“Adventurous and ahead of the curve… chamber music got a kick in the pants”
—Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post
Fireworks is an American chamber music ensemble whose inclusive repertoire and innovative performances have helped to rewrite the rules of concert music for over fifteen years. Hailed as “adventurous and ahead of the curve” by The Washington Post and “classically trained but musically fearless” by Time Out New York, the six-member ensemble combines instruments from the classical, jazz, and rock traditions with music from an exceptionally wide range of styles, periods, and cultures. In its 2015-16 season, Fireworks celebrated the release of American Tapestry—American music from classical to rock, blues to bluegrass, and Lindy Hop to hip hop—with an extensive United States tour as part of the roster of Live On Stage. In February 2017, the group unveiled its latest project, Play, a concerto for improvising ensemble, commissioned by the Empire State Youth Orchestra at Proctors Theater in Schenectady, New York.
Founded in 2000 by composer/bassist Brian Coughlin, Fireworks burst onto the music scene with Coughlin’s rock-inspired version of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, quickly drawing critical attention and an international audience. Since then, the ensemble has developed an exceptionally varied body of work with projects as far ranging as Frank Zappa’s instrumental rock, Bach’s The Art of the Fugue, dance music from around the world, classic cartoon scores, and Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. Fireworks latest projects, the Play concerto and the rock-meets-plainchant Requiem for Fireworks and chorus, continue the group’s mission to shed new light on established musical forms and traditions, challenge expectations, and reveal themes that tie diverse genres together. “‘I listen to everything’ is a hyperbole thrown around far too often,” wrote Nick Warren of the Erie Reader, “In the case of this band, however, it’s believable. There’s something for everyone, with expert musicianship aplenty.”
Based in New York City, Fireworks has performed hundreds of concerts throughout the United States on many of the country’s most prestigious stages, ranging from venerable classical music institutions such as Carnegie Hall, The Library of Congress, and The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, to rock and jazz clubs such as Le Poisson Rouge, The Knitting Factory, and Tonic. Fireworks has made numerous radio and TV appearances, including on Minnesota Public Radio, WNYC, and NBC’s “The 10! Show,” and has recorded for Viper Records and Entertainment One, which released the ensemble’s recording of David Del Tredici’s A Field Manual in 2016.
Passionate about its work with young people and dedicated to reaching new audiences of all ages, Fireworks devotes a large part of its time each year to educational activities. Fireworks has participated in Chamber Music America’s Residency Partnership Program and Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program, and is a frequent ensemble-in-residence at the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium. Among the ensemble’s honors are grants and awards from New Music USA, the Copland Foundation, Chamber Music America, The Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and Meet the Composer.
In her review of the group’s sold-out concert at Miller Theatre in New York, Anne Midgette of The New York Times captured the essence of Fireworks’ approach by writing “Finally labels ceased to matter: this was just music and it sounded like music to keep.”