Classical Concert: Works By Jennifer Higdon
William Way has a treat in store for local music lovers: an evening of contemporary classical music featuring works by Pulitzer Prize- winning composer Jennifer Higdon. The concert is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it presents new music in a nontraditional setting, and, second, Higdon will be there, no small feat for an in-demand artist whose calendar is booked years in advance with commissions and premieres. Higdon’s music is characterized by a strong sense of melody and brisk rhythms, two elements that make her work accessible to listeners. Two of her pieces, “Secret and Glass Gardens” and “Sonata for Viola and Piano,” will be performed by the pianist Ching-Yun Hu, a young Taiwanese musician whose work is garnering favorable accolades, and the violist Judy Geist, whose tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra stretches back to the early 1980s. A VIP reception prior to the show offers attendees the opportunity to mingle with the artists, all of whom will be available after the concert to engage listeners in wide-ranging conversations regarding their work.
Sat., Jan. 12, 6pm. $25-$75. William Way, 1315 Spruce St. 215.732.2220. waygay.org
Penn Jersey Roller Derby Orientation: Old School Bi-Tracksual
The athletes at Penn Jersey Roller Derby want prospective teammates to know that they go both ways. Flat-track or banked-track, these sexy skaters are ready to roll. This recruiting season, PJRD is reaching out to the LGBT community, which has long provided players and a devoted coterie of queer fans. The league welcomes everyone, teaching newbies all they need to know about skating, as well as blocking, hitting and jamming. Women on the all-female team, the She Devils, learned how to mix it up from their late coach, Judy Sowinski, a roller derby legend and proud lesbian who kicked ass during the tumultuous televised bouts of the ’60s and ’70s. Although roller derby is traditionally viewed as a women’s sport, these fierce femmes actively nurture a men’s team, the Hooligans. At practice, everyone scrimmages together, with the girls hitting the boys and the boys fighting back as best they can. Suited up for a bout, they’re an intimidating lot, but off the rink, PJRD’s ranks include everyone from accountants to roofers, both gay and straight. This close-knit bunch also has a penchant for naughty hijinks like Jell-O wrestling and donning drag. Pre-register to reserve a slot, and don’t forget your kneepads!
Jan. 19-20, various times. Free. Penn Jersey Roller Derby Warehouse, 1801 W. Indiana Ave. pennjerseyrollerderby.com
Erin McKeown’s music resists easy categorization. The openly queer artist was initially tagged as a folkie simply because she was a girl with a guitar, but her musical output belies that label. Over the course of eight records, this sprightly trickster has adapted her lyrical concerns and musical ideas to forms as varied as Christmas novelty tunes and rollicking swing. At the same time, the Brown University graduate has also been developing a parallel career as an activist, focusing on the social impact of technology. McKeown’s music converges with a personal brand of politics on her latest record, MANIFESTRA . In a sense, it’s a protest record, but McKeown’s obvious pleasure in collaborating with colleagues like singer-songwriter Polly Paulusma and bluesy troubadour Ryan Montbleau balances her righteousness. The album’s closing number, “Baghdad to the Bayou,” was co-written via text message with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, an old friend and fellow denizen of Western Massachusetts. A funky New Orleans groove helps the song transcend that gimmick, which is good, because its holistic take on everything from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to America’s continuing military involvement in the Middle East is worth hearing.
Sun., Jan. 20, 8pm. $15. Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave. johnnybrendas.com
At Songbird, will a star be born?