WELCOME BACK LIVE: Curated Playlists

This article was originally published on the Duke Performances blog

Duke Performances returns to live performance this fall with 16 presentations that welcome audiences back to stages at Duke University and in downtown Durham. Welcome Back Live!

These fresh and electic playlists—curated by music critic and reporter Jeremy Reynolds—will introduce you to the artists headlining our fall 2021 season.

We also encourage you to check Duke Performances’ blog to read Q&As with fall 2021 artists Imani Winds, Chris Pattishall, and Bijayini Satpathy.


The works on Duke Performances’ upcoming Chamber Arts Series may seem familiar, but listen again — there’s an extra melody in the famous Mozart piano sonata, what sounds like Shostakovich is actually the work of his long-overlooked friend Mieczysław Weinberg and a tune that shares a nom de plume with a Chuck Barry hit is a mashup of a pair of Beethoven’s late piano sonatas.

This is in addition to some sublime moments from the standard repertoire, like the Adagio non troppo from Brahms’ first piano trio and the plucky quirk of the scherzo from Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major. These fragments combine to sketch an outline of what the season holds, head down the Spotify rabbit hole on the works that excite your ear.


Lend an ear to some of North Carolina’s finest singer songwriters. The stomping, smoldering rhythms of Raleigh native Rissi Palmer, the experimental alt-pop-rock of Chapel Hill-based The Veldt duo, the polished haze of Durham’s own Skylar Gudasz, and more are all present on Duke Performance’s upcoming American Tobacco Campus Series.

Palmer’s “Best Day Ever” is a grin-inspiring tribute to positivity, while the anthem-like proclamations of garage punk band The Gories in their 1991 hit “Thunderbird ESQ” delivers some rust belt muscle to the set list. On the folksier side of this soundscape, The Dead Tongues‘ “The Giver” offers some homespun wisdom (“Whole world keeps on spinning / You can try to hold on too / I was gone ‘fore the first frost / In the pale November dew”) backed with acoustic strumming and drumming, and Cimafunk provides an Afro-Cuban funk flair with tracks like the angst-ridden “Revuelto.” This of this playlist as a tasting menu, providing samples of what’s to come and an opportunity to discover new sounds and juxtapositions.


What follows instrumental playlist with an asterisk, as the perfectly balanced tones of British a cappella wizards The King’s Singers qualify their vocal work as orchestral in scope and blend. They’ll deliver a Christmas set in person this December, but thrill here to some of their best tracks like the African traditional song “Kelele” or the Beatles hit “Blackbird” for a sample of their artistry.

Another group with a flair for continent hopping tunes, the Imani Winds quintet contrasts and soothes with cheery, upbeat tracks like “Umoja” and “Startin’ Sumthin,'” while students from the Duke Chamber Music Program perform alongside the Ciompi Quartet in fellow student Chiayu’s provocative “Journey to the West.” Tracks by artists Hugo Kant and Chassol forshadow a world premiere Bijayini Satpathy‘s expected to explore Indian classical dance music, and GRAMMY-nominated pianist Chris Pattishall rounds out the set list with his an homage and expansion of jazz legend Mary Lou Williams “Zodiac” compositions, inspired by her contemporaries’ astrological signs.

Jeremy Reynolds (@Reynolds_PG) is the classical-music critic and reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He also writes for Symphony Magazine, Early Music America magazine, Opera magazine, and others.