David Berry and Friends concert features violinist for Beyoncé, Jay-Z

Date: Friday, March 15
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Martin Chapel
Admission: Free (suggested $10 donation)

EMU’s piano virtuoso David Berry is gathering his friends for a celebration of music and community. And, he’s bringing along a special guest: a Grammy Award-winning violinist who’s performed in sold-out stadiums with Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

The David Berry and Friends concert, back by popular demand for a third straight year, returns to Martin Chapel on Friday, March 15, at 7 p.m. The concert is free to attend and open to the public. A suggested $10 donation can be made online here

Berry, music program director at EMU as well as the night’s featured pianist, said the purpose of the concert is to bring members of the community together for a diverse repertoire of classical, jazz, soul, spirituals and gospel music. 

“All of these styles have been a part of my life,” he said, “and I’ll be performing with people I’ve gotten to know from different corners of our community.”

Who’s on stage

The talented artists joining Berry on stage include: Grammy-nominated cellist Amanda Gookin, saxophonist Josh Dove, drummer and EMU music alum Joseph Harder, bassist Joseph Nichols, multi-genre singers Michael Richardson and Devonte Garcia, actress Andreá Bellamore, and special guest artist, violinist Lady Jess.

During the concert, Berry will share stories of how he knows the musicians performing with him. For example, Dove is the owner of Whitesel Music, a Harrisonburg, Virginia, store that helped Berry move a piano into his home.

Berry and Lady Jess have performed together in New York City with the Harlem Chamber Players. The violinist is a soloing member of Beyoncé’s band and joined the Single Ladies singer and Jay-Z during their On The Run II tour in 2018. She also performed with Beyoncé at the Coachella festival (2018) and appeared in the Netflix concert film Homecoming (2019). Lady Jess has played with The Roots on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and collaborated with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and Hans Zimmer — arranging and recording with the latter for the live-action The Lion King soundtrack.

Gookin is the executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival and works with Berry, its artistic director, to plan the annual weeklong event. Her cello music has been described as “the highest level of artistry” (The WholeNote) and she’s been praised for her “expert technical work” (The Strad).

Both of the night’s vocalists are students at James Madison University. Berry described Richardson’s voice as big, booming and baritone, and Garcia’s as “amazing and soulful.”

What to expect

The concert will feature works ranging from Antonin Dvořák’s Piano Trio No. 3 in F-minor, Op. 65, to soulful classics by Alicia Keys and Walter Hawkins.

Dvořák was a Czech composer from the 19th century best known for his “New World Symphony.” Berry described the piece he’ll be playing with Gookin and Lady Jess as “a full journey.” “It’s a classical masterwork of chamber music,” he said, “but it’s influenced by a love of Bohemian folk music.”

Berry said Lady Jess will meet with EMU music students the day before the concert and talk to them about pursuing a career in music. In a recent Instagram post about the concert, Lady Jess said she was “very excited to meet these students and to collaborate with some incredible artists.”

This event will be livestreamed on the EMU Department of Music Facebook page.

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