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The Barnes Foundation to Launch Three New Musical Performance Series Inspired by Dr. Barnes's Philosophy

January 23, 2017

Philadelphia — This year, the Barnes Foundation will launch three new musical performance series. Featuring chamber and orchestral repertoire, the Barnes Ensemble is a groundbreaking performance ensemble inspired by Albert Barnes’s unconventional approach to arranging art. The Solo Series features leading musicians from around the world, including renowned violinist Miriam Fried and acclaimed contemporary pianist Marilyn Nonken, performing as unaccompanied soloists. The Resounding Voices Choral Series is a bi-monthly choral concert that reflects Barnes’s love of choral repertoire by welcoming an array of performers in various genres.

“Dr. Barnes’s deep love of music informs a great deal of the programming we’ll be doing going forward,” says Martha Lucy, deputy director for education & public programs and curator. “Barnes was very interested in the structural relationship between art and music, and we want to continue exploring that relationship, focusing especially on the amazing creative output of the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Robert Whalen and Katherine Skovira, co-artistic directors of the three new series, are delving into the role that music has historically played at the Foundation, especially during Barnes’s lifetime. “Dr. Barnes had an extensive music collection—classical and spirituals especially—and used it as an essential part of his classes. These three series expand upon Dr. Barnes’s love of music and connect it to the rich tapestry of art featured in the Barnes Collection,” says Whalen. 

“We think of concert programming just as Dr. Barnes conceived of his radical arrangements of artwork. What is so intriguing about music at the Foundation, and specifically what is so exciting about the Barnes Ensemble, is that Barnes’s deep commitment to education and to John Dewey’s concept of  ‘art as experience’ gives great life to music as a truly universal language,” says Skovira.

A quarterly concert series debuting in fall 2017, the Barnes Ensemble will feature a boundary-crossing, genre-redefining collection of musical pieces from different times and cultures, with special emphasis on contemporary musical repertoire and its ties to past traditions. Each Barnes Ensemble program invites the audience to experience works that have been carefully curated for the richness of their connections with each other, independent of historical period and instrumentation. In the spirit of Barnes, who constantly experimented with his wall ensembles to inspire new thought and conversation on the relationships between works, the Barnes Ensemble's performances will explore new ideas and provoke insight for audience and performers alike.

The Solo Series debuts on Friday, January 27 with “Fragments,” featuring individual performances by world-class clarinetist Carol McGonnell and noted contemporary music vocalist Katherine Skovira. This is the first series of its kind to exclusively feature unaccompanied soloists in concert across a season. With six programs each year, the Solo Series will engage audiences through directness and vulnerability, revealing the artist not as a magician at a distance but as a human exploring the beauty of artistic creation. This intense focus on the solo performer mirrors new interpretive initiatives related to the Barnes Collection—especially the In Focus gallery talks, which direct visitors’ attention to a single work within the iconic wall ensembles.  

The Resounding Voices Choral Series begins Sunday, February 26, with Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Vigilia with the Philadelphia Voices and Robert Whalen, guest conductor. This concert series will be held six times a year in the Barnes Foundation’s Annenberg Court. Evolving from Dr. Barnes’s interest in choral music, this series will feature a diverse array of choral artists and music of various historical periods and genres, including Baroque, gospel, jazz, glee, orchestra, chamber music, and a cappella singing, among others. Participating groups include the world-renowned Westminster Choir of Westminster Choir College; the Philadelphia Voices, a professional choir composed of Philadelphia’s top choral artists; and St. Thomas Gospel Choir, which has been featured on film and television soundtracks.


The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” The Barnes holds one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico; works by American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast; Old Master paintings; important examples of African sculpture; Native American ceramics, jewelry, and textiles; decorative arts and ironwork; and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. 

While most collections are grouped by chronology, style, or genre, art at the Barnes is arranged in ensembles structured according to light, line, color, and space—principles that Dr. Barnes called “the universal language of art.” The Foundation’s programs include First Fridays, young professionals nights, tours, tastings, and family programs, as well as Barnes–de Mazia Education Program courses and workshops. These programs advance the Foundation’s mission through progressive, experimental, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. The Barnes Foundation is open Wednesday–Monday, and tickets can be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215.278.7200. Ticket prices and current hours are listed on our website. 

The Barnes Arboretum in Merion contains more than 2,500 varieties of trees and woody plants, many of them rare. Founded in the 1880s by Joseph Lapsley Wilson and expanded under the direction of Laura Leggett Barnes, the living collections include 40 state champion trees, a Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus), a dove tree (Davidia involucrata), a monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), and a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Other important plant collections include lilacs, peonies, Stewartias, ferns, medicinal plants, hostas, and magnolias. The Horticulture Education Program has offered a comprehensive three-year certificate course in the botanical sciences, horticulture, garden aesthetics, and design since its establishment in 1940 by Mrs. Barnes. The arboretum also offers horticulture workshops and lectures and is open to the public Saturday–Sunday during the summer months. Tickets can be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215.278.7200. Ticket prices and current hours are listed on our website. 



Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications