"When the work of Pete Seeger is examined in its entirety, I find that he has pointed a way forward for musicians and the community around us.”
—David Harrington, Kronos artistic director, founder, and violinist
Over the course of its 47-year history, San Francisco’s Grammy- winning Kronos Quartet has frequently explored social justice issues in its work. The group has always been inspired by legendary folk icon and activist Pete Seeger, who spent his life singing about change and inspiring others to do the same. To mark Seeger’s 100th birthday in 2019, Kronos created a multi-artist exploration of Seeger’s musical legacy, collaborating with composers Jacob Garchik and a host of guest vocalists and fellow musicians, including folk artist and storyteller Lee Knight and Ethiopian-born, SF-based singer/songwriter Meklit, all of whom will join Kronos at CAP UCLA. For this concert, L.A.’s Tonality chorus and Los Angeles singer/songwriter Jolie Holland, also perform. Kronos’ Seeger project, commissioned by the FreshGrass Foundation, has been recorded for Smithsonian Folkways, and will be released in the fall of 2020.
Auntie Sewing Squad
Radical Care in the Time of Coronavirus is a film directed and edited by Valerie Soe, in collaboration with the Auntie Sewing Squad, music: “Pulsation,” by Susie Ibarra, performed by Kronos Quartet. This piece looks at the Auntie Sewing Squad, a group of mostly women of color volunteers who came together following the U.S. government’s botched response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Aunties sew masks for farmworkers, day laborers, unhoused people, refugee and immigrant groups, First Nations tribes, recently incarcerated people, Black Lives Matter demonstrators, and others in need in the U.S. Using images, voices and sounds primarily generated by the Aunties themselves, in tandem with Kronos Quartet’s performance of Susie Ibarra’s “Pulsation,” this film seeks to inspire others to work toward radical care in the time of coronavirus. Produced by Janet Cowperthwaite and Reshena Liao and production management by Kronos Performing Arts Association. auntiesewingsquad.com
American multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, producer, and singer-songwriter Jolie Holland has been on the road since the early 2000s, when her first band The Be Good Tanyas took off. In 2002 Holland self-released Catalpa, which Tom Waits nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize. Holland went on to release five studio albums with Anti- Records before starting her own label, Cinquefoil, in 2017. Her work has been described as a syncretization of American roots, with rock and experimental elements. She’s been in the studio with Booker T, Boots Riley, Lucinda Williams, and TV On The Radio; and shared stages with Mavis Staples, St. Vincent, Elbow, and Big Thief. Lou Reed once told her, “I could have listened to you all night.”
Folk singer, storyteller and outdoor enthusiast Lee Knight was a Saranac Lake high school student in the 1960s considering becoming a Methodist minister when he first heard the music of Pete Seeger. The rest, as they say, is history. During college, he became familiar with the music and stories of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, as well as those of the Adirondacks. He learned the music and stories from the people who had known them as part of their culture and community for generations and also collected songs and stories from other parts of the world. He plays various instruments, including the five-string banjo, various guitars, the Appalachian dulcimer, the mouth bow, the Cherokee flute and the Cherokee rattle, as well as the Native American drum. Knight currently performs at concerts, workshops, Elderhostels, festivals, camps and schools, and leads outdoor activities including hikes, canoe trips and white water rafting.
