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Barnes Ensemble Festival

Music / Performance

Saturday, September 30 – Sunday, October 8

The JACK Quartet.

About the Barnes Ensemble

The Barnes Foundation announces the creation of its own contemporary music ensemble, the Barnes Ensemble.

Chosen from around the world in a competitive application process, these young professional musicians will gather in Philadelphia from September 30 to October 8, 2017, to play at this premiere festival. The JACK Quartet will appear as the core of this new collective, alongside 20 Barnes Ensemble Fellows, with music director Robert Whalen conducting. Composers-in-residence Chaya Czernowin (Harvard University) and Eric Wubbels (NYC; Wet Ink Ensemble) will join us for master classes on their own works with the Fellows, and the festival will host the US premiere of Clara Iannotta’s dead wasps in the jam-jar (ii).

Fellows will participate in nine days of workshops, master classes, and chamber concerts. Over the course of the fellowships, they will be working with more than 800 schoolchildren across the Philadelphia region. This intense rehearsal and performance period will culminate in the highly anticipated Barnes Ensemble premiere on October 8.

Festival Highlights

October 4, 10am - 12pm Open Rehearsal

Barnes Foundation, Annenberg Court; sold out

Enjoy, learn, and listen at an open rehearsal with the Barnes Ensemble. In this educational behind-the-scenes program, you’ll see how music director Robert Whalen works with professional musicians who specialize in contemporary orchestral music. You’ll also have a chance to ask questions and meet the performers.

October 4, 7 - 9pm Chamber Music Concert: “Nature/Renewed”

Curtis Institute of Music, Gould Hall; free and open to the public

See the Barnes Ensemble members in an energetic and virtuosic chamber music program that includes Loren Loiacono’s Waxing Cerulean, Xenakis’s Tetras, Weisse Apfel by Klaus Lang, Wolfgang Rihm’s in nuce, and Natura Renovatur by Giacinto Scelsi.

October 6, 3 - 6pm Eric Wubbels Master Class

Philadelphia Free Library, Montgomery Auditorium; free and open to the public

Composer Eric Wubbels and violist John Richards coach the Barnes Ensemble’s viola section in Wubbels’s Viola Quartet. Audience members and performers alike will have the opportunity to hear a composer discuss his own work alongside an experienced contemporary music performer.

October 6, 7 - 7:30pm First Friday! Performance

Barnes Foundation, Annenberg Court; included in First Friday! admission

Come party at the Barnes Foundation’s First Friday! celebration and hear members of the Barnes Ensemble light up the night with electrifying new compositions.

October 7, 7 - 9pm Chaya Czernowin Master Class

University of Pennsylvania, Rose Recital Hall at Fisher-Bennett Hall (3340 Walnut Street, 4th Floor); free and open to the public

Internationally acclaimed composer and Harvard professor Chaya Czernowin will present an open workshop with Barnes Ensemble Fellows on her string octet Anea. Czernowin will coach the Fellows and discuss elements of her composition.  

October 8, 7 - 9pm Barnes Ensemble Premiere Concert: “Ramifications”

Barnes Foundation, Annenberg Court

Don’t miss the debut performance of the Barnes Ensemble. This concert is the culmination of the nine-day festival and features the work of contemporary composers-in-residence Chaya Czernowin and Eric Wubbels, and the US premiere of Clara Iannotta’s dead wasps in the jam-jar (ii), as well as works by György Ligeti, Ruth Crawford Seeger, and Zosha Di Castri.

Artistic Team

Meet the Barnes Ensemble's artistic team.

JACK Quartet

JACK Quartet

Dubbed “superheroes of the new music world” (The Boston Globe), the JACK Quartet is “the go-to quartet for contemporary music, tying impeccable musicianship to intellectual ferocity and a take-no-prisoners sense of commitment.” (The Washington Post) The quartet—violinists Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violist John Pickford Richards, and cellist Jay Campbell—operates as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the performance and development of new string quartet music.
Photo by Shervin Lainez
Robert Whalen, Music Director

Robert Whalen, Music Director

Robert Whalen, DMA, is the music director and co-artistic director of the Barnes Ensemble. Previously he served as director of the chamber orchestra at the University of Chicago, assistant c­onductor with Germany’s WDR Funkhausorchester, and conductor of the Contemporary Music Workshop at the University of Minnesota.
Photo by Keitaro Harada
Katherine Skovira, Co-Artistic Director

Katherine Skovira, Co-Artistic Director

A Philadelphia native, Katherine Skovira has performed contemporary vocal masterworks of the 20th and 21st centuries with many of the world’s leading contemporary music orchestras and festivals, including the Lucerne Festival, Bard Music Festival, and Aspen Music Festival, under the artistic direction of Maestro Lorin Maazel, Sir Simon Rattle, and Barbara Hannigan.
Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Inside the Barnes Ensemble: A Conversation with Its Founders

Co-artistic directors Katherine Skovira and Robert Whalen talk about the genesis of the innovative contemporary music collective on VERSO, our behind-the-scenes podcast series.

Subscribe to VERSO by searching for "Barnes Foundation" on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app.

