Ben Verdery releases Searching for a Chorale video

Note from Ben:
Searching for a Chorale was written in November/December 2016 by my mentor Seymour Bernstein. I had asked Seymour to write a piece for me several years ago. During the intermission of a gorgeous recital by our mutual dear friend David Leisner, I turned to him and said, " so, are you going to write a piece for me or what?"

The next morning I received an email from Seymour. Here is a quote from that email:

"I am thinking of a piece for you. You know how Britten resolves his masterpiece into a Dowland prayer? Well I have a favorite Bach chorale to dissolve your piece into. I already began to play around with the chorale."

And so the journey began between composer and performer. After learning Searching.. I had many coaching sessions on the work similar to others I have had with Seymour for the past 30+ years. He at the piano and me next to him with guitar in hand. A bit of our silliness is captured in the first video clip we released announcing the work. At the core of Searching for a Chorale and it's interpretation lay two people's profound love and respect for music and friendship. 

Searching for a Chorale
Composer: Seymour Bernstein
Guitarist: Benjamin Verdery
Recorded at Elm City Records Speak Easy Studios
Recording Producer: Solomon Silber
Recording Engineer : Evan Bakke
Video Filmed by Scott Johnson and Sean Hower of Polyphonic Ind. Maui HI
Video Editor: Mitsuko Verdery
Guitar: Garrett Lee
Strings: D'Addario
Clothing: Fumi
Special Mahalo to all at St. John's Episcopal Church, Kula, Maui HI for allowing to film in this magical church and setting.
Publisher: Doberman-Yippan

Nano Stern Talks Music, Politics, and Creative Expression in a Changing World

An interview with Chilean musician Nano Stern, currently touring North America, who will be performing with NACLA this week.

NACLA Report on the Americas

In a swiftly changing world, Chilean musician Nano Stern is among Latin America's most passionate advocates for the political power of art and the importance of global connections between activist movements. Stern's unique blend of traditional Chilean style and modern folk is also heavily influenced by the Nueva Canción movement of the 70s and 80s. In this episode of NACLA Radio, guest producer Julia Burnell talks to Nano about the current political climate in Latin America and the United States, music as a tool for creative expression and resistance, and the connections between nature, memory, and art.

Nano will be in Brooklyn at Verso Books this Friday, March 17th, to share his music and discuss art and activism with NACLA. The event is free and open to the public, and begins at 6:30pm. Learn more about the event and RSVP here. To learn more about Nano, listen to his music, and find his updated tour schedule, go to

Nano Stern releases Festejo de Color video

September 15, 2016 Nano Stern and his trio spent the day at the Carriage House Studios, Stamford, CT where they recorded his hit song Festejo de Color (Festival of Color). 

Nano Stern - vocals, guitar
Patricio Rojas - vocals, bass
Cristian Carvacho - vocals, percussion, drums

Produced by Solomon Silber for Elm City Records, New Haven, CT
Recorded & Mixed by Evan Bakke

In ‘Festejo de Color’ (‘Festival of Color’), off of his newly released Mil 500 Vueltas, internationally recognized poet and folk virtuoso Nano Stern sheds a shimmering light on the beautiful mixing of cultures that results from migration.

Nano originally wrote ‘Festejo de Color’ as an homage to his grandparents who were forced to flee from Eastern Europe during WWII.  However, Nano explains that this song quickly developed into a profound recognition of all migrants, the pains they endure and the celebration of their arrival into a new home.  Through ‘Festejo de Color’, Nano suppresses xenophobia and celebrates the mixing of cultures, races and ethnicities.

Nano describes that, ‘Festejo’, although directly translated as ‘Festival’, is also the Afro-Peruvian dance and rhythm that ‘Festejo de Color’ is based on.  Stern also introduces and combines rhythms from the Balkans and Eastern Europe with Festejo.  Susana Baca, a Peruvian Festejo legend guest sings with Nano on this track along with Argentine icon Pedro Aznar and Colombian talent Marta Gomez.  With these three guest stars representing the three most emigrated-from countries to Chile, Stern’s ‘Festejo de Color’ is nothing less than a living example of how voices can meld multiple nations into one.

Stern wrote ‘Festejo de Color’ in Decima, an improvised form of poetry originally developed in Spain and Portugal, dating back to the 1600’s.  Although the beloved Chilean singer/songwriter Violeta Parra famously helped reintroduce Decima in the 20th century, currently Nano is one of the only singer/songwriters to ambitiously conquer this ancient art and makes a strong cultural statement in doing so.

