Backbeat: How Does Chris Thile, Mandolin Player/MacArthur Genius, Get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Twitter, Impromptu Gig in NYC's Tompkins Square Park

Chris Thile performing his latest album, "Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1" for fans in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.

Photo: Drew Poulsen

Before he takes his recent interpretations of famed composer Johan Sebastian Bach to Carnegie Hall later this fall, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile surprised about two dozen fans by offering to play his newest material on a bench in Tompkins Square Park in New York City's East Village. Tuesday marked the release date of Thile's ambitious "Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1," and the recent recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" took to Twitter to invite fans to listen him play the new album on the beautiful Tuesday afternoon. "This music is nerve-racking as hell to play for people," Thile said. "But it's good to play it somewhere other than my couch."


Thile performed all three partitas and sonatas for the awestruck crowd in disbelief when he said how unprepared he was to take the music on the road. Before leaving the park, one man approached Thile with a picture of the original owner of his 1924 Gibson mandolin to which Thile himself looked awestruck.