About the Fellows

We are pleased to announce our String Fellows for Fall 2017, selected from across the world in a highly competitive application process. They consist of three young professional ensembles and nine individual performers.

Argus Quartet

Argus Quartet

Praised for their “supreme melodic control and total authority” (Calgary Herald), the Argus Quartet is gaining a reputation as one of today’s most dynamic young ensembles. The group—composed of violinists Clara Kim and Jason Issokson, violist Dana Kelley, and cellist Joann Whang—served as the fellowship quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music and will begin an appointment as the graduate resident string quartet at the Juilliard School in fall 2017.
Ensemble Chartreuse

Ensemble Chartreuse

Chartreuse is violinist Myra Hinrichs (Chicago), violist Carrie Frey (New York City), and cellist Helen Newby (San Francisco). The musicians take advantage of their physical distance by pooling the strengths of their chosen cities, developing the string trio repertoire through adventurous commissions, and collaborating with fellow performers in each of their musical residences on “Chartreuse +/-” projects.
Ligeti Quartet

Ligeti Quartet

The Ligeti Quartet—violinists Mandhira de Saram and Patrick Dawkins, violist Richard Jones, and cellist Val Welbanks—is dedicated to performing modern and contemporary music, commissioning new works, and engaging diverse audiences. The UK-based group has played throughout the world. They regularly lead performance and composition workshops and undertake community outreach work, and are ensemble-in-residence at Sheffield and Cambridge universities.

Individual String Fellows

Giancarlo Latta, violin

Giancarlo Latta, violin

Fiercely committed to the music of our time, violinist Giancarlo Latta has premiered dozens of works by young composers. In 2016–17, Latta curated and premiered “16x16: The Rice Encores Project,” a large-scale commissioning endeavor featuring 16 new short works for violin and piano. Latta is currently pursuing graduate studies at Rice.
Alicja Marta Pilarczyk, violin

Alicja Marta Pilarczyk, violin

Alicja Pilarczyk is a violinist and an assistant at the Academy of Arts in Szczecin, Poland. She tries to understand music through the connection between the disciplines of art, language, and psychology. She lives in Basel, Switzerland.
Sarah Saviet, violin

Sarah Saviet, violin

Sarah Saviet is an American violinist based in Cologne, Germany. She is a member of London’s Riot Ensemble and frequently performs with contemporary ensembles. Saviet recently gave the UK premiere of Liza Lim’s violin concerto Speak, be Silent, and held residencies as a visiting artist at University of the Arts Berlin, Aldeburgh Music, and Harvard University.
Leslee Smucker, violin

Leslee Smucker, violin

Violinist Leslee Smucker is an active performer, collaborator, artist, and teacher. Her interest in the combination of arts impacted the creation of many inter-art projects. She holds a doctorate of musical arts from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Hannah Nicholas, viola

Hannah Nicholas, viola

A 2014–17 member of the New World Symphony, Philadelphia native Hannah Nicholas was appointed principal viola of Colorado’s Central City Opera Orchestra in January. She is a founding member of the indie-folk trio The alt Default. She earned her master's in music from New England Conservatory.
Samuel Kelder, viola

Samuel Kelder, viola

Described as “dynamic and committed” by the Boston Globe, violist Sam Kelder performs regularly in New England with ensembles A Far Cry, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Guerilla Opera, Callithumpian Consort, Sound Icon, and Palaver Strings. Kelder recently completed his doctoral studies at Boston University as teaching assistant to Michelle LaCourse.
Iva Casian-Lakos, cello

Iva Casian-Lakos, cello

Iva Casian-Lakos holds a master of music in cello performance from New England Conservatory and bachelor of music in cello performance from Oberlin Conservatory.
Sonia Mantell, cello

Sonia Mantell, cello

Sonia Mantell, a cellist from Orland Park, Illinois, studied at New England Conservatory and DePaul School of Music. She was appointed co-principal cellist of the NEC orchestras and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. In 2016, Mantell won a position on the cello sublist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Cody Takács, bass

Cody Takács, bass

Bassist Cody Takács has performed with various ensembles across Europe, including the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy and the Hodiernal Quartet, a nontraditional string quartet of which he is also a founding member. As a soloist, Takács has performed at universities and conservatories across the US and Europe.


Thomas Kotcheff—scratch cradle (2014) / Argus Quartet

Anna Meredith: Music for Ravens (2005) / Ligeti Quartet


March 5–9, 2018: Percussion and chamber ensemble
June 11–16, 2018: Chamber orchestra

Leading percussionist and contemporary music advocate Steven Schick joins the Barnes artistic staff in 2018 for the March and June festivals, with performances to include works by Gérard Grisey, Pierre Boulez, Vivian Fung, and Anna Thorvaldsdottir.

Applications are now open for March and June 2018 for percussion and chamber ensemble.



The Barnes Ensemble is made possible by:

The Barnes Ensemble would like to give special thanks to its partners:

Play On Philly!
The Lucerne Festival Academy
The Curtis Institute
The Free Library of Philadelphia
Jacobs Music Company
University of Pennsylvania Department of Music