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Music: 10 to see 

Kora masters Toumani and Sidiki Diabate come to Duke Performances

Photo by Youri Lenquette

Kora masters Toumani and Sidiki Diabate come to Duke Performances

MUSIC: 10 TO SEE

Downtown festivals and new clubs, reenergized old organizations and anniversary-celebrating institutions: The fall of 2014 offers an array of options for eager ears. The highlights are many, but these stand out for the size of their impact or the local vitality they suggest. — Grayson Haver Currin

LOCAL TWO-NIGHT STANDS—When two local duos can command back-to-back nights at two of the region's largest rock clubs, it's hard not to smile with hometown pride. SYLVAN ESSO (Haw River Ballroom, Oct. 30–31) ends a whirlwind tour that has put them in front of huge audiences and late-night TV cameras with two nights in Saxapahaw. Expect the mood to be mellower when MANDOLIN ORANGE (Cat's Cradle, Nov. 28–29) takes two shapes—staid acoustic duo and flinty full band—in Carrboro.

NC OPERA: TRISTAN AND ISOLDE (Meymandi Concert Hall, Nov. 9)—In January 2013, the increasingly inspired NC Opera delivered portions of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. It was the Raleigh debut of the seminal 150-year-old opera. This year, an 80-piece orchestra and a quartet of singers selected for their Wagner experience will perform parts of canonical romantic tragedy TRISTAN AND ISOLDE. NC Opera continues to raise the expectations for what area audiences deserve without resorting to a long drive, flight or tickets to a movie theater simulcast.

WIDE OPEN BLUEGRASS (various venues, Oct. 3–4)—After the stuffed streets and sold-out shows of last year's inaugural WIDE OPEN BLUEGRASS festival in Raleigh, its presenter, the International Bluegrass Music Association, announced that they'd stick with the City of Oaks at least through 2018. How do they plan to avoid a sophomore slump? So far, it looks like the addition of more outdoor stages and rock clubs that can book their own personalized talent should help. A Red Hat Amphitheater lineup that includes top draws such as Hot Rize, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Ricky Skaggs and a picking circle loaded with the genre's best shouldn't hurt, either.

CAROLINA PERFORMING ARTS VS. DUKE PERFORMANCES—This season marks the 10th anniversary of Carolina Performing Arts and the start of the eighth year for Aaron Greenwald as the ever-ambitious head of Duke Performances. May their rivalry continue forever, as it brings yet another year of incredible gets to the Triangle. From classical scrambler GABRIEL KAHANE (Memorial Hall, Oct. 22) and the powerful PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (Memorial Hall, Sept. 28–29) to kora masters TOUMANI & SIDIKI DIABATÉ; (Reynolds Theater, Oct. 2) and New Orleans legends ALLEN TOUSSAINT & PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND (Carolina Theatre, Nov. 6), this battle of the blues is a win for everyone.

MUSIC MAKER HOMECOMING—Merge is 25, the Southern Folklife Collection is 25 and Hopscotch is 5: It's been a year of big commemorations, hasn't it? But don't neglect the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which has now been doing essential preservation work in regional folk and blues music for two decades. Its fall celebration is packed with events and artifacts—a book, a compilation, an art exhibit— and culminates in the MUSIC MAKER HOMECOMING (ArtsCenter, Oct. 3; Shared Visions Retreat, Oct. 4) in Carrboro and Hillsborough, the largest-ever gathering of Music Maker music makers.

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