Wu Man And The Knights Perform 'Bits And Pieces' From Lou Harrison's Pipa Concerto

World premiere video filmed at Harrison’s home In Joshua Tree, CA.

By: Jan. 13, 2021

Wu Man And The Knights Perform 'Bits And Pieces' From Lou Harrison's Pipa Concerto

World-renowned pipa virtuoso Wu Man joined musicians from The Knights and dancer Maile Okamura (formerly of the Mark Morris Dance Group) in a specially choreographed video performance of Bits and Pieces from Lou Harrison's Concerto for Pipa and Strings-originally composed for Wu Man and premiered by her in 1997.

Bits and Pieces is a four-part mini-suite that Harrison designated as the second movement of the concerto. The performance, co-produced by Art of Elan and The Knights, was filmed in San Diego and at the Harrison House, the late composer's desert retreat near the border of Joshua Tree National Park. Click below to watch via The Knights' YouTube channel:

"There are a number of factors that make this performance so special, including reuniting with The Knights for my first in-person collaboration with other musicians since the beginning of the pandemic, and creating a beautiful work of performance art with [dancer] Maile Okamura," said Wu Man. "The pinnacle was performing on the idyllic grounds of my late friend Lou Harrison's home in Joshua Tree. Lou was ahead of his time, and understood the unique beauty in combining multicultural influences to create a global sound. His music, in particular, is very special to me and holds many fond memories. It brings me great joy to share this performance with the world."

Filming at the Harrison House and in a wooded backyard in Hillcrest, San Diego took place safely over the course of two days. Tucked away in the vast desert landscape near the border of Joshua Tree National Park, the Harrison House is not only recognized for its unique architecture; it is also now a residency and performance venue for international artists and environmental activists.

Wu Man is a Chinese pipa player and composer. Trained in Pudong-style pipa performance at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, she is known for playing in a broad range of musical styles and introducing the pipa and its Chinese heritage into Western genres. She has premiered works by Philip Glass, Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, Bright Sheng, Tan Dun, Zhao Jiping, and Zhou Long, among many others. She has recorded and appeared on more than 40 albums, five of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards, including her recording with Silk Road Ensemble Sing Me Home, which won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best World Music Album. In 2013, she was named Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America, becoming the first performer of a non-Western instrument to receive this award. She also received The United States Artist Fellowship in 2008.

The Knights are a collective of adventurous musicians, dedicated to transforming the orchestral experience and eliminating barriers between audiences and music. The group evolved from late-night chamber music reading parties with friends at the home of violinist Colin Jacobsen and cellist Eric Jacobsen. The Jacobsen brothers serve as artistic directors of The Knights, with Eric Jacobsen as conductor. The Knights are committed to creating unusual and adventurous partnerships across disciplines; they perform in traditional concert halls as well as in parks, plazas, and bars, all in an effort to reach listeners of all backgrounds and invite them into their music-making.

Maile Okamura began her career at Boston Ballet II, danced for years with Mark Morris Dance Group, and currently performs for Pam Tanowitz Dance. She has designed and constructed dance and opera costumes for Mark Morris Dance Group, Atlanta Ballet, Tanglewood Music Festival, American Classical Orchestra, Bard College, and Middlebury College.

Known for its collaborative spirit, co-producer Art of Elan has been pioneering unique events and bringing exciting classical music to diverse audiences for over 13 years through innovative partnerships and bi-national initiatives that have cultivated curious audiences on both sides of the border. Its consistent track record of sold-out performances stems from its commitment to commissioning new work, collaborating with world class artists and composers, programming engaging and thought-provoking concerts, and expanding its impact in the region through thoughtful community engagement programs. By drawing inspiration from the word élan, which represents vigor, style, and spirit, Art of Elan continues to engage and energize audiences in new ways.

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