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Portals into the Present and Future

Violinist Tim Fain and projections of his collaborators come to town this weekend.

Violinist Tim Fain brings his multimedia experience, Portals, to Buffalo

Tim Fain is no stranger to Buffalo audiences. He first appeared locally in one of the Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s free Sunday afternoon “Gift to the Community” concerts soon after he had won the prestigious Young Concert Artists competition in 1999.

Since then, Fain has gone on to appearances with major orchestras throughout North America. A decade later Fain performed at UB with the group Music from Copland House, in a concert that may well have been the sleeper event of the season. On his last visit, Fain returned to UB for a well received two-day residency in 2010, the same year that he appeared in the psychological fantasy ballet film, Black Swan, where his playing was featured in the soundtrack.

For the last five years, Fain has had the opportunity to perform on a rare 1717 violin, known as the “Moller,” by the Venetian maker Francesco Gobetti. The violin is owned by Buffalo patrons Clement and Karen Arrison, and it is on extended loan to Fain through the Stadivari Society of Chicago.

During his previous visits, Fain has always performed together either with a pianist or with several other musicians. When Tim Fain returns to the UB Amherst campus this Friday, January 25 at 7:30pm, for his appearance in the Slee Visiting Artist Series at the Center for the Performing Arts Drama Theatre, he will again be appearing with several friends, including pianist Nicholas Britell, actor Fred Child, and dancers Craig Black, Julia Eichten, and Haylee Nichele. The difference is that this time all of his friends will be virtual—present not in body but as computerized images.

In Portals, Fain guides the audience through the failures and triumphs of our new portals of relationship, our electronic present and future, in an onstage dialogue between his live performance and projected multimedia works. The production interweaves films by Kate Hackett that include performances by Britell, dance films choreographed and directed by Benjamin Millepied, and the words of Leonard Cohen as spoken by Performance Today host Fred Child, with Fain playing the music of Philip Glass and Pulitzer Prize winners William Bolcom and Aaron Jay Kernis, as well as other composers.

“I first got to know Philip Glass when I toured with his Book of Longing, a song cycle based on Leonard Cohen’s poetry,” Fain says. “There was a moment mid-show when the violin took center-stage for a fast and furious solo titled ‘I Enjoyed the Laughter.’ I found it passionate and lyrical in a way that I hadn’t heard in Philip’s music before, like J. S. Bach played backwards. The piece was only about 90 seconds long, but night after night, I kept coming off stage thinking, ‘That was amazing—I want a whole piece.’

“I think it was after a show in New Zealand that I asked Philip to flesh out that solo, and here it is, a major work, the Partita for Solo Violin. Leonard Cohen would join us now and then for performances and his poetry was an inspiration for me in creating Portals. Whether addressing an estranged wife, God, or Hank Williams, his words go straight to the heart of the matter with pathos and humor.”

Fain says he first collaborated with Benjamin Millepied on a piece for the New York City Ballet called Double Aria. “More recently,” he says, “as we worked together on the movie Black Swan, my admiration for his sense of flow and space deepened, and I knew that he would be a great collaborator on Portals.

“I should say that all of the music on this program was composed for concert performance, but finding Philip’s music not only aurally evocative, but visually as well, we were inspired to pair his music with visual movement. When we arrived at Copland House at Merestead to shoot the dance films, we were enchanted by this beautifully light, but slightly haunted, space, a uniquely metaphorical embodiment of the ephemeral nature of the internet and digital communication.”

For tickets and more information, call 645-2921 or visit

On Saturday morning at 10:30am, Fain, in conjunction with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, will present a master class for three local music students in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall. The room will be given a coffeehouse feel, with complimentary hot beverages and pastries. Fain will also answer questions from the audience at the master class, which is free and open to the public. Anyone wishing to attend the master class may reserve a free space at

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