The Knights are an orchestral collective, flexible in size and repertory, dedicated to transforming the concert experience. Engaging listeners and defying boundaries with programs that showcase the players’ roots in the classical tradition and passion for artistic discovery, The Knights have “become one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products… known far beyond the borough for their relaxed virtuosity and expansive repertory” (New Yorker).
The Knights’ 2015-16 season kicks off at Caramoor, a regular stop for the ensemble, with a performance featuring cello superstar Yo-Yo Ma. The group will be in residence at Brooklyn’s BRIC House, as part of a series of New York City residencies undertaken with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. On Gil Shaham’s 1930’s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2, to be released in February, The Knights join the master violinist on Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto. The group teams up again with Shaham for a North American tour with stops in Baltimore, Toronto, Chicago and Atlanta. Other season highlights include a new collaboration with French pianist Lise de la Salle and residencies at Dartmouth, Penn State and Washington D.C.’s Dumbarton Oaks.
Recent season highlights include The Knights’ debut at Carnegie Hall in the New York premiere of the Steven Stucky/Jeremy Denk opera The Classical Style; a U.S. tour with banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck; a European tour with soprano Dawn Upshaw, including the group’s debut at Vienna’s Musikverein; frequent festival appearances at Ravinia and Tanglewood; and seven years of free summer performances at Central Park’s Naumburg Orchestral Concerts and Bryant Park. In recent years The Knights have collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Dawn Upshaw, the Mark Morris Dance Group, Joshua Redman, Silk Road virtuoso Siamak Aghaei, and pipa virtuoso Wu Man. Recordings include 2015’s “instinctive and appealing” (The Times, UK) the ground beneath our feet on Warner Classics, featuring the ensemble’s first original group composition; an all-Beethoven disc on Sony Classical (their third project with the label); and 2012’s “smartly programmed” (NPR) A Second of Silence for Ancalagon.
The Knights evolved from late-night chamber music reading parties with friends at the home of violinist Colin Jacobsen and cellist Eric Jacobsen. The Jacobsen brothers, who are also founding members of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, serve as artistic directors of The Knights, with Eric Jacobsen as conductor. In December 2012, the Jacobsens were selected from among the nation’s top visual, performing, media, and literary artists to receive a prestigious United States Artists Fellowship.
The Knights’ roster boasts remarkably diverse talents, including composers, arrangers, singer-songwriters, and improvisers, who bring a range of cultural influences to the group, from jazz and klezmer to pop and indie rock music. The unique camaraderie within the group retains the intimacy and spontaneity of chamber music in performance.
Colin Jacobsen, Artistic Director
As the Washington Post observes, violinist and composer Colin Jacobsen is “one of the most interesting figures on the classical music scene.” A founding member of two game-changing, audience-expanding ensembles – the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and orchestra The Knights – he is also a touring member of Yo-Yo Ma’s venerated Silk Road Project and an Avery Fisher Career Grant-winning violinist. Jacobsen’s work as a composer developed as a natural outgrowth of his chamber and orchestral collaborations. Jointly inspired by encounters with leading exponents of non-western traditions and by his own classical heritage, his most recent compositions for Brooklyn Rider include “Three Miniatures” – “vivacious, deftly drawn sketches” (New York Times) – which were written for the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Islamic art galleries. Jacobsen collaborated with Iran’s Siamak Aghaei to write a Persian folk-inflected composition, “Ascending Bird,” which he performed as soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, in a concert that was streamed live by millions of viewers worldwide. His work for dance and theater includes Chalk and Soot, a collaboration with Dance Heginbotham, and music for Compagnia de’ Colombari’s theatrical production of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.
Eric Jacobsen, Artistic Director
Hailed by the New York Times as “an interpretive dynamo,” conductor and cellist Eric Jacobsen has built a reputation for engaging audiences with innovative and collaborative projects. Jacobsen is the founder and Artistic Director The Knights and a founding member of the genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider. As conductor of The Knights, Jacobsen has led the “consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble” (New York Times) at New York venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to Central Park, and at renowned international halls such as the Vienna Musikverein and Cologne Philharmonie. In the 2015-16 season, Jacobsen celebrates his inaugural season as Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic and his second season as both Music Director of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and Artistic Partner with the Northwest Sinfonietta. Also in demand as a guest conductor, Jacobsen has recently led the Camerata Bern, the Detroit Symphony, the Alabama Symphony, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, Deutsche Philharmonie Merck, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble.
Texture, nuance, and a gift for dexterous high-wire improvisation are the hallmarks of San Francisco-based classically trained pianist Holly Bowling, who infuses jam band music with a technically advanced, emotionally rich style. After studying piano performance at SF State University, Bowling has turned her agile mind and interpretive prowess to the works of Phish on 2013’s Distillation Of A Dream album and the Grateful Dead focused Better Left Unsung (released December 9, 2016 through The Royal Potato Family). Her instantly compelling playing and unerring ability to successfully collaborate with other musicians in an impressive array of styles has brought her to the attention of Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes, and other luminaries who’ve asked Bowling to perform with them. Already a rising star on the festival circuit, Bowling plans to continue to expand her solo touring, and recently formed a new band Ghost Light with Tom Hamilton, Steve Lyons, Raina Mullen and Scotty Zwang.
Meandering through all walks of musical life, violinist, violist, vocalist, and composer Christina Courtin was deeply rooted in classical music at a very early age. She studied violin at Juilliard and continues to perform in The Knights, based in New York City. Alongside of playing violin, Miss Courtin has developed a style of singing and writing that has lended itself to many welcomed opportunities. She has performed with such artists as Yo- Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, Don Byron, Teddy Thompson, Paula Robison, Kayne West, Mark O'Connor, Ryan Adams, Michael Ward-Bergeman, Brooklyn RIder, and Billy Martin. Christina is a recipient of the Charles Makish Award. She released her debut album of self-composed songs for Nonesuch Records in January 2009.