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OCU Opens Concert Series with Turtle Island Quartet

by Rod Jones

November concerts by the Grammy-winning Turtle Island Quartet, operatic baritone Nathan Gunn and Russian pianist Pavel Nersessian will kick off Oklahoma City University’s 2015-16 Distinguished Artists Series.

All concerts will be held in OCU’s Bass School of Music, 2501 N. Blackwelder. Tickets ($20, open seating) are available online at www.okcu.edu/tickets or by calling the box office at 405-208-5227.

The Turtle Island Quartet will make its Petree Recital Hall debut at 8 p.m. Nov. 6 with a concert of groove-based rhythmic techniques and new arrangements of cool jazz standards.

Yo-Yo Ma calls the genre-blurring group “a unified voice that truly breaks new ground — authentic and passionate — a reflection of some of the most creative music-making today.”

The California-based ensemble will present music by Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and John Carisi; a new work by co-founder David Balakrishnan incorporating bluegrass, classical, jazz and Indian music; and selections from its latest album, “Confetti Man.”

Two-time Grammy Award winner for Best Classical Crossover Album, the quartet is celebrating its 30th anniversary and has been featured on the “Today Show,” “All Things Considered,” “Prairie Home Companion” and “Morning Edition,” and by magazines ranging from People to Newsweek.

On Nov. 13, baritone Nathan Gunn and pianist Julie Jordan Gunn will take the Kirkpatrick Auditorium stage for an 8 p.m. recital.

The New York Times notes the singer “commands an operatic baritone whose mighty heft and richness confer an outsize authority on everything he touches…When he dips into popular music, he suggests a vocal Babe Ruth aiming for the fences, all the while maintaining a hero’s confident stance.”

Coming off a starring role in Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s “Cold Mountain,” Gunn's engagements this season include returns to the Metropolitan Opera for “Die Zauberflöte,” the Dallas Opera for Malatesta in “Don Pasquale,” and the Los Angeles Opera for “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” and “L'Elisir d'Amore.” He has performed in recital at Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall and the Vocal Arts Society in Washington, D.C.

On Nov. 15, OCU’s annual Mae Ruth Swanson Memorial Concert will feature pianist Pavel Nersessian in a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee.

A touring pianist since the age of 8, he has won the Beethoven Competition in Vienna, the Paloma O’Shea Competition in Santander, and the Tokyo Competition.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer raved of a recent performance that Nersessian “has chops aplenty: major powers, accurate marksmanship, ultralight touch with many shades and colors of quiet, and instrument-bouncing dynamic range. Quickly evident were a certain aplomb, easy competence taken for granted by him and us, dash, plus a degree of casual seriousness or serious casualness to it all.”

OCU’s Distinguished Artists Series continues in the spring with a Feb. 5 CD release concert by Dr. Sergio Monteiro and concludes April 8 with a lute concert by early music pioneer and Grammy winner Paul O’Dette.

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