Celebrity Series of Boston has announced its 83rd season, unveiling plans for a long-awaited return to live performance in venues across Boston and Cambridge starting in September after an all-virtual run in 2020-21.
With the 2021-22 offerings, the series aims to balance familiar comfort and exciting new discoveries, Celebrity Series president and executive director Gary Dunning explained over the phone. “We’ve just had a year plus of canceled artists, so on the one hand there is that sense of obligation to those artists who lost opportunities,” he said. “At the same time, there was a desire to make sure that we weren’t just recycling a previous season ... we were trying to stay as current as we could with some new faces, voices, ideas, and content that I think is particularly relevant in this moment.”
Celebrity Series is crossing its fingers that performance venues will be open at full capacity, though it’s prepared to be flexible should further governmental directives come down or individual venues decide to limit seating. Tickets for main-stage performances through January will go on sale to the public Aug. 24, while dates from February through May will be available later this fall. Anyone who buys a ticket for a fall performance before Sept. 24 will be upgraded to subscriber status for the entire season.
“Now that the state and the CDC have essentially lifted all guidelines, all of a sudden we were thrust into a position of creating policy when before we were following it,” Dunning said. “To the audience, we’re going to be very flexible. We’re saying, we want you to be comfortable and feel safe. So if things change and you don’t feel safe, come talk to us about exchanges. We’re going to have to be very open and responsive. Every household is going to have their own definition of safety.”
Several events on this lineup were originally slated for last season, including Béla Fleck’s season-opening “My Bluegrass Heart” showcase (Sept. 25); a cabaret performance by stage giant Alan Cumming and journalist Ari Shapiro (Oct. 24); the solo recital debuts of pianist Conrad Tao (Dec. 1), bass-baritone Dashon Burton (Jan. 19), and violinist Simone Porter (Feb. 9); and a performance by the Takács Quartet (April 30), albeit this season with bandoneonist Julien Labro rather than pianist Jeremy Denk, who makes his own solo appearances (April 2-3). The “Let’s Dance Boston” public social dance festival, featuring live bands and instructors, will at last hit the Rose Kennedy Greenway from May 11-15, over a year and a half after its original September 2020 plan.
The season offers plenty of new ventures as well. Five new performance spaces have been added to the Celebrity Series network, including GBH’s Calderwood Studio, First Church in Cambridge, and Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, which will host a multiday jazz festival in spring 2022. Next spring will also bring Boston audiences’ first chance to see the multimedia project “The Just and the Blind,” a collaboration between poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph and composer Daniel Bernard Roumain that focuses on the experience of incarcerated youth (April 1-2).
On the Neighborhood Arts side, programming centers on three free series, with the first offering a lineup of outdoor concerts presented in partnership with Nuestra Comunidad in Roxbury in July and August. Fall brings a four-concert jazz series to Arlington Street Church and Salvation Army Kroc Center, and spring brings the launch of the “Four by One” commissioning project, which features five composers of color working with four different ensembles. More spring Neighborhood Arts programming will be unveiled later.
Online options will be available for select mainstage performances and for all fall and spring Neighborhood Arts concerts, with details to be announced at a later date.
CELEBRITY SERIES OF BOSTON 2021-22 SEASON
Pre-sale starts Aug. 10 for donors of $100 or more. Tickets for September-January events go on sale Aug. 24. www.celebrityseries.org
A.Z. Madonna can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.