Music from the top of the world

A musical snapshot of a time and place: classical composers living and writing in our community of Washington Heights. From Jessica Meyer’s lyrical meditation on quantum mechanics to Peter Gordon’s whimsical post-minimalism; Aaron J. Kernis’ poignant musical response to September 11th, 2001 to Žibuoklė Martinaitytė’s dreamy impressionistic sonic landscapes, we bring together a collection of compelling voices from our community for a concert you’ll only find above 155th street.

Friends of WHCO join us Saturday after the concert for a post-concert reception featuring tastings from neighborhood restaurants.


Peter Gordon: Magic and Transformation
Žibuoklė Martinaitytė: Sort Sol
Aaron Jay Kernis: Sarabanda in Memoriam
Jessica Meyer: Through Which We Flow
Joel Hoffman: Crossing Points

Strings of the Washington Heights Chamber Orchestra
Chris Whittaker, Music Director

Click to subscribe and reserve your tickets for the entire season >

Purchase tickets for Friday

Purchase tickets for Saturday


Adults $5 in advance / $7 at the door
Kids ages 17 and under FREE
Young listeners welcome!

Times & Locations

8:00pm Friday, March 20, 2020
Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran
178 Bennett Ave, New York, NY 10040

View Map

3:00pm Saturday, March 21, 2020
Fort Washington Collegiate Church
729 W. 181st St. New York, NY 10033
Followed by post-concert reception for
Friends of WHCO.

View Map

In Detail

Joel Hoffman.jpg

Born in Vancouver, Canada in 1953, Joel Hoffman received degrees from the University of Wales and the Juilliard School. He is a member of a distinguished musical family that includes brothers Gary and Toby, cellist and conductor, and Deborah, harpist. Honors include a major prize from the American Academy-Institute of Arts and Letters, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bearns Prize of Columbia University, a BMI Award, ASCAP awards since 1977, and three American Music Center grants. Hoffman’s works draw from such diverse sources as Eastern European folk musics, Chinese traditional music and bebop, and are pervaded by a sense of lyricism and rhythmic vitality. They have been performed by many ensembles such as the Chicago Symphony Brass, the BBC Orchestra of Wales, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, members of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Cleveland Quartet, the Shanghai Quartet, the Brentano Quartet and the Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio. “Self-Portrait with Gebirtig”, for cello and orchestra, has been performed in New York, Paris, Tel Aviv, Los Angeles, San Jose (Costa Rica), Washington, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Santa Barbara, Kronberg (Germany), and has been recorded by the Berlin Radio Symphony, the Kiev Chamber Orchestra as well as by the Slovenian Radio Symphony in Lubliana.


With playing that is “fierce and lyrical” and works that are “other-worldly” (The Strad) and “evocative” (New York Times), Jessica Meyer is a versatile composer and violist whose passionate musicianship radiates accessibility, generosity, and emotional clarity. Jessica has premiered pieces for solo viola internationally – expanding the repertoire for viola by championing new works while also composing her own. On her appearance at The TANK Center for Sonic Arts, where she wrote a solo piece on site for this destination concert venue that boasts a 20-second reverb, Alex Ross of the New Yorker says, “Meyer’s fierce-edged playing activated the Tank’s awe-inspiring properties.” Meyer’s compositions viscerally explore the wide palette of emotionally expressive colors available to each instrument while using traditional and extended techniques inspired by her varied experiences as a contemporary and period instrumentalist. Since embarking on her composition career only 5 years ago, past premieres include performances by the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, cellist Amanda Gookin for her Forward Music Project at National Sawdust, soprano Melissa Wimbish for her Carnegie Hall debut, Sybarite 5, PUBLIQuartet, NOVUS NY of Trinity Wall Street under the direction of Julian Wachner, the Nu Deco Ensemble in Miami, and a work for A Far Cry commissioned by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. As part of the residency, Ms. Meyer lived in the museum itself for a week to immerse herself in the creatively curated life and collected art of Mrs. Gardner in order to find inspiration for the work.

Peter Gordon.jpg

PETER GORDON is known for the clarity and wit of his compositions. Gordon first gained attention with his Love of Life Orchestra (LOLO), which he founded in New York in 1977. Working with LOLO-which has ranged in size from a trio to over a dozen of New York's top musicians-Gordon has performed hundreds of concerts internationally at venues as diverse as concert halls (Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Hall), opera houses (Brooklyn Academy of Music, Amsterdam's Het Musiktheater), festivals, nightclubs (Bottom Line, Knitting Factory, CBGB) and theaters (DTW, La Mama). Gordon has composed music for many plays and music-theater works, winning an Obie award in 1985 for his score Falso Movimento's Otello. Gordon's music has also been featured in the work of leading dance companies, including those of Alvin Ailey, Stephen Petronio, Donald Byrd, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Molissa Fenley. Gordon received a Bessie Award in 1985 for his score for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane's Secret Pastures, which premiered at BAM/Next Wave. His opera, The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, with librettist Constance Congdon and Lawrence Sacharow, premiered at La Mama in April 1994. Gordon has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (Inter-Arts and Opera-Music Theater programs), the New York State Council on the Arts (Music and Media programs), the Meet the Composer/Lila Wallace Commissioning Grant and Arts International. Gordon was a 1988 fellow of the DAAD Berlin Artists Program and a Japan-US Friendship Commission Creative Artists Fellow in 1991. Peter Gordon was born in 1951 in New York City and spent his childhood in Virginia. He began playing piano at the age of seven and switched to clarinet at nine. His parents' record collection included New Orleans jazz, Broadway shows and classical music. In addition, he listened to D.C.'s R&B radio stations. At the age of thirteen, Gordon moved with his family to Munich, Germany, where his father was stationed as a radio-journalist for the Voice of America. In Munich, Gordon was exposed to a wide range of European classical and contemporary music, as well as jazz and R&B brought over by American servicemen and touring performers. In the mid-sixties, Munich was on the touring circuit for the up-and-coming British bands of the time, and Gordon spent much time in the clubs where he heard groups such as The Animals, Kinks, Yardbirds and Rolling Stones. Gordon's compositions reflect this early exposure to a wide variety of cultures and music.

