Library of Congress hosts free annual concert series with world-class musicians

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Library of Congress concert series (Part 1)

The Library of Congress isn’t just a national place for academic research.

You can also enjoy free live music with the institution’s annual concert series.

“The first concert was in Oct. 1925, so this is year 97,” Senior Producer Anne McLean told WTOP. “We’re excited about this coming season. We’ll have both virtual and live events this coming year. It’s a really wide-ranging offering with world-class artists performing classical music, great jazz and special projects featuring both dance and spoken word.”

The virtual fall season kicks off Oct. 8 with “A Fiddler’s Tale” by Wynton Marsalis.

“This is a special program that brings together African American players from the nation’s top orchestras, plus actor Nick Few and conductor Damien Sneed,” McLean said. “It starts out with Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Soldier’s Tale,’ which is about a musician who sells his soul to the devil, then Marsalis’ ‘A Fiddler’s Tale’ [where] the devil is a record producer.”

Next, actor Ralph Fiennes narrates “Tchaikovsky & His Poets” on Oct. 14.

“It’s a beautiful, really sumptuous concert with a mezzo-soprano called Alice Coote and the pianist is Christian Blackshaw,” McLean said. “Her voice is like an all-terrain vehicle of awesome power. … Interspersed between those songs, Ralph Fiennes is reading poems by Lermontov, Fet and others that were important to Tchaikovsky.”

This month also brings the dance and percussion event “Metamorphosis” on Oct. 30.

“This concert is so touching,” McLean said. “Third Coast Percussion, a Grammy-winning group, a quartet of percussionists have conceived this show called ‘Metamorphosis.’ They have collaborated with fantastic dancers from Movement Art Is. Lil Buck [and] Jon Boogz are the choreographers and their motto is using dance to inspire change in the world.”

Also, don’t miss an exciting virtual concert with Hub New Music on Nov. 5.

“We are proud to be doing the virtual premiere of this piece, ‘Requiem for the Enslaved,'” McLean said. “The story is about the 272 enslaved people who were sold by Georgetown University to pay construction debts for the building of university buildings. … Carlos Simon is the composer and this is a beautiful piece … inflected with hip-hop, jazz, R&B.”

After the virtual fall season, in-person concerts resume in February.

“The concerts are in the Coolidge Auditorium, which is part of the Jefferson Building, that beautiful building with the dome, right across from the U.S. Capitol,” McLean said. “For a long time, people thought, ‘It’s inside a large building, how do you get there?’ … but we want everyone in the D.C. metropolitan area to come experience the concert hall.”

See the full lineup of free concerts here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Library of Congress concert series (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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