by Mike Breen
Seventh annual music fest organized by The National's Bryce Dessner kicks off with a freebie
The seventh annual MusicNOW festival begins tonight, but not at the fest's usual headquarters. And you don't need a ticket for tonight's opening festivities. For last year’s MusicNOW, the festival ventured outside of its usual home, Memorial Hall, but not very far — organizer Bryce Dessner’s band The National played Music Hall, right next door. This year’s opening MusicNOW concert is a tad further away, at Christ Church Cathedral (318 E. Fourth Street), but the setting is perfect for the night’s programming. And it’s a rare free event for MusicNOW. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.).Performing is James McVinnie, the Assistant Organist at Westminster Abbey in London (where he performed last year for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton; read his account here). Besides his work at the grand cathedral, McVinnie also teaches, performs throughout the U.K and beyond and has had pieces composed for him by Graham Ross, Robert Walker and Mr. MusicNOW 2012, Nico Muhly. The setting was no doubt chosen because of the Cathedral's vintage organs and acoustics. Read more about the instruments here. Joined by in demand violist Nadia Sirota (a founding member of MusicNOW regulars yMusic), McVinnie will work his organ magic on new compositions by Richard Reed Parry (a member of Arcade Fire and also a MusicNOW vet) and David Lang, a member of MusicNOW alumni Bang on a Can and winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for music for his “The Little Match Girl Passion” piece. McVinnie’s performance will also include pieces by Muhly, the other Mr. MusicNOW 2012, Philip Glass, Bach and Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Also on the bill is Sam Amidon, an Avant Indie Chamber Folk singer/songwriter who drew acclaim for his performance at the Contemporary Arts Center last year. Amidon takes deep American roots music and doesn’t so much cover it as remix and mold it into something more modern and totally unique. Read more of our MusicNOW preview coverage, including interviews with Muhly, Dessner and eighth blackbird, in this week's CityBeat. Tickets for Friday's performance are sold out; for tickets for tomorrow's performance by 8bb, Philip Glass and Sandro Perri (the MusicNOW site says there are only limited tickets left, so hurry), click here.