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by Marisa Mecke
The 2021 Grammys highlighted musical works of all genres that have excelled during the difficult past year. Inside and outside of the Classical categories, classical musicians and artists made their mark on this year’s ceremonies.
1. English singer, songwriter, and record producer Devonté Hynes (also known as Blood Orange) was nominated for two separate awards for “Fields,” his first album of classical compositions: Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical. Hynes has also collaborated across genres with artists such as Solange Knowles, Florence and the Machine, Mariah Carey, and HAIM and recently composed the score for the film Queen & Slim. Though he did not take home a GRAMMY award, Blood Orange did make a special appearance: to kick off the festivities, Hynes joined Harry Styles on bass for the opening performance of Styles’ song “Watermelon Sugar.”
2. Mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne won the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to opera. Over the course of her career, Horne has received 15 GRAMMY nominations and won 4 awards for her 1964 album “The Age of Bel Canto: Operatic Scenes,” 1981 album “Live From Lincoln Center — Sutherland/Horne/Pavarotti,” 1983 album “Leontyne Price & Marilyn Horne in Concert at the Met” and a 1993 recording of “Semele.”
3. Nominated for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for his album “Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas,” Russian-German pianist Igor Levit’s beautiful performance of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata at the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony was a standout moment. Levit has always had a deep relationship with Beethoven’s sonatas: Writing for The Guardian, Levit describes studying under Karl-Heinz Kämmerling – and focusing intently on Beethoven’s Op. 2, No. 2 with near obsession.
4. Ten artists affiliated with the Sphinx Organization won GRAMMYs this year: J’Nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano; Drew Forde, viola; Celia Hatton, viola; Billy Hunter, trumpet; Stephanie Matthews, violin; Jessica McJunkins, violin; Weston Sprott, trombone; Titus Underwood, oboe; Clayton Penrose Whitmore, violin; and Tahirah Whittington, cello. The Sphinx Organization is a “social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts,” dedicated to fostering and supporting diversity “at every level” in classical music. Violinist Jessica McJunkins (also known as Lady Jess), who once interned for the Charlotte Symphony and attended the UNC School of the Arts, has gone on to collaborate with artists such as Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, and more. At this GRAMMY Awards Ceremony, McJunkins was honored for her performance on the album “Smyth: The Prison,” which won Best Classical Solo Voice Album.
5. Winning the GRAMMY for Best Classical Compendium, opera singer Isabel Leonard and the San Francisco Symphony’s music director Michael Tilson Thomas were featured for their work From The Diary of Anne Frank & Meditations on Rilke. Influenced by the words and spirit of Anne Frank, the piece also borrows from poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s works for inspiration.
Pictured: Lady Jess (Jessica McJunkins) photo by Zach Hyman/ladyjessmusic.com
Dev Hynes (Wikipedia)
Fields (Cedille Records)
Michael Tilson Thomas: From the Diary of Anne Frank & Meditations on Rilke (The San Francisco Symphony)
Grammys 2021 Winners: See The Full List Here (Pitchfork)