Premieres Fridays at 8 p.m.
Follow celebrated violinist and conductor Scott Yoo as he travels the United States to uncover the musical influences of some of America’s most prominent composers — Amy Beach, Florence Price and Aaron Copland — in of the third season of “Great Performances: Now Hear This.” The documentary miniseries also spotlights two contemporary composers weaving the traditional music of their heritage into their compositions: Brazilian-born Sergio Assad and Indian American Reena Esmail. From coast to coast, the series shines a light on the immigrant experience as told through music, featuring local artists across musical genres including gospel, blues and more.
Each episode will premiere on Friday at 8 p.m. on Arizona PBS and the PBS Video app.
April 8: “Amy Beach: American Romantic”
Host Scott Yoo and his wife, flutist Alice Dade, perform the work of Romantic era classical composer Amy Beach at Festival Mosaic and uncover Beach’s many musical influences. Featuring performances of Beach’s works, the duo visits places Beach took inspiration from throughout her life, including an artist residency at MacDowell in New Hampshire, where she wrote “Hermit Thrush at Morn,” “Hermit Thrush at Evening” and more. Along the way, Yoo and Dade also explore the works of European female composers and musicians Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn and Louise Farrenc, and even stop to discover the music in the vineyards of California.
April 15: “Florence Price and the American Migration”
Host Scott Yoo follows the trail of great African American composer Florence Price, learning that West African music and European hymns inspired nearly all American popular music. He begins with the Arkansas archives that house Price’s work, which was originally found in the attic of an abandoned Chicago house. Then, Yoo joins pianist Karen Walwyn to discover where Price grew up and the spiritual music she was surrounded by in the South before moving to Chicago seeking equality and opportunity. Yoo explores Southern migrants’ musical impact on the city and gospel music with singer Vernon Oliver Price and former choir director Lou Della Evans Reid. Other performances by musicians inspired by Price, include pianist Michelle Cann, blues musician Jonn Primer, opera singers Rod Dixon and Alfreda Burke, showing how powerful Price’s influence remains today.
April 22: “Aaron Copland: Dean of American Music”
Drawing from his Jewish roots, modernism and American folk music, Pulitzer-, Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer Aaron Copland created a distinctive American sound in both his classical compositions and film scores. Like Copland did for much of his career, host Scott Yoo and fellow musicians spend time working with students at a music festival in Colorado to strengthen their auditioning skills and better understand Copland’s music. To discover Copland’s inspiration, Yoo travels to New York to explore the Jewish music Copland was raised with as well as modernist music through performances by Cantor Daniel Mutlu, violinist Steven Copes, cellist Mark Kosower, festival music director and pianist Susan Grace and more. Later, Yoo becomes the student and learns from pianist and Copland enthusiast John Novacek about how the composer developed his signature sound, now so familiar to us all.
April 29: “New American Voices”
Following the traditions of Amy Beach, Florence Price and Aaron Copland, host Scott Yoo explores how American composers are inspired by their immigrant roots today through two composers: Brazilian-born Sergio Assad and Indian American Reena Esmail. To get a sense of the inspirational dance rhythms that Assad grew up with, Yoo meets the composer in Chicago, where Assad performs a lively traditional Brazilian song with his daughter and a band. Assad and Yoo also visit a capoeira studio, where the Brazilian martial art originating from Africa that is “fought” to music by combining elements of dance and acrobatics. In San Francisco, composer Esmail teaches Yoo how Indian scales and rhythms, known as raag and taal, influence her music by demonstrating traditional Indian classical music with violinist Kala Ramnath and percussionist Abhijit Banerjee. They also visit San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, where Esmail performs her mixture of baroque violin and Indian vocal styles with her husband, violinist Vijay Gupta, surrounded by ancient Indian art.
About the host
Yoo is the Chief Conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic, Music Director of Festival Mozaic, Conductor of the Colorado College Music Festival and the Founder of the Medellín Festicámara, a chamber music and social program in Colombia. He has conducted the London Symphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Yomiuri Nippon Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony and San Francisco Symphony, among many others.