“What should a portrait of Caroline Shaw look like?” The New York Times wondered in 2020, grappling with the multifariousness of the North Carolina-born violinist, vocalist, and composer. Shaw had become the youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music at age thirty and a Grammy-nominated pop concern after working with Kanye West. The common thread, The Times said, is her “audaciously uninhibited approach to music-making based on joy, omnivorous curiosity, and congeniality—even as her work challenges your expectations and takes you by surprise.”
While pursuing a PhD at Princeton, Shaw wrote Partita for 8 Voices for Roomful of Teeth, the venturesome vocal ensemble of which she is a member. Released by New Amsterdam Records in 2012, it won the Pulitzer the next year for Shaw’s “highly polished and inventive” conversion of Baroque dances into seething, colorful a capella illusions. Commissions followed from the likes of The Attacca Quartet, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Anne Sofie von Otter with Philharmonia Baroque, as did credits on records by Nas, The National, and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry.
But inasmuch as Shaw is renowned as a composer of vocal, chamber, and orchestral music that is at once glitteringly new and steeped in folk and classical erudition, she is just as distinguished as a performer whose warm presence and earthy, pristine voice create unforgettable concerts. Shaw will have room to shine in this solo concert, which is complemented elsewhere in the festival by a performance with Sō Percussion of Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part.