NewGal Concert Series Spans Spectrum of Sound, Led by Jamaica Plain’s Sarah Bob

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Longtime Jamaica Plain resident Sarah Bob is the director, pianist and founder of the New Gallery Concert Series. She fielded questions about the series, her musical career, performing in Jamaica Plain, and more.

Jamaica Plain resident Sarah Bob is the director, founder, and pianist of the NewGal Concert Series.

What is the New Gallery Concert Series and why did you want to create it?

Bob: The New Gallery Concert Series is a coming together of new music and new visual art. Everyone involved is alive, high quality, and kind. Even though I am trained as a classical musician, I have always had an affinity for visual art, especially by artists of today.

Starting NewGal was my opportunity to be surrounded by visuals, and visuals of today, no less, and still give myself and my musician colleagues opportunities of our own. What is new? What does new mean to you? How can I build relationships through the arts in a meaningful and productive way? We are lifting our voices–composers, visual artists, performers, all mostly in our own community–and exploring our artistic boundaries together in a welcoming and vibrant space. Coming close to the end of our 24th season, I am still astounded by the trust we have been able to establish with our community. People might not know what they are going to get when they come to a NewGal event, but they know it is going to be top calibre and full of compassion, provocation, and love of shared experience.

Where are concerts held? In Jamaica Plain?

Bob: NewGal began in the South End in the winter of 2001, jumped around a bit,  and has been settled as partners with the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge since 2019 where many of our most recent events take place. That said, our winter concerts and exhibits are produced and presented as a virtual experience and then repeated as free outdoor movie screenings in Jamaica Plain every summer or early fall as of 2021. (I bet you can guess why that tradition came to be soon after 2020!) We are grateful to J.P.’s Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts for the first outdoor screening endeavor and then, thereafter, with J.P.’s First Universalist Unitarian Church for the graveyard space and sanctuary in case of rain. Shout out to J.P. Licks for their generosity at these events as well!

A NewGal Concert Series outdoor movie screening at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Jamaica Plain.

What kind of music are the concerts?

Bob: Our mission is to promote LIVING composers (and visual artists!) and to make sure that everyone, whatever your musical knowledge or penchant might be, is welcome.  With works that span the spectrum from classical-contemporary, improvisation, pop, spiritual, electronic music, jazz, folk, art song, opera, rap, and the avant-garde to sculpture, painting, indoor installations, photography, textile, graphic and children’s book illustrations, visual music, video art, dance, poetry, and film. NewGal’s programs are cohesive, diverse, provocative, exciting, and intimate. No one who attends a NewGal event needs to have visual or musical knowledge. The series, the music, the art, the experience as a whole, is about celebrating the now and experiencing our modern artistic language. Our context is limitless; I can guarantee there is something for everyone.

And you've put out your own solo album(s)?

Bob: Yes, and have also had the pleasure of being on many others! I am proud to say that "…nobody move…" on Avie Records has received both local and international acclaim. Its programmatic sampling is from a multitude of NewGal’s commissioned works, some local composers even from Jamaica Plain! We hope to get another album out with more hot off the press works sometime next year.

If you could see/hear one person, dead or alive, perform, who would you want to hear/see perform and why?

Bob: Ugh, pass. I seem to answer this question differently every time – from Bach to Prince, I get all sorts of worked up as to how to choose. I will say, as far as the living goes, it would be nice if Paul McCartney’s ticket prices were lower.

What inspires you to perform?

Bob: Hitting “the zone,” no matter what field you are in, is addictive and delicious. When I hit “the zone” in a performance, I cannot think of a greater high, a greater love, a greater connection. Mind you, when I speak of connection, it is multifaceted: the beauty of connecting with the listeners and the importance of getting a message out with a provocation to think, act, and feel; connecting with the music, my collaborators, and, most astonishingly, connecting with myself. There is a great humanity in performing, the contradiction of both power and fragility encompassing both vulnerability and strength, and with that, the more sincere I can be, the more whole I feel.

What else would you like to say about yourself, the concert series, your musical career, etc.?

Bob: My goal, always, whether it be through programming, performing, or teaching, is to introduce music, art, and community in a loving, meaningful, inclusive and intoxicating way.

NewGal is a small but solid organization committed to presenting the NOW, with all participants alive, inspired, and curious. While programs include care-free and joyful moments, we, as an organization, and I, as myself, absolutely recognize our platforms' responsibility to confront relevant subjects that impact our entire society in hopes of making progressive change. NewGal embraces its duty via the vibrancy of our outstanding artistic community to ensure that the many intelligent, passionate, and informative voices of our artists are heard loud and clear.

I am extremely proud to live in Jamaica Plain, be able to use so many of our very own “as local as you can get” musicians and visual artists to collaborate with and introduce to one another. Our 24th season finale this coming March 23rd, Legacy, includes J.P. residents visual artist Lisa Fliegel, fiddler/singer/dancer/composer Eden MacAdam Somer, poet Ann Bookman, and myself. This J.P. outpouring of talent is not unusual for the series. We are so lucky!