No, I’m most definitely not referring to myself. A true Greek heartthrob, Mario Frangoulis, will be making his Chicago debut at Orchestra Hall on Monday, October 9th in a benefit concert for the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center.
So, why blog about this?
Mario Frangoulis is termed by the record industry as a “Classical Crossover” artist. This category includes artists like Andrea Bocelli, Charlotte Church, Il Divo, and others. These artists routinely perform to sold-out sold houses, sell millions of cds, and introduce many, many people to classical-style singing. My assumption is that these artists often serve as entry points into “serious” classical music and opera appreciation for people who enjoy them.
Okay, now a small bit of editorializing. I think these artists are good for the field. While many Il Divo fans may never discover Thomas Hampson, a few may, and those people could become tomorrow’s Lyric Opera and Chicago Opera Theater subscribers. Here’s hoping that Mario Frangoulis, and other Classical Crossover artists pave the way into classical music for thousands of new fans.
This coming Sunday, October 1st and Monday, October 2nd, the Chicago Sinfonietta will open its 20th Anniversary Season. We have a fantastic opening concert featuring the Van Cliburn winner, Alexander Kobrin and Sphinx competition winner Melissa White performing works that should delight the audience. However, it’s the closing piece of this concert that is generating ALL OF THE BUZZ, and has created a level of media coverage never before seen at our organization. The Sinfonietta will perform the World Premiere of Concertino for Cell Phones and Orchestra composed by David Baker, which the Sinfonietta commissioned following an idea that Maestro Paul Freeman Since we announced the concert earlier this year, we have received a great deal of attention including articles in the L.A. Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and many others. Last week the media coverage accelerated to another level. ReutersArticles appeared in over 30 countries altogether, and interviews on BBC Radio, an Irish radio station, and a Brazilian newspaper soon followed. Closer to home, the New York Times informed us that they were sending Dan Wakin to cover the concert, Time.com conducted an interview, John von Rhein will probably review the concert, and the Today Show expressed interest, though subsequently decided against covering the concert. I am writing this on Tuesday, September 26th so who knows what will happen in the next few days? proposed. interviewed David Baker and Maestro Freeman, and within a few hours, articles appeared in newspapers in the United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Turkey, to name just a few. Our good friends at the Ungar Group created a very cool television commercial for the premiere that is running this week on cable television throughout Chicagoland. Check it out in either Windows Media or Quicktime. We are excited and appreciative of this global interest in our upcoming concerts, and are hard at work trying to figure out what household appliance or electronic gadget to feature next season. Any suggestions? Got to run now – Canada’s on the phone…
Last weekend was such an occasion. On Saturday, September 16th, Maestro Paul Freeman, WFMT on-air host, Jan Weller, and yours truly played music, interviewed guest artists, and talked about the Sinfonietta's upcoming 20th anniversary season for three hours on 98.7 WFMT 98.7 - all live - except, of course, for the music.
What is interesting about live radio is how quickly you use up the time that is allotted. We created a "script" well in advance of the show that was to be our guide for playing all of the recordings, interviewing all of the guests, and talking about all of the concerts. The script had a minute-by-minute timeline so we always knew exactly how much time we had for each segment.
The show began last Saturday at 9:05 a.m. and by 9:13 a.m. we were already three minutes behind. A slight bead of perspiration broke out on my upper lip. By 9:26 a.m. we were even further behind and began searching the script for segments to cut. I suggested we cut some of the commercials but the folks at WFMT politely disagreed.
By 9:47 a.m. I began to feel like (and look) like Albert Brooks in the movie, Broadcast News. I kept thinking that we were never going to catch up, and the season preview, not to mention my broadcast career, was going down in flames. And then it happened.
Jan Weller, a cool character if there ever was one, suggested that we play a few different tracks that saved us some time, we tightened up a few subscription pitch segments, and voila, we were close to being back on schedule! Best of all, people were calling and buying subscriptions!
We hit our going-off-the-air time of 11:55 a.m. in what seemed like a matter of moments. I left the studio and drove to the Whole Foods Market in River Forest - one of our season sponsors -- for another Sinfonietta preview event. As I drove to River Forest and began to finally dry off, I just kept thinking, live radio is fun... live radio is fun... live radio is fun. I can't wait until next year.
If you have some free time this weekend and are interested in sampling much that the world of music has to offer, I invite you to Symphony Center for Macy's Day of Music. Our 10th annual free, daylong music marathon will feature performances and activities for families beginning at 1:00p, including a family-friendly concert featuring the Civic Orchestra of Chicago at 1:00p, with performances for our more mature patrons (8 and up) , beginning in the late afternoon and continuing until 10:00p, including a concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at 7:00p.
