RUTH B PERFORMS AT ARTS & IDEAS IN NEW HAVEN.
When International Festival of Arts & Ideas official Chad Herzog shared the name of the Saturday, June 16, performer on the New Haven Green with festival “fellows” — the 15- to 17-yearolds who work and learn as festival staffers — “it was the part of the festival they went absolutely crazy for. They know her music; they were all singing along as I was playing the video for them.”
Herzog said he thinks Ruth B — short for Ruth Berhe, from Edmonton, Alberta — will be the youngest headlining act (at 22) in festival history.
“Ruth B may not be a name that a lot of us recognize,” said Herzog, co-executive director of the festival and director of programming, “but as soon as you start to play her music, you’ll start to see why she’s coming to the stage. She’s a young Canadian singer/songwriter who has a great band backing her, was breakthrough artist of the year last year, won a Juno Award, top 40 hit-maker.”
Contrast that with the recently announced pair of Music on the Green concerts in a month — Ronnie Spector and the Ronetttes July 21 and Taylor Dayne July 28. Both are name acts who will draw a crowd, but Spector is in her 70s and will attract a much more “mature” crowd.
“She (Ruth B) should be reaching a demographic of audience members who we may not have always been playing music for,” said Herzog. “... She has an amazing voice and was discovered on social media.”
As a teen, Ruth B put out six-second clips of music on the Vine app (starting with her singing the chorus to Drake’s “Hold On We’re Going Home”) because it was easier than producing a whole song on YouTube. The clips caught on, with viewers posting covers of the clips. A record company noticed and she was signed to Columbia Records just three years ago, fleshing out clips of the unadorned piano ballad “Lost
Boy” into a full (hit) song and releasing the EP “The Intro.”
She put out a full album, “Safe Haven,” in 2017 with producer Joel Little, who had helped Lorde with her first album.
On Sunday afternoon,
June 17, Iraqi-American trumpet player Amir ElSaffar returns to the festival as headliner on the Green for a 4 p.m. concert with 10 members of the Rivers of Sound Orchestra and 13 members of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.
“Amir ElSaffar, (from an) American-born Iraqi family... with his band River of
Sound, plays music that just captivates our soul,” said Herzog. “We’re putting that music with the New Haven Symphony ... a great way to challenge all of our senses. I can tell you that his music is music that the symphony is not used to playing . ... I really thank and commend William (Boughton, NHSO maestro) for taking a chance on this because this is not traditional Western music.”
By that he means the music uses Middle Eastern “maqams” (or modes) and instruments such as the oud (lute), santur (hammered dulcimer) and hand percussion, with elements of contemporary jazz. The group’s 2017 released was “Not Two.”
Also of note in coming days: the exquisite Haven String Quartet will play at noon Thursday, June 14, on the Green and the 2nd Annual New Haven GospelFest Friday at 6:30 p.m. will include a 100-person choir, soloists, a dance troupe, vocal quartets and a drill team.
Ruth B will perform on the New Haven Green June 16.
Amir ElSaffar will play with his Rivers of Sound Orchestra and members of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.