Image courtesy of National Sawdust.

Free admission (all visitors, all hours)


In times of trouble, we seek out songs we know which bring us comfort. Great artists harness that impulse of nostalgia and desire for the familiar, then use that energy to subvert expectations with new possibilities. For Week 13, National Sawdust’s “Digital Discovery Festival” embraces Renewalas a creative force to reshape music in ways we never considered and bring light to our darkest hours.
The magnetic impresario Michael Mwenso, alongside his band The Shakes, specializes in musical code-switching, freely adopting and repurposing the drama, whimsy and spirit of the Great American Songbook, African beats, funk, modern jazz, dance pop, Delta blues and cabaret theater with equal, effortless verve. Pre-COVID, Mwenso was a Season Five National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence; he’s spent much of the spring and summer in quarantine with his bandmate, the South African nightingale-voiced Vuyo Sotashe. The two will present a selection of original duets, both new and from the Shakes catalogue, on August 4.
The four-string artists who make up Tesla Quartet originally met while students at Juilliard; a decade later, they’ve become a highly-regarded professional chamber group whose finely filigreed, lyrical renditions of the works of Haydn, Ravel, Mozart and Stravinsky have won plaudits from BBC Music and The Strad. Though their planned touring schedule has been critically impacted by COVID-19, the Quartet are currently engaged in the Alternating Currents Project, commissioning a group of a dozen similarly hard-hit composers┬áto create new works for performance. They’ll share some of these new compositions for their Discovery Concert on August 6.
The August 7 Masterclass conversation-performance, hosted by vocalist Helga Davis and National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini, features Lawrence Brownlee, the tenor that NPR called “one of the most in-demand opera singers in the world today.” Brownlee will discuss his process when adapting a new role, his critically-acclaimed recital work Cycles of My Being (created in collaboration with composer Tyshawn Sorey and lyricist Terrance Hayes) and his fervent advocacy for greater diversity within the opera community.