Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival: A Decade of Genre-Bending Music

From now until Thanksgiving, Lincoln Center offers an array of breathtaking musical and theatrical events intended to nourish your ears and your soul.

Photo by Frank Stewart/Courtesy of Lincoln Center

For three generations now accustomed to the ever-present Internet and constantly streaming media services, the boundary lines of genre have become something of a relic—less of a perimeter to bind your interests (remember defining your musical tastes by record shop section?) and more of an exclusionary prison. Surprisingly, Lincoln Center has been ahead of this curve for 10 years.

The decade-old, multigenre White Light Festival is LC’s annual celebration of live performance’s “capacity to illuminate the many dimensions of our interior lives.” Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s often where you’ll find some of that venerable institution’s youngest and most culturally diverse crowds both on and off the stage. Want to be at the intersection of classical, gospel, jazz, Sufi drumming, and Shakespeare? Head to these four White Light events.

The Dazzling, Delirious Manganiyar Seduction

To paraphrase Sondheim, if you want to get ahead in the competitive arena of global music, you gotta have a gimmick. This combo of more than 40 Sufi instrumentalists and vocalists hailing from northwest India expertly sing and play an exhilarating mix of folk, spiritual, and classical music in response to Deu Khan’s energetic conducting. But what sets the group apart is its novel staging: The artists are seated within singular chambers in horizontal rows of 10, then stacked vertically four deep. The effect is similar to an advent calendar, and the synchronized track lighting illuminating each booth provides a Hollywood Squares–esque eye-catching light show that must be seen live to be believed.

lincoln center white light festival
Photo by Sinbad Phgura/Courtesy of Lincoln Center

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater
10 Columbus Circle, 5th Floor (at West 60th Street), Lincoln Center
Wednesday, November 6—Saturday, November 9
Tickets start at $55

Druid Theater’s Darkly Dreamy Richard III

The Irish Druid Theater Company made its reputation with the internationally acclaimed Druid Shakespeare cycle, a monumental seven-hour condensation of the four key histories that make up the traditional Shakespearean Henriad: Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II, and Henry V. As helmed by Garry Hynes, the first female Tony Award–winning director, the company’s take on the eventual downfall of the unloved and villainous King Richard III promises rococo costuming, stark sets, and bravura performances laced with archly dark comedy, all in a tidy three hours.

Gerald W. Lynch Theater
524 West 59th Street (between Tenth and West End Avenues), Hell’s Kitchen
Thursday, November 7—Saturday, November 23
Tickets start at $35

Words and Music With Caroline Shaw and the Attacca Quartet

Meet NYC’s hometown favorite chamber string foursome, an established group of Juilliard graduates and string virtuosos known as the Attacca Quartet. Following a breakout rendition of “Clair de Lune” recorded for the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle, Attacca has lately paired up with the innovative, Pulitzer Prize–winning composer, performer, and Kanye West collaborator Caroline Shaw for its latest LP, Orange. Given Shaw and company’s cult status among the young modern classical audience, plan to line up at least 45 minutes early if you want to get into this free recital.

lincoln center white light festival
Photo by Jorsand Diaz/Courtesy of Lincoln Center

David Rubenstein Atrium
61 West 62nd Street (between Broadway and Columbus Avenue), Lincoln Center
Thursday, November 14

The Abyssinian Mass by Wynton Marsalis

A nine-time Grammy Award winner, the preeminent voice of Ken Burns’s enormously influential Jazz series, and the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center for more than two decades, Wynton Marsalis has established himself as one of his chosen genre’s most outspoken, divisive, and respected voices, all before the age of 60. One of his most highly regarded compositions is his 2013 feature-length Abyssinian Mass, a celebration of the Harlem Abyssinian Baptist Church that neatly melds the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with the Chorale Le Chateau Choir. This short run of The Abyssinian Mass reunites its original players for an only-in-NYC revival.

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater
10 Columbus Circle, 5th Floor (at West 60th Street), Lincoln Center
Thursday, November 21—Saturday, November 23
Tickets start at $70

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