LYRICS (Spanish)

Llegaste desde otra tierra
Dejando atrás una vida
Partiendo sin despedida
Y escapando de una guerra
Cruzaste la cordillera
Atravesaste el desierto
O tal véz llegaste al puerto
Sin saber lo que esperaba
Lo cierto es que atrás quedaba
El pasado con sus muertos
Tan lejos está tu historia
Sepultada por el tiempo
Que no le entrega ni al viento
Un pedazo de memoria
Nunca buscaste la gloria
Ni imaginaste el futuro
Pero en aquel viaje duro
Que te trajo a este lugar
La vida empezó a brotar
Como la hiedra del muro
Celebro la diferencia
Y el festejo de color
Y te doy la bienvenida
Con cariño y con fervor
Que se junten nuestras voces
Pa' que nazca una canción
Y se entrencen nuestros pueblos
En una sola nación
La la la la la la la la
No trajiste casi nada
En tu equipaje pequeño
Pero bien guardado un sueño
Desembarcó en tu llegada
Un suspiro una mirada
Un acento medio extraño
Un vestido hecho de paño
Y el sabor de tu sazón
Quedan en el corazón
Por más que pasen los años
Y se viste de colores
Nuestra tierra engalanada
Pa' celebrar tu llegada
Y alejarte los dolores
Si a tu paso crecen flores
Que entremezclan las raíces
De todos esos países
Que en tu ruta se han unido
Y que el tiempo ha convertido
En telar de mil matices
Celebro la diferencia
Y el festejo de color
Y te doy la bienvenida
Con cariño y con fervor
Que se junten nuestras voces
Pa' que nazca una canción
Y se entrencen nuestros pueblos
En una sola nación
La la la la la la la la

Ben Verdery releases J.S. Bach Chaconne video

This past July and August guitarist/composer Ben Verdery recorded J.S. Bach's Chaconne and created this video on the island of Maui. The release is a celebrates the preservation of the Earth, Ocean and Sky.

Ben's Reflections of J.S. Bach's Masterpiece the Chaconne

I first heard the Chaconne performed by the great Hungarian violinist Alexander Schneider on Thanksgiving Day 1968. It was a private performance for a group of my parents’ friends. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Alexander Schneider and my parents had several mutual friends. Because of this, John and Suzanne Verdery decided to throw a massive Thanksgiving Day feast. It was known throughout the land that if Suzanne Verdery were preparing any meal, you’d want to be on the guest list. Such was her reputation as an extraordinary chef and a fabulously generous hostess.

Sasha, as friends called him, agreed to not only attend but to grace us with a performance of the Bach Chaconne.

About 25 family and friends were invited. Educators, visual artists, and authors including Arthur Miller and his photographer wife Inge Morath and Thomas Messer (director of the Guggenheim Museum) made up this Thanksgiving Day gathering........................
continue reading Ben's Reflections

The Making of the J.S. Bach Chaconne - An Interpretation Celebrating the Preservation of the the Earth, Ocean and Sky

This was indeed a labor of love and perseverance with a little Buster Keaton thrown the full story

Here are some links related to climate change.
Peace, love, guitars and a healthier planet!

USCIS I-129 Rate Increase

As of December 23, 2016 the fee for the Form I-129 for O and P classification visa petitions will increase from $325.00 to $460.00. In principle USCIS will begin making an effort to adjudicate Regular Processed petitions in 45-60 days. Since May 2015 they have taken 120-150 days forcing artists to file Premium Processing with an additional fee of $1,225.00 per petition. I am encouraged to report that two recent Regular Processed petitions filed by GAMI/Simonds were adjudicated in 66 and 86 days respectively - the first successful Regular Processed petitions since May 2015. 

The cost for a foreign artist to tour here is indeed daunting and increasingly cost prohibitive for some. It is a pity and embarrassment that U.S. audiences are denied the opportunity to see many fantastic artists as a result. There is zero chance the fees will decrease. We can only lobby and push for better service from USCIS and more educated adjudicators who understand the performing arts and its peculiarities. To help artists amortize the cost of a visa it would be helpful if U.S. presenters and promoters were more willing to provide simple letters of intent or interest for future dates, totally non-binding, that would allow the artist to take full advantage of the time period allowed for a particular visa classification.

