While it may not be as out of the ordinary as Christmas in June, UCSB Arts & Lectures’ annual season announcement event has a lot in common, at least for arts aficionados, with the childlike exuberance of unwrapping a mountain of shiny presents around a festive tree. Like a pair of sophisticated Santas, Celesta Billeci and Roman Baratiak deliver presents for everyone on an occasion that, in its sheer abundance, partakes of the magical.
At a typically warm and dazzling announcement event held at the Rockwood in Mission Canyon on Tuesday, June 11, Arts & Lectures unveiled an impeccably sourced, hand-crafted lineup of cultural opportunities that’s unique not only to our region but the world. As always, there’s a flurry of crowd-pleasing surprises to kick things off. In the first week of October alone, expect to see a concert by Broadway and television star Kristin Chenoweth at The Granada Theatre on Wednesday, October 2; a conversation between Pico Iyer and composer Philip Glass at Campbell Hall on Thursday, October 3; and the United States premiere of an evening-length piece by Sankai Juku, the world’s foremost proponents of the Japanese dance form known as butoh on Friday, October 4, at the Granada.
Diversity, beauty, critical thinking, and sheer joy will be present in equal measures throughout the year that follows as Arts & Lectures delves deep into the resources not only of the world’s best performing artists, but also of the era’s most important scholars and most commanding authors. The way the History Matters lecture series has been shaped to lead us all into the maelstrom of the 2020 election year is a great example of thoughtful programming. Elaine Weiss opens the series on November 3 with a discussion of women’s suffrage in America, the topic of her powerful volume of narrative history, The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote. Douglas Brinkley arrives on December 5 to present his work on John F. Kennedy and the space race, and Pulitzer-winning presidential biographer Jon Meacham follows on January 30 with his latest reflections on America then and now. The series finishes strong with two of the most exciting intellectuals in the world today, Jill Lepore and Henry Louis Gates Jr. These are the preeminent historians addressing the most important questions facing our country today, and they are all coming here at a crucial time to meet and discuss our future together.
For those who use Arts & Lectures as a way to seek out the new and unexpected, there’s plenty to choose from. The always interesting Up Close and Musical series includes a concert on February 1 at Hahn Hall featuring Hanzhi Wang, the first accordionist to be chosen to participate in the Young Concert Artists program, the prestigious management and career development organization that supported such internationally renowned artists as Jeremy Denk, Emanuel Ax, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet early in their careers.
Warm up for that evening of Bach Partitas on the accordion with Ensemble Mik Nawooj, an innovative classical/hip-hop hybrid out of Oakland that merges advanced musical techniques and traditional instruments with the urban soundscapes of the Wu-Tang Clan. If it’s the dazzling, how-did-they-do-that athleticism and daring of the new circus movement you’re after, check out Quebec’s FLIP Fabrique when they appear at the Granada on February 9 in an exciting new piece called Blizzard, and chase that perfect storm with Cirque Éloize less than two weeks later when they come through with a 25th-anniversary program called Hotel.
The entire schedule is available for viewing now at artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.