Vi­o­lin­ist Kathryn ( Kit) Sa­toh and pi­anist El­iz­a­beth Newkirk play to­gether as Bow & Ham­mer.


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