With four stages operating throughout the day, patrons will be able to check out music in a broad range of styles - classical, folk, world and jazz to list but a few - with especially rich offerings supporting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's leadership role in the dynamic Silk Road Chicago collaboration, involving Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, The Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs.
I wanted to give a bit more dimension to one of the concerts featured on Day of Music, namely the Civic concert that will kick-off the day's programming on Armour Stage. This program is designed, as are many others, to introduce the individual instruments and instrument families that comprise the orchestra. What is unique about our take on this, however, is that we will build the orchestra before the eyes of the audience - offering performances by chamber ensembles from each of the four instrument families until the full orchestra is assembled and ready to perform Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.
As the orchestra is assembled, conductor Duain Wolfe will give the audience a chance to learn more about the musicians in the ensemble through short interviews with individual players.
The performances of musicians from the Civic - one of the world's great pre-professional training orchestras - will be complemented by performances by special guest artists from Hubbard Street 2, the training company of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and a treasure in its own right.
This unique program will be repeated in a bilingual format on Sunday, September 17 at 6:30p at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Pilsen. Tickets are not required for either the Day of Music or Cristo Rey concerts, and I expect a good turnout for both of these general admission events, so please plan to come early to save your seat!
As I think about the activities of this first week of the 2006/07 season, I am really thrilled that it will have launched with the CSO offering four days of free concerts - two at Millennium Park and one at Cristo Rey High School, with a daylong series of concerts at Symphony Center.
These concerts celebrate Chicago's local and simultaneously global musical community, highlighting the fact that, as Chicagoans we are really fortunate to live in such a varied and richly layered cultural, musical environment. We are able to access traditions that are familiar and dear to us, as well as to experience traditions new and inviting. In many ways, the cultural life of this city embodies the answer to the question often asked by Yo-Yo Ma: "What happens when strangers meet?". The answer, of course, is that great things can happen when strangers meet: friendships and discoveries are made, new journeys are taken. In connecting with concertgoers through this week's performances, the CSO is extending a welcoming hand to friends new and long-standing, offering opportunities to continue or start a musical journey to at least 15,000 people. Do I hear 15,001?
Since the CSO’s resident blogger Charles Grode is on vacation, he asked me to write an entry for this Web site. Let me start by briefly introducing myself: I am Marc van Bree and I am public relations coordinator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a position I started about nine months ago.On one of the first occasions that I saw the CSO perform at Ravinia, I joined some friends for one of those lovely summer night picnics on the lawn. Last year, right before I got the good news of a job at the CSO and before traveling to my wedding in my home country, the Netherlands, I saw (or rather heard!) the Texan piano legend Van Cliburn with the Orchestra in Grieg’s Piano Concerto.This year, to celebrate my one year wedding anniversary, I am heading to Ravinia again, and this time for two days of world renowned artists who have come to town to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This Saturday, I will be listening intently to Renée Fleming, who will be singing selected arias and songs with the CSO. I faxed my order in as soon as tickets were available!On Sunday, I will settle on the lawn for cellist Yo-Yo Ma in Azul for cello and orchestra, written by the CSO’s new Mead Composer-in-Residence Osvaldo Golijov. This composition, commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra for its 125th anniversary, will have its world premiere with Yo-Yo Ma at the BSO’s summer home, Tanglewood, this Friday; in other words, it’s hot off the presses! It will be exciting to be among the first people in the world to hear what’s sure to be a fascinating new work.Talking about hot, I am glad that it will be a bit cooler this weekend. I was wondering what the musicians do when it’s close to 100 degrees outside. Stage manager Kelly Kerins told me that even though the Orchestra plays outdoors, the stage is air-conditioned; on really hot days, they add fans around the stage, but they have to be on low, since the orchestra is amplified for listeners on the lawn. You want to avoid that buzzing sound in the speakers!If you haven’t made your own trip to Highland Park this year, I would encourage you to check it out. The following weekend, August 11, 12 and 13, will be your last chance to hear the CSO, when they join Patti LuPone for a performance of the musical Gypsy. And I just heard that legendary composer Stephen Sondheim will join Ravinia Festival president Welz Kauffman for a pre-concert discussion on August 11!Ravinia may be close to wrapping up for the CSO, but the Orchestra’s downtown season is certainly right around the corner. We invite you to tune into WFMT98.7 from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday August 12 to hear a preview of the coming season and all the great music in store for us in the coming year. You can expect to hear lots of music featured in the 2006-2007 season and interviews including Yo-Yo Ma, CSO trombonist Charles Vernon, CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Mark Anthony Turnage, CSO Chorus Director Duain Wolfe, and Gerard McBurney, creative director and host of the CSO’s new Sunday afternoon Beyond the Score series, plus much more.