Originally broadcast at 10:45 a.m. ET Tuesday, August 23, 2022.
MacArthur Fellow and Grammy Award-winning mandolinist, singer and songwriter Chris Thile has been described by NPR as a “genre-defying musical genius” — he returns to the Institution for his Chautauqua Lecture Series debut with an exploration of a distinctly American canon and a new musical aesthetic. Thile is a founding member of the critically acclaimed bands Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek, and for four years hosted public radio favorite “Live from Here with Chris Thile” (formerly known as “A Prairie Home Companion”). With more than two dozen studio albums under his belt from his work with Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek, and collaborations with musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer, Thile’s most recent solo work is Laysongs, released on June 4, 2021, from Nonesuch Records. Laysongs features new recordings of six original songs and three covers, all of which contextualize and banter with his ideas about spirituality; the album’s centerpiece is the three-part "Salt (in the Wounds) of the Earth," inspired by C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. The album also features a song Thile wrote about Dionysus; a performance of the fourth movement of Béla Bartók's Sonata for Solo Violin; "God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot," based on Buffy Sainte-Marie's adaptation of a Leonard Cohen poem; a cover of bluegrass legend Hazel Dickens' "Won't You Come and Sing for Me," and "Ecclesiastes 2:24," original instrumental loosely modeled after the Prelude from J.S. Bach's Partita for Solo Violin in E Major. Thile’s numerous honors include a 1997 IBMA award for Album of the Year, and one for Mandolinist of the Year; a 2002 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album for Nickel Creek’s This Side; being named the BBC’s Folk Musician of the Year in 2007; a 2012 MacArthur “Genius” Grant”; a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album for The Goat Rodeo Sessions, recorded with Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, and Edgar Meyer; a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for Bass & Mandolin, with Meyer; an honorary doctorate from The New School; and a 2019 Grammy for Best Folk Album for Punch Brothers’ All Ashore. For 2018-19, Thile was named to the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall.
About Chautauqua Institution: Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. As a community, we celebrate, encourage and study the arts and treat them as integral to all of learning, and we convene the critical conversations of the day to advance understanding through civil dialogue. CHQ Assembly is the online expression of Chautauqua Institution's mission.