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Ken Smith currently divides his time between New York (where he writes for Gramophone magazine) and Hong Kong (where he serves as the Asian–performing arts critic for the Financial Times). He is Co–Music Director of the recordings Dong Folk Songs and Miao Music for China's MediaFusion Group, and he won an ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award in 2008 for his liner notes to Gil Shaham's recording of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for Violin. Ken is also the author of Fate! Luck! Chance!, published in 2008 by Chronicle Books.

Ancient Paths, Modern Voices Blog

10/25 Neighborhood Concert: Ensemble ACJW @ Flushing Town Hall

Last Saturday, listeners who wanted to hunt down additional music from Carnegie Hall’s China festival had a choice between two free Neighborhood Concerts: Ensemble ACJW’s tribute to the Class of 1978 (the first graduating class from music conservatories after China’s Cultural Revolution) at Flushing Town Hall at 2 PM, or the Zhang Family Band at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side at 3 PM. Could the performances have been less geographically compatible? “Actually, we make a point of that,” said Sarah Johnson, the Director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. “We want to spread Carnegie Hall as far as we possibly can.”

Fine, but for those who are interested in both contemporary composition and traditional music, the afternoon presented an obvious dilemma. Since I hate making choices, I tried to go to both concerts.

Flushing Town Hall may not have the acoustics of Weill Recital Hall, but otherwise it’s a welcoming venue. This was the first festival Neighborhood Concert I’d attended without Wu Man hosting, but the members of Ensemble ACJW (along with a Chinese translator) had things well in hand. Hearing new music with different audiences is always a reality check, and I must say it’s always encouraging to hear more than 200 people warmly applauding a concert where the oldest piece on the program (Bright Sheng’s String Quartet No. 3) is from 1993.

It was after Sheng’s piece—more than halfway through the program—that I tore out to try to catch part of the Zhangs. But alas, I got stuck for 20 minutes on the No. 7 line due to weekend track work. By the time I surfaced downtown, taxi drivers had just changed shifts, and there was not a car to be had. So I missed seeing how the Zhangs, who so effectively grabbed Carnegie Hall audiences by the throats at Zankel Hall the night before, would fare in a smaller neighborhood setting.

I still blame the MTA.

Posted by Ken Smith

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