Joanna Newsom with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra All Ages Critic's Choice Soundboard

When: Fri., Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m. 2008

One of my favorite things about Ys (Drag City, 2006), the second album by singer and harpist Joanna Newsom, is the way Van Dyke Parks’s luminous orchestral arrangements do far more than merely add heft: they mirror and thus accentuate the wonderfully peripatetic and conversational quality of Newsom’s songwriting. Her fluid harp arpeggios—which seamlessly reference a variety of folk styles, from Irish to Malian—serve as the structural core, while her hooky, ever-unraveling vocal motifs swirl around them; Parks responds perfectly to this tension, simultaneously keeping the material loose and imbuing it with extraordinary beauty and drama. Newsom played these songs on tour with a scrappy band for much of 2007, but early this year she performed them with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, bringing the full grandeur of the album to life. Now she’ll do the same with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The first half of the concert will feature her four-piece touring outfit together with the CSO and focus on songs from Ys, which have undergone some changes since they were recorded; the second half will be just her and the band. —Peter Margasak

Price: $20-$60

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