FirstWorks, a Rhode Island cultural organization known for innovative programming, is presenting a special event at the First Unitarian Church in Providence on December 5th.

Curated by Grammy Award-winning violinist Johnny Gandelsman, “This is America” is a new commissioning and recording project featuring over 20 works for solo violin written by a diverse group of American and US-based composers.

The invited composers – including icons like Rhiannon Giddens and Conrad Tao – were asked to reflect on the events of the past year and to consider the impact the period has had on their lives and on their communities.

From the press release:

A long-time FirstWorks collaborator, Johnny Gandelsman is a co-founder of Brooklyn Rider and a member of the Silk Road Ensemble. The New Yorker has called him “revelatory” in concert, placing him in the company of “radically transformative” performers like Maurizio Pollini, Peter Serkin and Christian Zacharias.

Jing Wang

For this special FirstWorks program, Gandelsman will perform selections from “This is America,” and Providence’s Community MusicWorks will join him for a performance of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto.”

The concert will open with a premiere program, “Confluence,” from violinist EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks who was selected for FirstWorks’ inaugural commission initiative. Two new compositions by Jing Wang, an erhu virtuoso (two-stringed Chinese fiddle), will be performed by Wang,  Holmes-Hicks, and percussionist Piero Guimaraes. “Confluence” is inspired by FirstWorks themes of Raise Your Voice (celebrating diversity) and Earth First (addressing environmental justice.)

Piero Guimares

As we live through a time of disruption and disconnection, with COVID-19, the recent US election, deep polarization, entrenched systemic racism and police brutality, it is clear that the years 2020 and 2021 will be seared in our collective memories for a long time. Musicians and artists have raised their voices to express through their art their response to this turbulent time and bring us to together through shared experience.

The premiere of “Confluence” is funded in part by the New England States Touring program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.