Photo Credit: TAUNY
Since 1973, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet—David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello)—has combined a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagine the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the world’s most celebrated and influential ensembles, performing thousands of concerts, releasing more than 60 recordings, collaborating with an eclectic mix of composers and performers, and commissioning over 1000 works and arrangements for string quartet. The group has won over 40 awards, including two Grammys, the prestigious Polar Music and Avery Fisher Prizes and Edison Klassiek Oeuvreprijs. The nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association manages all aspects of Kronos’ work, including the commissioning of new works, concert tours and home season performances, education programs, and the annual Kronos Festival. In 2015, Kronos launched 50 for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, an education and legacy project that is commissioning—and distributing online for free—50 new works for string quartet composed by 25 women and 25 men. kronosquartet.org
Meklit is an Ethio-American singer/songwriter and composer, who has rocked stages from Addis Ababa (where she is a household name) to San Francisco (her beloved home base) and around the globe.She is a National Geographic Explorer, a 2019 Artist-in-Residence at Harvard, New York University, Purdue and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Meklit is also a TED Senior Fellow, a cultural instigator and an in-demand performer and speaker. Her TED Talk has been watched by more than 1.2 million viewers. She has collaborated with Kronos Quartet, musical legend Pee Wee Ellis and NASA Kepler lead Jon Jenkins. She is co-founder of The Nile Project (part of CAP UCLA’s 2015-16 Season) and a featured voice in the U.N. Women theme song. meklitmusic.com
Established in 2016, Tonality is an award-winning ensemble led by founder and artistic director Alexander Lloyd Blake. An ensemble that represents the diverse cultures and ethnicities found throughout Los Angeles, Tonality is best known for creating choral concerts that focus on issues rarely presented in choral music. Their mission is to use their collective voices to present concerts on themes of social justice to encourage empathy and community activism. Concert themes have included gun violence, homelessness, refugees, climate change, mental health, women’s rights and exercising democratic rights. The group premiered its first album, Sing About It, in 2019 and received the Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in 2020. In addition to performing with Kronos Quartet, Tonality will present a separate program of three choral works—”America the Beautiful” (their own rendition and reimagining of the work, redefining its meaning in today’s world); “Can You See” (an observation of values in today’s society); and “Sing About It” (a song about empathy and reaching out).
Photo Credit: Baxter Stapleton
New-Jersey-born and Nebraska-raised, Tehillah Alphonso graduated from the University of Southern California. She received her B.M. in Popular Music Performance with a vocal emphasis in the Thornton School of Music and was named Outstanding Graduate in 2020. Though music was introduced to Tehillah at the early age of three years old, her musical endeavors began in 2014 with her acceptance into A Cappella Academy, a teen summer intensive founded by Ben Bram, Robert Dietz, and Avi Kaplan, designed to train and mentor up-and-coming vocal talents in the art of a cappella. Alongside attending Academy for the next two years, she has had the privilege of performing in Carnegie Hall as a part of the 2015 Honors Performance Series Choir and in the New World Center in Miami as a 2016 YoungArts Popular Voice finalist. While a full-time student at USC, Tehillah served as Business Manager and Music Director of USC’s premiere a cappella group and five-time ICCA champions, the SoCal VoCals. Her time in the VoCals has led her to perform in venues such as the Staples Center, the Rose Bowl, Carnegie Hall, and many historic theaters in Los Angeles. Outside of school, she has shared the stage with notable artists including NIKI, Dan Wilson, Rozzi, Good Charlotte, and, most recently, Billie Eilish. Upon completing her degree, Tehillah secured a job as the director of Pacifica Christian High School’s premiere a cappella group. In her free time, Tehillah works as a freelance session singer and pianist, songwriter, arranger, and performer.
Tonoccus McClain could be seen hosting television shows like FOX Family’s California Summer Countdown, reporting and anchoring Channel One News, performing in Beauty and the Beast live at the Hollywood Bowl, Game of Thrones live at the LA Forum, multiple shows at the Disneyland resort, and multiple performances at the Academy Awards. He's also traveled North America, touring in over 2400 performances of The Lion King (Banzai u/s) for six years. He’s crossed the globe singing in countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Germany, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Argentina, China, Canada, Australia, and across the Caribbean and back. Tonoccus was also featured in LA Opera’s Porgy and Bess at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and in the LA Master Chorale, performing at Walt Disney Concert Hall for almost a decade. He could also be heard singing on almost 50 television and film soundtracks and commercials including The Lion Guard theme song, Glee, The Good Wife, Once Upon A Time, King Kong, Avatar, A Wrinkle in Time, Smallfoot and featured in 2019’s reimagined The Lion King.