“We didn’t even know the implications of the name — ‘these are the knights.’ But sometimes you grow into a name,” Colin Jacobsen said.
Sometimes, we can never know what something will grow into. That is exactly what happened with violinist Colin Jacobsen of the young musician group The Knights and his brother Eric when they started coming together with other like-minded artists in meetings they humorously labeled as “The Knights of the Many-Sided Table.” In the meetings, these young musicians would gather around the coffee table in their New York City apartment for informal readings of musical scores.
Fast forward to today and you’ll find that The Knights have embarked on a “noble crusade” to discover themselves through music… and in the process are reshaping the role in which music can play in the lives of performers and audiences.
“We think of ourselves as a fellowship. We play classic scores and new music, and make audiences feel as if we’re playing them for the very first time.”
The Knights just recently returned from a third tour in Germany and kicked off their very first North American tour just last Friday, when they performed at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall as part of the Troy Chromatics Concerts series.
The ensemble is a perfect symbol of how music is fitting into the personal and professional lives of musicians today. As the model of the “full-time salaried orchestra musician” becomes increasingly irrelevant to the reality of most working musicians, new forms of organization are emerging to fill the void left behind.
Most of the musicians have other performance commitments, other ensembles. “It’s not a full-time group,” Jacobsen said. “It’s assembled for various projects, and the size of the group is not fixed.” At their largest configuration, on tour, they comprise about 35 musicians, led by Eric Jacobsen as conductor, and with Colin serving as concertmaster and first violinist.
“But it’s not all top-down,” Colin Jacobsen said. “We view it as a fellowship, and it’s flexible.” The selection of repertoire is likewise very egalitarian; everyone has their say in rehearsal. “In a way, it’s inefficient, but we’re not interested in efficiency, but in the process, being in the moment,” Jacobsen said.
Being “in the moment” can mean a rather free-form performing style – and tends to drive them to an eclectic repertoire, heavy on the likes of Schubert and the minimalist composers. “We chose that repertoire because, in a way, it models our rehearsal process,” says Jacobsen.
In other words, The Knights as an ensemble is dynamic and flexible, not just in their repertoire or performances but in the very structure of their organization. In a world and industry marked by constant change, this type of creative structure with the ability to adapt to shifting circumstances might be exactly what we need to not only boost ticket sales and support the arts, but also to help artists and audiences find fulfillment.
The Knights were featured in a program on New York’s Thirteen station. Check out the except and full program below!
Meet The Knights, the trailblazing group of young musicians Yo-Yo Ma has called “a chamber music experience in orchestral form.” Brought together by brothers Eric and Colin Jacobsen, The Knights are a collaborative collection of friends from diverse musical backgrounds working to change the face of classical music. With influences from Bach to rock, the orchestra energizes audiences around the world, delighting and surprising both discerning classical music patrons and newer listeners. In We Are The Knights, host Paula Zahn brings you behind the scenes with The Knights to see the group’s unique rehearsal practices, touching history, and promising future. We Are The Knights features interviews with Colin and Eric Jacobsen, their father Eddie, members of the orchestra, “Performance Today” radio host Fred Child, and Yo-Yo Ma. Best of all, We Are The Knights takes you to incomparable performances of works by Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Copland, Jimi Hendrix, and more.
View the program on its original website – Meet the Knights on Thirteen (WNET) New York Public Media