Collaborations: Kauffman Center Presents Series Showcasing the Diversity of Music

Photos courtesy Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts overriding vision is to enrich the lives of everyone in the community through extraordinary and diverse performing arts experiences. Although it has been open less than two years, dozens of community groups have found an opportunity to take to the acoustically perfect halls to offer their own art.

This year, two groups will work in partnership with the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to bring unique performances to our community.


Bach Aria Soloists founder and executive director Elizabeth Suh Lane led the innovative musicians for more than a decade, performing at many homes in the community and other venues. According to Lane, Bach Aria Soloists was honored to perform briefly during both the Kauffman Center’s opening gala dinner and weekend open house. Now they are looking forward to returning to the Helzberg Hall stage on April 27 for A Night of Tango.

A Night of Tango features an ensemble dedicated to bringing the genius of Bach, his contemporaries, and those he inspired to new life. Back by popular demand, the Bach Aria Soloists’ wildly successful A Night of Tango with world-renowned Argentinean bandoneónist Héctor Del Curto returns to Kansas City. The program highlights the rich music of Astor Piazzolla and his Piazzolla Quintet classics with Del Curto, Lane, Beau Bledsoe, Jeff Harshbarger – a guest double bassist and guest Tango pianist Alon Yavnai.

Lane says multi-genre events “are always more interesting for the audience,” and that A Night of Tango is “a great multi-cultural event.” April’s event will be the second A Night of Tango collaboration with Del Curto, according to Lane. Two years ago, performances in Kansas City and Lawrence played to full houses and wonderful reviews, she says. “It is back by popular demand.” She added that the original performances drew audience members from the entire region.

Lane says partnering their music with different genres makes it “more relevant.” Another unique feature of Bach Aria Soloists is that about half of their performances are in private homes, just like in Bach’s time. Lane said the group does this “in appreciation of what Bach and the original chamber music artists used to do.”

Lane says the partnership between the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and Bach Aria Soloists recognizes a “great community gathering. The tickets are priced to be very affordable.”

Organist Chelsea Chen will perform in Helzberg Hall on Monday, May 20. The performance is part of the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists’ 75th anniversary celebration. Audiences from the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia have enjoyed Chen’s renditions of classical composers such as Bach. Also a composer, Chen premiered her own piece Taiwanese Suite, followed in 2007 by Taiwan Tableaux. Chen’s most recent concerto, Jasmine Fantasy, was written for the organ, violin, and other strings.

This May, audiences will experience Chen’s performance on the magnificent Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ, Opus 3875. Chen will again play the Taiwanese Suite, based on folk songs, she says. “It’s always an exciting piece for me to play and to hear the reaction from the audience. It’s different from traditional organ works.”

An alumnus of Juilliard and Yale, Chen has premiered works by Juilliard composers Teddy Niedermaier and Ola Gjeilo and Yale composer Jordan Kuspa. She has also released three CDs. Live at Heinz Chapel was released in 2005, Treasures from the East with violinist Lewis Wong in 2010, and Reveries in 2011.

Chen is currently the artist-in-residence at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and a member of Duo
Wong-Chen. She is a member of the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

As part of the coming concert celebration, the American Guild of Organists commissioned a piece to be performed by Chen as a world premiere. The winner, chosen by an expert panel, is Kansas Citian Dale Ramsey and Fantasia on CRUCIFER. “I am thrilled to play the grand Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ. When you think about the planning and the work to build such a organ, it becomes a wonderfully unique moment for an organist as well as for the audience,” she says.

Chen will also play pieces she describes as “colorful.” “Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm is popular and so recognizable. I play pieces I enjoy and hope that the audience does as well.” The Claude Debussy transcription of the Children’s Corner is challenging, she says.

Dean Claudette Schiratti of the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists says, “We are delighted to be in this collaborative agreement with the Kauffman Center. The chance to bring a young organist such as Chelsea Chen is a treat. We are concerned about the future of organists and we want younger members to be enthusiastic too.” Sister Schiratti retired as director of music from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. During her retirement, she also serves as a volunteer usher at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

“We are thrilled to be featuring such internationally acclaimed artists as organist Chelsea Chen and bandoneónist Héctor Del Curto at the Kauffman Center,” says Jane Chu, president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. “From Tango music to organ concerts, the Kauffman Center Presents series showcases diversity in the performing arts.”

With these scheduled performances and others like them, the Kauffman Center continues to serve its mission by creating partnerships in the community which allows Kansas City audiences to experience exceptional performing arts.

Leave a Reply