The Knights Ensemble

Helicon Performances

Jaap Schröder Orchestra Workshop

The Knights are an orchestra of friends from a broad spectrum of the New York music world who cultivate collaborative music making and creatively engage audiences in the shared joy of musical performance.  Led by an open-minded spirit of camaraderie and exploration, they expand the orchestral concert experience with programs that encompass their roots in the Classical tradition and their passion for musical discovery.  For their inspired programming, innovative formats and “crusading musical mission,” The Knights have been hailed as “the future of classical music in America” (Los Angeles Times).

Led by conductor Eric Jacobsen, The Knights perform in a wide range of concert venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Brooklyn Lyceum, Central Park, Le Poisson Rouge, Tonic, the Whitney Museum and Mass MoCA. Also in demand on the international stage, they have appeared at the Dresden Musikfestspiele, the National Gallery in Dublin, and have toured Germany with cellist Jan Vogler.  Their expanding presence on the music festival scene has included performances at the Ravinia Festival, the Stillwater Music Festival in Minnesota, and Caramoor’s Fall Festival with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

During the 2011/12 season, following a return engagement to Ravinia and a trio of concerts in Central Park, The Knights make a number of high-profile appearances.  Highlights include collaborations with New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the 92nd Street Y.  The orchestra tours Germany in March and embarks on its first U.S. tour in April.  Additionally, The Knights begin a residency at New York Public Radio’s WQXR as its first radio orchestra, and The Knights are Coming, a documentary film produced by WNET/Thirteen, makes its broadcast debut in September.

This season The Knights add a new recording to their increasingly impressive discography; A Second in Silencecouples music by Erik Satie and Morton Feldman with Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony.  The ensemble records an all-Beethoven disc for Sony Classical, their third project with the label.  The first, a live recording from New York’s cutting edge concert venue Le Poisson Rouge, showcased cellist Jan Vogler in the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 alongside arrangements of Shostakovich waltzes and the Jimi Hendrix song "Machine Gun”. New Worlds featured works by Copland, Dvorak, Ives, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Osvaldo Golijov.  In 2010 Orange Mountain Music released Lisa Bielawa’s Chance Encounter with The Knights and soprano Susan Narucki.  Mozart, the ensemble’s collaboration with Lara and Scott St. John in the Sinfonia Concertante and Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 for Ancalagon, a 2010 JUNO Award-winning collaboration. Strings magazine proclaimed, “These gifted young players have created a flawless recording.”  The Knights also can be heard on the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola’s newly released film, Twixt.

The orchestra's extensive repertoire features traditional and contemporary masterworks of classical, popular, and world music in collaboration with such leading artists as soprano Dawn Upshaw and violinist Gil Shaham, flutist Paula Robison, singer-songwriter (and Knights violinist) Christina Courtin, Iranian ney (Persian bamboo flute), virtuoso Siamak Jahangiri, pianist Steven Beck, fiddler Mark O'Connor, and Syrian clarinetist/composer Kinan Azmeh.

Dedicated to the music of our time, The Knights have served as the resident orchestra of the MATA Festival for young composers, premiering new works by Christopher Tignor and Prix-de-Rome winner Yotam Haber.  The ensemble has worked closely with composer Osvaldo Golijov, performing his Passion According to St. Mark in the Canary Islands in May 2009 and several of his works with soprano Dawn Upshaw.

The unique roster of The Knights boasts an unprecedented diversity of talents.  There are composers, arrangers, singer-songwriters and improvisers who bring a range of cultural influences to the group from jazz and klezmer genres to pop and indie rock music.  The musicians are graduates of such elite music schools as Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman, Manhattan and Mannes, and members have performed as soloists with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago and San Francisco symphony orchestras, as well as the Israel Philharmonic and Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart orchestra.  Equally successful as chamber and orchestral musicians, they participate in the world's most prestigious music festivals, including Marlboro, Tanglewood, Verbier, Lucerne and Salzburg, and perform with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Toronto Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble.

The formation of 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 Brooklyn Rider, serve as co-artistic directors for The Knights, with Eric Jacobsen as music director.  The unique camaraderie within the orchestra continues to create an intimacy and immediacy of chamber music in performance. Each opportunity for these busy, versatile musicians to perform together as The Knights is a special occasion that they consider, quite literally, playtime.