Please visit our Immigration Services page.


The Watershed - Montreal Gazette

Theatre review: Despite the topic, nothing dry about The Watershed

Jim Burke - Special to Montreal Gazette
Published on: November 11, 2016 | Last Updated: November 11, 2016 12:03 PM EST

Daniel Brochu and Liisa Repo-Martell in The Watershed at the Centaur Theatre. 

Daniel Brochu and Liisa Repo-Martell in The Watershed at the Centaur Theatre. 

Is this a trend?

At the Segal last week, Marc Hall attended the opening night of Prom Queen: The Musical, which dramatized his defiance of a Catholic school ban on partying with his same-sex partner.

A week later at the Centaur, the family of playwright Annabel Soutar was in the audience for the part-environmental docudrama, part comedy road trip The Watershed, her daughters giggling delightedly as what-they-did-on-their-holidays unfolded on the stage.

What raises both plays above the status of theatrical selfies is that they wrestle with momentous political issues, both of which, incidentally, have just been thrown for a loop by developments across the border.  

In The Watershed, Soutar and her Montreal-based documentary-theatre company Porte Parole (in a co-production with Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre) investigate the future of Canada’s fresh water supply — in particular its imperilment by the drip-drip of neglect by the Harper government.

Soutar’s real-life actor husband, Alex Ivanovici, was to have played himself until a broken ankle put him out of action. He’s been replaced by Daniel Brochu, who brings an enjoyable mix of vulnerability, short-fuse irritability and physical comedy.

Humour, in fact, plays a crucial role in diluting the potentially hard-to-swallow muesli of facts and figures. Hysterical weather reports, ironically from climate change-denying network Fox News, are raucously delivered by Tanja Jacobs, who also gets lots of comic mileage out of playing the Soutar girls’ older friend, Hazel.

Amusingly recognizable cameos drift in and out, most notably Bruce Dinsmore’s impeccably bland Stephen Harper.

The second half shifts gear into often madcap domestic comedy as the Soutar family and their (invisible) dog pile into a rented Winnebago for an epic journey across Canada so Soutar can see for herself the Alberta oilsands and their environmental impact.

Denyse Karn’s elaborately inventive, often witty projection design, combined with Julie Fox’s shape-shifting set (Plateau apartment, Winnebago interior, sushi bar …) also add spectacular and colourful variety.

The eight-strong cast undergo split-second transformations as they portray scores of characters. In one delightful episode, Ngozi Paul switches suddenly from a pre-teen girl enjoying a bath to a bearded Chris Abraham, the director of the show, also taking a bath but agonizing over such grown-up problems as the impact of The Watershed’s controversy on his company’s funding.

Such moments of introspection are typical of a show that, on the one hand, takes an objective look at hot-button political issues, and on the other wrestles with its own creative process.

It even has its own criticism built into it. There’s a climactic debate between Soutar and her fiscally conservative father, Ian. The scene is gripping, beautifully acted and made doubly poignant by the fact Ian is played by beloved veteran Eric Peterson, and by the fact the real Ian Soutar died this year. But it also starts to feel like it’s going all over the map. At which point, Peterson’s character remarks: “We’re all over the map here.”

It’s difficult not to argue with that as an overall assessment, while acknowledging that it’s an enjoyable, often thoughtfully stimulating trip.

AT A GLANCE: The Watershed plays to Dec. 4 at Centaur Theatre, 453 St-François-Xavier St. Tickets: $51 (Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings), $45 (Tuesday, Wednesday evenings), $39 (matinee), seniors: $43.50 (evening), $38 (matinee), under 30: $36.50, students: $28. Call 514-288-3161 or visit


ArTravel (Ep.2) Singing With Strings - A Musical Journey In Korea

For 8 days this past August Ben Verdery traveled around South Korea filming for this episode of ArTravelfor Arirang TV, visiting instrument makers, musicians (including the legendary Kayagum master Hywang Byungi), a stunning Buddhist Monastery and various gorgeous locations.
Ben performed for and with Hywang Byungi at his home and with the young virtuoso Jung-ah Song on the edge of the Korean Sea who had learned his piece Mobile. All of the footage was shot live.
The documentary is about 53 minutes long. If you have a little extra time, it is our hope that you will sit back with some popcorn and take this journey with Ben.