At Birdfoot Festival, chamber music reigns supreme. Whether you choose to watch a collaboration between musicians and a spoken-word poet, enjoy a beer with a cellist you just heard perform, or sketch an ensemble practicing at the Contemporary Arts Center, your experience will be different than that of any other festival in New Orleans. All these things—and more—are part of the Birdfoot experience, New Orleans’ International Chamber Music Festival.
Beginning May 20, world-renown musical talent will be rolling into New Orleans for the festival in venues—some traditional, some not—all across the city. Whether you’re a first-timer or you’ve been going since its inception eight years ago, here’s what to plan for this year.
Our Festival Picks
First up: the Ace Hotel is the festival’s official partner hotel, so look for attendee discounts. From May 28-31, musicians will be in residence at the Contemporary Arts Center on Camp Street and rehearsals are open, so you can visit for a few minutes or a few hours (visual artists have been known to set up shop and draw during this time).
Are you an amateur musician yourself? There’s a community chamber music reading party on Monday, May 20 from 8-11 p.m. Spaces are limited, so make sure to sign up online in advance.
In true New Orleans style, there’s a bar at every performance and musicians spend time there, so make plans to go to early or stay after a performance to mingle and meet the artists. Ask questions. Make a new friend. And after the performances on Friday and Saturday nights, the festival throws in a little lagniappe—a pretty sweet reception that’s included with the price of your performance ticket.
Tuesday, May 28
A Musical Feast, Brennan’s Restaurant, 7 p.m – 10 p.m.
Brennan’s (and James Beard Foundation 2018 Best Chef South finalist chef Slade Rushing) is hosting this year’s benefit dinner. Tickets are $175 per person for this unique music-and-food pairing and all proceeds benefit the festival.
Wednesday, May 29
Nothing But the Truth, George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, 8 p.m.
Inspired by African-American spirituals and songs, Dvorak’s “American” Quartet is an outsider’s portrait of America’s energy and potential approaching the turn of the century. Tickets are $25.
Thursday, May 30
Talk: The Art of Noticing, Contemporary Arts Center, 5:15 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Enjoy a free book signing and talk from Rob Walker, author of The Art of Noticing.
Birdfoot Backstage: Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, Contemporary Arts Center, 7 p.m.
Birdfoot Backstage is another free event where musicians will talk with the audience about a piece in this year’s Season Finale concert. Come to the event for an interactive exploration of Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” Quartet, then come hear the piece in its entirety during Birdfoot’s Season Finale on Saturday, June 1.
Birdfoot Late Night: Dreamers Often Lie, Three Keys at the Ace Hotel, 10 p.m.
Enjoy this free late night show that will explore Patrick Castillo’s Dreamers Often Lie and Schubert’s Death and the Maiden.
Friday, May 31
Lunchtime Concert, Pan American Life Center Lobby, 12:15 p.m. – 1 p.m.
Kick off Birdfoot Festival with this free lunchtime concert.
Let There Be Night, Contemporary Arts Center, 7 p.m. Talk, 8 p.m. Concert
Delve into a world of darkness with this performance featuring J. S. Bach’s Cantata 54 —Widerstehe doch der Sünde, Georg Friedrich Haas’ String Quartet No. 3, In iij. Noct., and other renowned pieces. The second half of the concert will be performed in total darkness. The concert will be preceded by an Introduction to the Music by speaker and presenter Patrick Castillo. Tickets are $25.
Saturday, June 1
Season Finale: Death and the Maiden, George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, 8 p.m.
Featuring Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” Quartet, the Season Finale ends the festival on a high note. This concert will be proceeded by a Young Artist Program Showcase Concert from 6-7 p.m. Tickets are $30.