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CSO’s Interdisciplinary Collaborations Bring Music to Young Audiences

CSO Family Matinee performances allow audiences to get up close and personal with the musicians and their instruments (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

CSO Family Matinee performances allow audiences to get up close and personal with the musicians and their instruments (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Though children today can access more multimedia entertainment than ever before, nothing can replace the original multimedia experience: attending a live performance. This spring, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has teamed up with the Chicago Children’s Theatre and Hubbard Street Dance to present interdisciplinary programs for audiences of all ages. Whether you’re a seasoned concert goer, or can’t tell Bach from Brahms, the CSO’s upcoming Tchaikovsky Spectacular and Once Upon a Symphony programs offer fun for everyone.

Once Upon a Symphony is fun even for the youngest music lovers (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Once Upon a Symphony is fun and engaging, even for the youngest music lovers (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Once Upon A Symphony with the Chicago Children’s Theater

Story time just got more musical with Once Upon A Symphony, an interactive program developed by the CSO’s Negaunee Music Institute and the Chicago Children’s Theatre.

This season, two different Once Upon a Symphony programs present two classic stories, The Little Red Hen and Jack and the Beanstalk, in performances at Symphony Center and at the McAninch Arts Center at College of Dupage.

Jon Weber, the Institute’s Director of Learning Programs, said that Once Upon a Symphony began in 2009, “when we first started our relationship with Yo-Yo Ma as the Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant.”

Existing family programming provided families enriching experiences, but “didn’t give a chance to feature the musicians and the musicianship that is core to our mission. So, we started the process of researching and testing and piloting what became Once Upon a Symphony.” He describes the performances as “a multilayered experience of learning through stories.”

Though stories are the centerpieces of each Once Upon a Symphony program, they are supported with accessible pieces of classical music and newly composed songs that bookend each performance.

“In Jack in the Beanstalk, we use excerpts from Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King to portray this chase between the giant and Jack in the castle,” Weber explained. “In The Little Red Hen, we use an excerpt from Carnival of the Animals, ‘The Hens,’ for the introduction to those characters.”

After enjoying a Chicago Children’s Theater production that Weber described as “saturated with images and participation and music,” he was eager to work with the company to foster the same kinds of connections between artist and audience.

Actress and writer Megan Wells has helped develop most of the Once Upon a Symphony presentations, and narrates the current production of Jack and the Beanstalk.

She said that over the years, everyone involved has worked “to find just the right balance to get the little ones involved, so there’s plenty of play and physical movement, and yet at the same time to pull the parents and grandparents into the experience.”

Hubbard Street 2 Dancer Katie Kozul, left, in Glimpse Through Glass with HS2 Director Terence Marling and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Alastair Willis conducting. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Hubbard Street 2 Dancer Katie Kozul, left, in Glimpse Through Glass with HS2 Director Terence Marling and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Alastair Willis conducting. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Hubbard Street Dance

If any music was made for dancing, it is the music of Tchaikovsky. His ballets are so iconic that they’ve become a part of popular culture. But even his symphonies seem to dance.

Hubbard Street Dance returns to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in May to present a program of music and dance, the Tchaikovsky Spectacular, as part of its Family Matinee series.

The Spectacular includes excerpts from the composer’s most beloved ballets (The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet), five movements from four of his symphonies, and the Elégie from the Serenade for Strings in C Major.

Members of Hubbard Street 2 (HS2), the company’s training program that prepares young adults for careers in contemporary dance, perform during eight of the nine works on the program.

HS2 Director Terence Marling said that for this piece, “The dancers have worked to create the steps. I’m working more of a producer than anything else.”

“We didn’t go the route of a pantomime or story ballet,” he said, “but we did create interactions and ideas of posture and gesture and ways of communicating ideas that are very clear.” The dancers tell an overarching story in which the protagonist is always changing.

Though the performance is meant to be accessible, Marling insisted, “We did not dumb down the dance. We wanted this to be challenging for the dancers to perform, just as the music is challenging for the orchestra.”

Though Tchaikovsky’s music is known for its accessibility, by introducing dance into the performance, Marling says he hopes the dancers “can help the audience can hear in a different way.”

CSO Family Matinee performances allow audiences to get up close and personal with the musicians and their instruments (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

CSO Family Matinee performances allow audiences to get up close and personal with the musicians and their instruments (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)


For more information about the CSO’s upcoming family programming, including a range of pre-and-post-concert activities you can enjoy regarding the events mentioned above, visit: http://cso.org/institute/

 

 

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