Metro, Arts

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Hosts RISE, Strengthens Music Community in Boston

Gift bags containing USB drives with the A-Beez’s new album and discounted passes to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum rested on every seat in ISG Museum’s Calderwood Hall on Thursday, as the museum presented its monthly installment of the RISE music series.

This month, the event hosted a Boston-based husband-and-wife duo, the A-Beez, for the release of their second studio album entitled Say Goodbye. Local singer Camille Merendail and Berklee College of Music alum Emily Elbert opened the show. Within the series, this performance emanated an intense sense of community as it showcased musicians who represent the musical talent enriching Boston.

The original music performed was very personal to the artists. Before they began officially working on this album, Amy co-wrote a song with a friend of hers—a London-based musician who passed away four years ago. On the album, the song features an old recording of his vocals layered over recent recordings of new instrumental parts.

Even before the A-Beez performed, however, Elbert’s music manifested personal events and feelings of her own. Before she began each piece, Elbert briefly explained the people, places, and things that inspired its development. Her most recent song, “True Power,” is a significant critique of President Donald Trump. Once she received immense support from the crowd after she introduced this piece, Elbert and her D’Angelo delivered a sound that echoed Jimi Hendrix’s intense guitar subdued by her own guitar’s mellow tone.

“I believe really deeply in the power of music to help hold a mirror up to society, looking at the way music has help catalyze shifts in our culture throughout the last century,” Elbert said.

In their music, bassist Aaron Bellamy and keyboardist Amy Bellamy manipulate up to eight instruments in arrangements that encompass genres from soul and R&B to funk and jazz. Their performance immediately created a lively energy among the audience members. Just as curators Shea Rose and Simone Scazzocchio instructed the crowd to do, the audience moved around, voiced their support, and interacted with the performers: The band’s energy emanated from the constant soulful rhythm of the guitar, percussion, and bass supplemented by the jazzy voices of the saxophone and trumpet and the funky melodies of the keyboard.

These musicians not only find that they have a responsibility to deliver true and authentic music, but they also take pride in their sounds and the way in which they deliver them. For three years, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has been hosting intimate musical performances through the RISE music series with popular musicians from around the country. This season began on Sep. 7 and includes a partnership with Berklee College of Music, so that current and former students have the opportunity to open for the main acts. Rose and Scazzocchio, both Berklee alumni, organize the series by inviting talented musicians of various contemporary genres to perform for intimate audiences in the museum’s modern performance hall.

As they observed the performance from the same area as the audience members, the curators were just as, if not more, enthusiastic and excited about the show. The three acts—Merendail, Elbert, and the A-Beez—have all developed their musical abilities in Boston and are dear to Rose and Scazzocchio. Respectively a student, classmate, and inspiration to at least one of the curators, these relationships centered around music compelled them to deliver unscripted yet intimate introductions for each performer that contributed to the show’s laid-back atmosphere.

The sense of unity and respect among the musicians displays their unadulterated appreciation for passionate and authentic music. Their support for one another radiated out of their instruments—when one of them had a solo, the others encouraged the performer with just as much passion as if they were performing themselves. They showed no tension or nervousness, only respect, energy, and a pure passion for their music. Whoever occupied the stage—whether the curators or performers—interacted so casually with the audience that the event felt less like an organized concert and more like an intimate soirée.  

The structure of Calderwood Hall also contributed to this comfortable energy: Geometrically constructed to enhance the performances both audibly and visually, the cubic space has four levels of balconies. Each balcony, however, only has two rows of seating that completely surrounds the room so that audience members can observe every angle of these performances from above at entirely different angles.

Because of the physical proximity between the audience and musicians in addition to the A-Beez local fan base, the ambiance was very relaxed and casual. This city, home to countless institutions that foster the growth of so many young and talented people, cultivates an environment that encourages and motivates those who reside here. Bringing together performers for whom Boston holds so much significance, Rose and Scazzocchio orchestrated an engaging album release party for the A-Beez representative of the talent and support in this city.

“Boston, for me, represented such a renaissance in my own life, and I think it does that for a lot of people,” Elbert said. “It’s this place where, no matter where you’re coming from, there’s this ability to be around all of these students and teachers and people committed to education. It is a really powerful experience.”

Featured Image by Mary Wilkie / Heights Editor

March 25, 2018