By Hannah Reimann
Singer-songwriter Christina Courtin and The Knights, an adventurous musical ensemble of classically trained instrumentalists, played their Joe’s Pub debut on Mozart’s 264th birthday, January 27, 2020. Four of the Knights fittingly dedicated the first movement of Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D Major, K. 285 to the composer as a prelude to a full set of songs by Courtin.
Founded by violinist and cellist, Colin and Eric Jacobsen, The Knights are comprised of about thirty-eight top-class players, from strings to brass, woodwinds, piano and much more, mostly Juilliard grads living in Brooklyn. They are “flexible in size and repertory,” have played with Yo-Yo Ma, premiered new works, toured the US and Europe, seeking out new adventures on a regular basis.
For this special event, eleven players joined Courtin who is also a Knight, a violinist who sometimes sings and plays simultaneously, to celebrate the release of her new album, ”Situation Station.” This sophisticated collection of deeply personal and heartfelt songs, many having to do with Courtin’s family, is beautifully enhanced by the instrumental arrangements. The band’s versatility and command of style allow them to flow from sounds of Americana, folk, country, early Jazz Honky Tonk and Blues that characterize Courtin’s melodies and harmonies, all the while maintaining a perfectly in-tune, synchronized wall of sound for her, sometimes spare and reflective, sometimes rich and exuberant. The Knights recorded the album with her and are clearly dedicated to making the songs exceptional. This made for a most enjoyable performance and celebration. There were whistling of melodies, piano, string and vocal tunes played in unison and other entrancing combinations unusual to a typical live pop sound. Nonetheless, the songs are absolutely accessible to audiences of various genres. This is a demonstration of how The Knights wish to eliminate barriers between audiences and music. The audience was thrilled by the music; they listened attentively throughout the show.
Some of the album’s songs recant complex emotions about Courtin’s mother (“You Held Me Up”), her brother (“Matthew’s Wings”), some were richly arranged for the large group providing lush possibilities for expansion of volume and effect in performance (“Coyote Midnight”). This was not a common run down of love songs by a beginner; they are stories about life, reflections of important experiences told with honesty, candor and an open heart by a woman who truly cares.
Between two “Situation Station” songs, Courtin sang a gorgeous cover of a song by Judee Sill, “The Kiss,” together with Alex Sopp, flutist in the band, who put her flute down to sing with equal passion. Sill was a songwriter active in the 1970’s.
The Knights will be performing on Saturday, February 15, 2020, from 2-3pm at BRIC, 647 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, a one-hour matinee where audiences of all ages will be introduced to classical music in a fun, relaxed and interactive setting. Christina Courtin will be at the Irish Arts Center at 553 West 51st Street at 7pm on Monday, March 9th.