Last week the Sinfonietta opened its season with concerts in River Forest and at Symphony Center. We performed the works of Grieg and Ellington in collaboration with the truly wonderful Chicago Jazz Ensemble under the leadership of Jon Faddis. We were delighted to receive very positive reviews from both major dailies.
The second half of the program began with “Harmonic Rhythm: Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra” by Russell Peck that featured the Sinfonietta’s own timpanist, Bobby Everson. This show-stopping work put Bobby at the front of the stage where everyone in the audience could watch him perform this technically challenging piece. At times, the timpanist holds two mallets in each hand – very much like a marimba or vibes player might do – to create harmonic textures not usually heard from the timpani. There are other sections of the piece where the timpanist is performing complicated “call and response” melodies with the orchestra.
It was fun to see Bobby perform the piece and earn the standing ovation he received from the audience.
I recently attended the American Symphony Orchestra League conference in “Music City,” Nashville, Tennessee (where the League announced its new name: the League of American Orchestras). As with these conferences, a couple of performances were scheduled (we were all gathered together in the name of music, after all!), and I attended a wonderfully adventurous and invigorating concert given by the Nashville Chamber Orchestra in the 9-month-old Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony.
I'm just back from a nice break and am playing catch-up so this will be short and (hopefully) sweet. Want to get free a free ticket to either of the Chicago Sinfonietta's first two concerts of the 2007-2008 season? Use this link to go to our website and request a season brochure. That's all you have to do to take advantage of this offer. Well, that and enter "T104" in the field that asks you for the promotion code.
While you're there, check out the descriptions of the two concerts you can attend for free! Here's a teaser - Concert One features a world-class 18-piece jazz ensemble trading movements with our musicians, and Concert Two explores an environmental theme featuring a Native American flutist and the participation of the Chicago Humanities Festival and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
You don't have to decide which concert you want to go to just yet - we'll get back to you in August for your choice, so don't forget to give us your phone number and e-mail.
As the Education Manager of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, I am afforded a constant stream of opportunities to be inspired by the music performed at Symphony Center--a haven for the transcendental experiences created by the world's greatest collective of classical musicians and the best guest artists anywhere.
But what gives me the greatest charge of excitement is seeing young people witness--and be captivated by--the expressive capacity demonstrated by our musicians.
Surprisingly, even with a very limited amount of preparation or guidance, young people realize that, because of exposure to music, their life is irrevocably different and the realm of possibility is wide open. THEY can develop a meaningful relationship with music (or any other form of artistic expression, for that matter). THEY can participate in this creativity themselves.
Such was the case at the June 5 culminating performance to our Silk Road season. To the audience of nearly 10,000 chilly Chicagoans at Millennium Park, The Stone Horse: A Silk Road Journey was a rare chance to see a veritable brain trust of artistry on one stage (members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble with master storyteller Ben Haggarty and exceptional soloists) AND to witness tear-jerking performances by over 500 Chicago public school students.
The performance was remarkable, a true testament to the collaborative spirit that Mr. Ma embodies. Others have already profiled the performance and I would direct you to their review.
I will say that, having an insider's view of this program and having spent an enormous amount of time and effort on its production, I am still stunned, more than a week later, by a product that speaks to the dedication of artists, teachers, and staff from multiple organizations, not just to produce an impressive spectacle for the city of Chicago, but for the students who participated as performers and their families and friends, beaming with pride from their reserved seats.
The student performances were outstanding! During a seven-week series of in-school workshops led by local Teaching Artists, continued reinforcement from classroom teachers and school music specialists, a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, continued artwork in their classrooms, a dress rehearsal that brought Mr. Ma and his colleagues into the school auditoriums, and a full day of sound check and rehearsal at Millennium Park prior to the performance, the student musicians progressed from little to no prior experience to owning their specific role in a massive production and understanding its significance to Silk Road Chicago.
Now, each student will pause and listen in a different way to the sound of an orchestra, the beating of a bongo, or the ringing of a bell. By performing for an audience of 10,000, each of them has an elated feeling of confidence and achievement that participating in music helped uncover. Each of them knows that Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra care enough to visit their elementary school. And each of them has the sense that great things can happen when you bring people together with a common task.
Below are excerpts from two participants' responses. The first is from an administrator at one of the participating schools; the second is from a parent.
"I would like to thank you and your staff for the most memorable and exciting experience in my 35 years as an educator. The "Silk Road Journey" is something the students will remember for the rest of their lives, it was incredible from start to finish."
"Words cannot express my feelings and other parents what we felt that day, but excitement. Some parents I notices were almost in tears in just Hearing the sound of their instruments our children played. This is just once in a life time opportunity event our school will always carry in our Hearts. Thank you all for giving us a chance of a life time."
This is what we work for!
(Photos by Todd Rosenberg)