Zibuokle_Martinaityte_by _D_Matvejev_2.jpg

Described by WQXR as a “textural magician”, Žibuoklė Martinaitytė is a New York-based Lithuanian composer whose works explore the tensions and longings of identity and place. She creates sonic environments where musical gestures emerge and disappear within transparencies and densities of sound layers. It’s music that slides on the very blades of emotions. Ms. Martinaitytė’s A Thousand Doors To The World was commissioned by the Lithuanian Radio to celebrate Vilnius being named the Culture Capital of Europe in 2009. The premiere was broadcast by Euroradio to an audience of 4 million. Her US commissions include the MATA, Look+Listen and Other Minds festivals as well as the Barlow Endowment. Žibuoklė has received residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Aaron Copland house, the Millay Colony, Harvestworks, Djerassi and the Cité des Arts (Paris). Her recent projects include an hour-long multimedia piece “In Search of Lost Beauty,” (to be released in 2019 as a CD on Starkland label) and a solo CD “Horizons” of orchestral and large ensemble works, released in 2017 by LMIC.

Aaron Kernis.jpg

Winner of the 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, 1998 Pulitzer Prize, and 2011 Nemmers Award, Aaron Jay Kernis is one of America's most honored composers. His music appears prominently on concert programs worldwide, and he has been commissioned by America’s preeminent performing organizations and artists, including the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco, Toronto, and Melbourne (AU) Symphonies, Los Angeles and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestras, Walt Disney Company, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Joshua Bell, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Sharon Isbin. Recent and upcoming commissions include his 4th Symphony for the New England Conservatory (for its 150th anniversary) and Nashville Symphony; concerti for violinist James Ehnes, cellist Joshua Roman, violist Paul Neubauer, and flutist Marina Piccinini; a horn concerto for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Grant Park Music Festival; a work for the Borromeo String Quartet; and a piece for the San Francisco Girls and Brooklyn Youth Choruses with The Knights for the New York Philharmonic Biennial. His works have been recorded on Virgin, Dorian, Arabesque, Phoenix, Argo, Signum, Cedille and many other labels. Recent recordings include his Goblin Market, and Invisible Mosaic II (Signum); Three Flavors, featuring pianist Andrew Russo, violinist James Ehnes and the Albany Symphony with conductor David Alan Miller (Albany); and a disc of his solo and chamber music, On Distant Shores, (Phoenix). Kernis’s conducting engagements include appearances with the Pascal Rioult Dance Company, at major chamber music festivals in Chicago and Portland, and with members of the San Francisco and Minnesota Orchestras and New York Philharmonic. He is the Workshop Director of the Nashville Symphony Composer Lab and, for 11 years, served as New Music Adviser to the Minnesota Orchestra, with which he co-founded and directed its Composer Institute for 15 years. Kernis teaches composition at Yale School of Music, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Classical Music Hall of Fame. Leta Miller's book-length portrait of Kernis and his work was published in 2014 by University of Illinois Press as part of its American Composer series.

About the Artwork

The artwork associated with this event is part of The Audubon Mural Project is a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and Gitler & Gallery to create murals of climate-threatened birds throughout John James Audubon's old Harlem‐based neighborhood in New York City. The project is inspired by the legacy of the great American bird artist and pioneering ornithologist and is energized by Audubon’s groundbreaking Birds and Climate Change Report, which reveals at least half of all North American birds are threatened by a warming climate. The project commissions artists to paint murals of each of the report's 314 species, and has been widely covered in the media, including The New York Times.

Swallow-tailed Kite (and Others) by Lunar New Year

Location: 575 W. 155th St., New York, NY 10032

Painted: 9/25 to 10/2/2015. 

Climate Threat: The outline of the mural depicts the Swallow-tailed Kite, a bird that is projected to lose 70 percent of its summer habitat, according to the Audubon Birds and Climate Change Report. Depicted inside the kite is a composite of 12 other birds, each threatened by climate change: Scarlet TanagerAmerican KestrelBlack-and-white WarblerTree SwallowNorthern HarrierMagnolia WarblerYellow-bellied Sapsucker,  Golden EagleWhite-throated SparrowRing-billed GullCommon Raven, and Baltimore Oriole.  Learn more about the threats these species face at

About the Artist: Lunar New Year is an artist, muralist, and interloper defined by borders and hybridity. His artwork and murals question politics, injustice, and cross-cultural identity by making visible the stories that are often left invisible and silenced. His iconography spans a wide combination of mythology, portraiture, and secular signifiers. LNY is also an educator, organizer, and public speaker for such projects as Young New Yorkers in Brooklyn, Yollocalli Arts Reach in Chicago, and City Without Walls in Newark, New Jersey. He was raised within the duality of Ecuador and the United States, currently living and working in Newark, as well as worldwide. You can learn more on his website or follow him on Instagram.

The Artist on the Mural: “It’s a depiction of urgency, showing 12 bird species under threat of extinction due to climate change. The composition plays homage to Audubon’s work by replicating his Swallow-Tailed Kite painting that encapsulates the flock of endangered birds.” 

The mural is painted on the entire west side of The Stella, a pioneering low-income housing building owned and operated by Broadway Housing Communities, and it is across the street from John James Audubon’s grave site, which is in the Trinity Church Cemetery at 155th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam. Watch the video of it being painted: