By Community Contributor Pioneer Press Editorial. Published November 28, 2016
Charlie and Alison Vernon will once again gather a group of superb musician friends to celebrate the music of the Christmas season with the community on Monday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m. This 28th annual musical celebration has grown into a popular Community Carol Sing tradition, in which the community is invited to gather, sing, and donate to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. All are welcome to attend this interactive concert at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1024 Lake Ave. in Wilmette.
Charlie Vernon, bass trombonist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will be joined by over a dozen brass players, including CSO colleagues, members of other nationally ranked orchestras, local freelance musicians, and top students and alumni. Charlie's wife Alison will be gathering her singer friends to make up a choir totaling about 50 singers. The program includes holiday music for brass as well as carols sung by the audience accompanied by a rich cadre of brass instruments, the 50-voice choir and one of the best pipe organs in the Chicago area played by noted organist Andrea Handley.
Trinity United Methodist Church plays an important part as well. Its Clampitt Fund underwrites the event so that every dollar donated goes to the Greater Chicago Food Depository in this community-helping-community event. The church also has had a brush with Hollywood fame by being featured in the original holiday-season "Home Alone" movie 25 years ago.
All the musicians will be donating their time and talent at this event; no one is paid to perform, and many of the musicians also make monetary donations to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. A minimum $20 donation per person is requested to attend, with 100% of the donations going directly to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Click here to read the entire article at the Chicagotribune.com
To support the project with the Gipsy Way Ensemble from the Czech Republic later in the season, Civitas Ensemble’s season opener on Sunday, October 16 at 3pm in Ganz Hall will feature works of Czech composers, including Bohuslav Martinu’s Quartet, H. 312, Zdenek Fibich’s (1850−1900) Quintet Op. 42 for violin, cello, clarinet, French horn, and piano and Leoš Janáček’s String Quartet #1, “Kreutzer Sonata.” $30 tickets and free student tickets are available now and can be purchased by clicking the link below.
Visit the home page of the Civitas Ensemble for more information.
The Review from the Benefit Concert: Muti, CSO musicians offer 'bread for the soul' in benefit at reborn Studebaker.
by John von Rhein, June 14, 2016.
Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra set up temporary shop at one of downtown Chicago's most venerable theaters on Monday night to raise money for one of the city's most deserving charities.
The group, which incorporated last year as the Chicago Symphony Musicians, gave its first performance as a self-producing nonprofit organization at the Studebaker Theater, a recently refurbished small concert hall in the historic Fine Arts Building on south Michigan Avenue, as a benefit concert for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Everyone, including CSO music director Riccardo Muti, who conducted, was donating their services.
It was, as Muti observed in his postconcert remarks to the appreciative audience, an occasion "to make bread for the soul." Perhaps alluding to the worst mass shooting in U.S. history over the weekend, he spoke of the essential role played by musicians such as Chicago's as a counterforce for peace and benevolence in a world where terrorist violence has become commonplace.
"When I conduct concerts like this," he said, "I feel that studying music is a great privilege, because you have the sense of bringing people something of great beauty — with a capital B."
The Studebaker itself is a forgotten gem reborn. Built in 1886, the theater once served as a major downtown recital venue, but other halls stole its business, leaving it in disuse and serious disrepair. The renovation is ongoing but what's there is attractive. Freshly painted, with comfortable seating and a new air conditioning system, the "new" Studebaker is pitching itself as a rental facility for local performing arts groups.
Even with tickets priced up to $250, 653 of the hall's 720 seats were sold, according to bassist Stephen Lester, chairman of the CSO members committee. This represents a gratifying vote of confidence in the organization's mission to assist other nonprofits in ways the orchestra's corporate parent, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, is unable to do. Muti expressed his willingness to be a part of further player-driven benefit events helping those in need in the community.
The program was designed for broad popular appeal, drawn largely from repertory the CSO had performed earlier this season that could be quickly freshened. It held Rossini's "William Tell" Overture, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto (with CSO principal clarinet Stephen Williamson as soloist) and Beethoven's ubiquitous Symphony No. 5.
Nobody knew beforehand what the acoustics would be like, since there was no opportunity for the musicians to test-drive the sound before their single rehearsal prior to the concert.
While dry, the sound proved to be clear and perfectly adequate for the purposes of the event. Without a shell to push the sound into the house, the brasses — situated at the rear of the deep stage — sounded remote against the rest of the ensemble, even if the strings and woodwinds had both presence and tonal quality. If the musicians decide to return to the Studebaker, someone needs to invest in an acoustical enclosure.
Some of the playing was less polished than one would hear on a good night at Orchestra Hall, but the unfamiliar acoustics no doubt had a lot to do with that.
Muti infused the Rossini overture with idiomatic warmth, and there was fine solo playing from principal players John Sharp, cello; Scott Hostetler, English horn; and Stefan Hoskuldsson, flute.
The Mozart worked better in this intimate environment. Williamson had played the Clarinet Concerto at CSO subscription concerts in February that were to have been directed by Muti but fell instead to Gennady Rozhdestvensky after the music director canceled his winter engagement to recover from surgery.
Monday's performance of the Clarinet Concerto felt more relaxed and genial. The soloist's burnished sound, his ability to articulate rapid passages with great dexterity and dynamic shading, bespoke musicianship of a high order. The finale brought a playful spontaneity that had been lacking in the earlier performance. The accompaniment Muti drew from the orchestra could hardly have been more sensitive.
The maestro's Beethoven Fifth stuck closely to the interpretive model of the performances of this iconic masterpiece he led to kick off the current CSO subscription season. Refined in multiple performances he and the orchestra gave in Asia in January, his interpretation was taut, lean and driving when it needed to be, glowing for the more lyric pages
Read the entire article at Chicagotribune.com.
The programs for the benefit concert await the patrons who have come to support the Chicago Symphony Musicians' efforts on behalf of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
The patrons for the benefit concert, including the notorious "pig man", arrive for the beginning of the concert.
Retired Chicago Symphony Orchestra stagehand Pat Reynolds was one of the hundreds of people who donated their services for this wonderful event.
Principal violist Charles Pikler in a lighthearted conversation with violinist Simon Michal before the benefit concert. In the background, Scott Hostetler exams his English Horn.
Maestro Riccardo Muti stands with Kate Maehr, Executive Director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and Stephen Lester, Chairman of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Members Committee.
Stephen Lester of the Chicago Symphony Musicians and Kate Maehr, Executive Director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, welcome the audience to the benefit concert.
The Chicago Symphony Musicians cello and viola sections in deep concentration during the William Tell Overture.
Principal Clarinetist Stephen Williamson performs the Mozart Clarinet Concerto during the benefit concert.
A very happy Stephen Williamson and Riccardo Muti share their congratulations after the rousing performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto.
Violist Catherine Brubaker relaxes during the intermission of the concert.
Concertmaster Robert Chen tunes the Orchestra before the performance of the Beethoven Fifth Symphony.
The horn section during the Beethoven Fifth Symphony.
Riccardo Muti shows the concentration and intensity of his entire being that he is so famous for during the benefit concert.
The violin sections hard at work during the benefit concert.
The audience erupts in cheers at the end of the Beethoven Fifth Symphony.
Following the performance several of the musicians, members of the Food Depository and guests join Maestro Muti for a toast to a wonderful evening.
by John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune. June 7, 2016.
Gary Stucka, from left, cello, Michael Henoch, oboe, James Smelser, french horn, Steve Lester, bass, Susan Synnestvedt, violin and Scott Hostetler, oboe, will be among the Chicago Symphony Musicians playing a benefit for the Greater Chicago Food Depository at the Studebaker Theater on June 13. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
In recent years, and without much fanfare, U.S. symphony orchestra musicians have taken steps to expand their role as agents of social and cultural service in their communities, in ways that push beyond their normal contractual obligations to the institutions for which they work.
This typically has meant making music as members of independent not-for-profit organizations that take on outreach and/or fundraising initiatives that normally would fall outside the purview of their parent institutions.
• Last June, the musicians of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra gave a benefit concert to raise money for Dallas Court Appointed Special Advocates, a local nonprofit group of volunteers who advocate in court for children in foster care.
• In 2014, San Francisco Symphony musicians performed a concert to raise funds for the SF-Marin Food Bank, one of the Bay Area's most prominent charities.
• Players from the Minnesota Orchestra gave several self-produced concerts during the corrosive, 15-month lockout that ended with a new contact settlement in January 2014.
Now, the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are taking their music beyond Orchestra Hall to raise money on behalf of one of the city's most important social service organizations.
For their inaugural concert as the Chicago Symphony Musicians, the players will present a special concert to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository, June 13 at the historic Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building on south Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.
CSO music director Riccardo Muti will conduct Beethoven's iconic Fifth Symphony, and CSO principal clarinet Stephen Williamson will be the soloist in the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. Everyone, including Muti, the musicians and the stage technicians, will be donating his and her services.
Tickets for the event are $100-$250 and are being sold at the venue's website, www.studebakertheater.com All proceeds will go to the food depository, a nonprofit, founded in 1979, that provides food for more than 800,000 individuals across Cook County and works to end hunger through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and programs for children and adults. Last year, the organization distributed 68 million pounds of shelf-stable food, fresh produce, dairy products and meat, amounting to 155,000 meals per day, according to its website.
As board president of the Chicago Symphony Musicians (founded last summer) and one of the main organizers of the event, Michael Henoch, the CSO's assistant principal oboe, praised the "fabulous work" of the food depository as ample reason for the Chicago Symphony Musicians' broaching the idea of a benefit concert with depository officials. "They were initially very surprised but very grateful," he said.
The project is perfectly in keeping with similar concerts and outreach events Muti — a tireless advocate for music's humanitarian and spiritual role in bettering society and the lives of its citizens — has led in Chicago and key areas around the world.
"The maestro has been enthusiastically on board with this from the start," Henoch said. "When we announced the event at a press conference at the food depository in April, he toured the facility and was very impressed with what they are doing to help people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. He spoke of the importance of artists feeding the bodies as well as souls of people, and how we musicians can use our talents and the power of music to achieve further goals in the community."
Read the rest of the article at chicagotribune.com.
by Max Raimi
ROSSINI WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE
It is fascinating to compare the overture and symphony on this evening’s program. Both feature a passage from darkness into light, but the Italian, Gioacchino Rossini, has a decidedly lighter touch then his Germanic contemporary Ludwig Van Beethoven. For one thing, the darkness in Rossini’s overture is merely a summer thunderstorm, hardly comparable to the existential desperation from which Beethoven’s Fifth emerges. For another, in Rossini everything is about song. Just as it has been said that Beethoven treated the human voice as an instrument in his vocal works, Rossini typically calls upon the orchestral musicians to sing upon their instruments.
A classic example of this opens the overture. It features one of the great cello solos in the literature, as the principal soars above an ensemble of his fellow cellists. It is quite easy to imagine this gorgeous melody being entrusted to an operatic tenor. The ensuing thunderstorm is one of the most famous examples of tone painting in classical music: we feel the sheets of rain pelting us and shiver from the wind. The next section, a depiction of the peaceful countryside featuring a famous English horn solo accompanied by bird calls in the flute, is even more famous. It has been appropriated by everybody from Spike Jones to Bugs Bunny to conjure up a scene of pastoral serenity.
The final episode is the most famous moment of all, one of the most immediately recognizable excerpts ever created by a classical composer (“Hi-ho Silver!”). It is hard to say something new about such beloved music, but I can offer one observation. The famous “galloping” tune features a bowing technique in the strings known as “ricochet”. We use our bows almost like a drumstick, attacking the string in such a way so that the bow bounces quickly to create the galloping rhythm. Indeed, our bows strike the string not unlike the way a horse’s hooves pound along the ground; Rossini takes us beyond tone painting to an actual physical reenactment.
In the world of classical music, we often have a conflicted relationship with music that enjoys such sensational popularity. We tend to be a bit suspicious of it; our instinct is to be condescending. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that this music is universally known and appreciated precisely because it is truly great.
MOZART CONCERTO FOR CLARINET, K. 622
As it was left unfinished and is the final work in his catalogue, Mozart’s Requiem is widely revered as a musical last will and testament. While I love the Requiem I do not share this view; Mozart was never at his most characteristically Mozartean in his church music. Among the candidates for Mozart’s definitive final statement as to what he regarded as beautiful, I would nominate another masterpiece from his last days—this concerto.
Mozart’s music, dramatic to the core, was perhaps at its most transcendent in the theatrical forms of the opera and the concerto. Mozart wrote this work for a beloved friend, the great clarinet virtuoso Anton Stadler, and the clarinet emerges in it as a fully drawn operatic character. Whereas a lesser composer may have contented himself with showcasing the soloist’s technical skill, this concerto truly defines the soul of the clarinet, its liquid melodiousness, playful agility, and astonishing range of tone colors and emotions. It was the first concerto for clarinet to enter the repertoire and no subsequent work has ever come close to equaling it. We are fortunate to have our colleague Stephen Williamson playing the solo part this evening; he is a brilliant exponent of his instrument’s possibilities.
K. 622 is cast in the standard three-movement concerto structure, with a lively yet profoundly songful opening movement, a slow movement of unearthly serene beauty, and a dancing rondo in conclusion. The rondo form features a recurring melody; this tune must be quite memorable so we can instantly recall having already heard it when it returns. One of the great joys of Mozart’s rondos is his genius in navigating the moment when we are about to return to the familiar rondo theme and the home key. To come home is always a satisfying experience, and Mozart often teases us lovingly, delaying the moment of satisfaction to enhance the joy we feel. It is virtually impossible to listen to this music without smiling.
BEETHOVEN SYMPHONY #5, OPUS 67
Beethoven’s Fifth may be the first symphony ever written that truly solves a central problem inherent in the four-movement structure: How can four different episodes cohere into a single unified narrative? Beethoven’s solution lies in the iconic first four notes. These four notes famously dominate almost every measure of the first movement, imbuing it with an obsessive tension. With more subtlety, the pattern of three short notes and one long also appear at crucial moments throughout the rest of the piece.
A brilliant example of this is in the second movement. The great climaxes of this movement startle us with brass outbursts in C Major, the key that will ring in triumph at the end of the symphony. However, the melody we hear the brass intone in the second movement features three relatively short notes followed by a note five times as long—the exact rhythmic formula that begins the whole symphony, only in a slower tempo. Beethoven, then, is simultaneously referencing the very beginning and the very end of his symphonic journey, showing us at the same instant where we have come from and foreshadowing where we are going.
The third movement is marked “Scherzo”, Italian for “joke”, but good humor is in rather short supply. The horns break open the furtive overall mood by shouting out a variant of the unifying four-note idea from the first movement. It always strikes me as an almost vicious parody of the beginning of the symphony; the joke is a rather cruel one. The movement closes in astonishing fashion; the whole grammar of Beethoven’s language seems to break down, the cause-and-effect logic of classical harmony appears to have collapsed, and we are for a time in a state of stasis that nearly suggests death. Without this passage, the triumph of the finale would seem arbitrary, unearned. But every moment in the symphony is hard-won, not a single note seems anything short of inexorable.
So then, we are not merely propelling ourselves when we play this music; an irresistible force pulls us along every step of the way. As it surges forward, the excitement of its logic and momentum drives the musicians to expend energy we may not have realized that we had had at the outset. To perform this intense, demanding music is a grueling exercise, yet somehow I always seem to have more energy when I have finished the symphony than I had when I began it.
The Chicago Symphony Musicians Will Present a Benefit Concert June 13th for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Conducted by Music Director Riccardo Muti.
The Musicians of the Chicago Symphony will present a benefit concert for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, GCFD, on Monday, June 13th at 8:00PM at the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Our musicians have always been involved in the community through chamber, educational, and community concerts. This concert, undertaken as an orchestra and conducted by our Music Director Riccardo Muti, will be the first time such a collective effort has been made. Collaborating with the Food Depository, our musicians can offer support in direct ways, by raising funds. This concert will bring attention to two of the most difficult problems our society faces: hunger and malnutrition. The concert is entirely produced by the musicians. All of the proceeds will be donated to the GCFD.
All participants: musicians, stage hands, ushers, will be donating their services for this concert. CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti will also be donating his services. He shares the musicians’ commitment to help those in need, saying "I am very happy to be conducting the first concert of the Chicago Symphony Musicians to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository, whose effort to end hunger is so important to our City. As musicians, we strive to provide cultural nourishment and so this joint effort is a reflection of our collective desire to feed the body and soul."
The Studebaker Theater is just two blocks south of Orchestra Hall, within the Fine Arts Building. This location was chosen because of its easy access for audience members, and its 720 seats will give listeners an opportunity to see and hear us in a more intimate setting. The program will begin with the William Tell Overture by Rossini, followed by the Mozart Clarinet Concerto featuring Steve Williamson, soloist, and conclude with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. By offering the use of this venerable hall, The Fine Arts Building has joined with the musicians to support the GCFD. We also thank the Chicago Federation of Musicians for their support and encouragement.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository began its work in 1979 . They support directly, or through over 650 partner organizations, one of every six Cook County residents. Currently they provide approximately 165,000 meals each day, and the proceeds from this concert will help to support this vital mission. We are proud to offer our support!
Tickets for this benefit concert are available through the Studebaker Box Office http://www.studebakertheater.com/tickets/box-office/
Greater Chicago Food Depository Vice President of Fund Development
Jill Zimmerman walks with Riccardo Muti and Steve Lester.
photo by Todd Rosenberg
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director Riccardo Muti with Greater Chicago Food Depository Vice President of Fund Development Jill Zimmerman, Principal Bass Alex Hanna, Assistant Principal Oboe Michael Henoch, Violinist Susan Synnestvedt,
and Bassists Steven Lester and Rob Kassinger.
photo by Todd Rosenberg
Tickets are now on sale for the May 1 concert, featuring a piece by Chicago composer Stacy Garrop and music by three American composers: Bernard Herrmann, Peter Schickele and Aaron Copland. Early Bird tickets are only $20 through April 1. Get yours today!
Stacy Garrop — Little Bits
Peter Schickele — Quartet for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano
Bernard Herrmann — Souvenirs de Voyage
Aaron Copland — Sextet
Works by living composers are important to us, as well as compositions by American composers. This spring, we will bring to you “Little Bits,” a piece written in 2000 by Chicago composer Stacy Garrop, who is an associate professor of composition at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Garrop will join us at the event and participate in a post-concert Q&A with the Artists.
We will also present three other American composers: Bernard Herrmann, most famous for his film music, including the theme for Psycho; Peter Schickele, best-known as his comedic alter-ego P.D.Q. Bach, who does parodies of the great composers; and Aaron Copland, one of the most quintessentially American composers of all. These pieces will also feature guest violinist Kozue Funakoshi and violist Wei-Ting Kuo.
Attendees are also invited to enjoy refreshments and mingle with our Artists at a post-concert reception.
Ticket buyers may also take advantage of a special offer at Santorini Restaurant. Show your concert ticket and receive a free glass of wine and dessert with your dinner. Reservations are necessary and can be made by calling 312.829.8820 or by visiting www.santorinichicago.com.
Sunday, May 1, 2016 from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM (CDT)
Anne and Howard Gottlieb Hall at Merit School of Music - 38 South Peoria Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Civitas Ensemble Facebook Page
Many people speak about the healing power of music, and I was lucky enough to be able to experience the truth of the idea. In the summer of 2013, I traveled with my now-wife then co-dreamer Lauren to the Middle East to bring music to refugees. We called our project Music Heals Us and raised over $7,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to fulfill our mission statement: we have a moral obligation to provide a voice for the unheard children. We present our expression through our music as an example to them. And through our interactions, we establish relationships to show that community extends beyond racial, cultural, and geographic barriers.
We spent seven weeks traveling to different cities throughout Jordan and the West Bank. Our first workshop took place at a summer camp for Palestinian refugee children located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Our workshops consisted of three main parts: introductions, group building musical activities, and a performance at the end. It really amazed me how much vitality these children had. They ranged in age from 8 to 16 years old, but they all seemed uninhibited in their expression and happy to be inclusive of one another and of us. That day happened to be my birthday and after Lauren informed them, they treated ME to some beautiful birthday music. I thought we were bringing music and joy to them but they definitely brought some to us as well.
We did a workshop in Bethlehem in conjunction with a NGO called Shoruq. I still get excited thinking about that group of young people and the creativity and spontaneity of their musical expression. We split them into groups and gave them 10 minutes to compose rhythmic patterns which they would then perform. The kiddos were very cute with the basic rhythmic patterns we taught them. The teenagers came up with a musical performance that STOMP would be proud of, with complexity of rhythms, call-and-response, and hocket. If more people would pour their creativity into music like these kids and less into more violent endeavors, what a different world it would be.
One of my favorite workshops was a week-long camp we hosted in Mafraq, Jordan. The city took on (and is still taking on) a multitude of Syrian refugees and many of the children cannot possibly comprehend the situation. So we gave them a place to build community, and to learn about and experience the transformative power of music. Every day we had a different instrument for them to learn about, different ways to be reflective on what we are thankful for, and musical performances. Our hope is that we were able to impress on them how to constructively channel our energies into the creative endeavors of music, learn about our culture, and remember that the community of humanity can only be held together through a common language of music.
To learn more about our project, visit our blog at Music Heals Us.