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Long-Lost Opera Receives Chicago Premiere



Andina, a long-lost opera composed by Eustasio Rosales, receives its long-overdue world-premiere in Chicago Friday, September 18, 2015, after being discovered by the composer’s great-grandson, Arlen Parsa (pictured above).

Parsa said in a recent interview that while he and his family knew Rosales was a professional composer and musician, “we always assumed his music died with him.” That is, until one day, when his aunt discovered two boxes containing a full score of an opera called Andina, a “crumbling” piano-vocal reduction of the score, and a handwritten English translation of the Spanish libretto.

The story of Andina, composed in the 1930s, takes places in the foothills of the Andes. The main character, Rosa, is a “beautiful, naïve mountain girl, and she has two suitors: one is Juan, who is a simple, local farm hand, and the other is Don Carlos, who is a wealthy plantation owner from the city,” Parsa said.

The opera’s plot doesn’t stray too far from the “girl meet boy, girl must choose between two boys” formula of many operas. But, the opera’s journey from page to stage is anything but typical.

Rosales was born in Columbia during the 19th century, where he composed his first symphonic work at the tender age of 12. He came to Chicago shortly after the World’s Columbia Exposition of 1893. “He fell in love with Chicago, and decided he wanted to move there,” Parsa explained.

“His family had a little bit of money, but he didn’t bring any of that money with him, so he had to struggle with a lot of musical odd jobs,” Parsa said. Besides composing and arranging music, Rosales also accompanied silent films. “When movies with sound came along, he was out of a job,” Parsa said matter-of-factly.

One of the many hats Rosales wore was band director. He led his own ensemble, the Señor Rosales Latin Band, pictured below performing on the rooftop patio of the no-longer standing LaSalle Street Hotel. Ironically, Parsa said that none of the members of Rosales’s band were Latino: they were all Germans!


The music they played likely included what he composed or arranged himself. Some of his published arrangements of popular songs still exist in libraries around the world, like “Princess Pocahontas,” a march and a two-step, and minstrel songs like “Massa’s in de cold ground.”

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra also performed some of his music. A visit to the CSO’s Rosenthal Archives revealed that “in 1932 [Rosales] composed Three Spanish Dances for the CSO, which may be the first piece the orchestra performed by a Latin American composer.”

When Parsa found a review from the Chicago Daily News, it mentions he was pulled on stage to receive standing ovations, which “gave me hope that maybe this long lost opera would be good, because I really didn’t know.”

However, since Parsa, a documentary filmmaker, has limited knowledge of opera, he enlisted the help of composer Pablo Chin to create a modern edition of Andina. While this seems like a relatively simple task, Chin had to reconcile occasional differences between his various sources – the full score, piano-vocal score, and libretto – to determine what the composer originally intended.

Luckily, Rosales had “pretty nice handwriting,” Chin explained in a recent chat on the phone. But, there were other problems that had to be solved. “The lyrics were difficult to decipher,” he said. ”The language is very old-fashioned Spanish. I mean, I speak Spanish and it was hard even for me!”

Occasionally, Chin encountered other editorial issues that he had to reconcile. For example, “some tempo markings were clearly erroneous,” Chin said. “He might write something like allegretto, but then he would also write that a quarter note equals something like 44 beats per minute [a very, very, slow tempo].”


The excerpt above is from one of the final rehearsals of Andina before it receives first performance in Chicago.

The score includes traditional instruments one might find in an early 20th century opera pit orchestra: strings, piccolo, flutes, oboes, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, tubas, and harp.

But, unlike other opera scores of the time, Andina requires quite the percussion section. In addition to timpani, tambourine, cymbals, triangle, gran cassa, the score calls for Spanish and Latin American percussion instruments including castanets, tamburo, and tam tam!

The instrumentation is indication enough that Rosales’s score blends both European and Latin American musical traditions. Chin also mentioned that Andina contains some dance movements, showing, perhaps, the influence of other Latin American genres like zarzuela.

Though Parsa and Chin began to piece together the puzzle of Andina, one thing the opera desperately needed was money. Parsa launched a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter to support the first performances of the opera featuring the Chicago Composers Orchestra and led by conductor Chris Ramaekers.

“The very first time I heard this music I was terrified, because I didn’t know what it was going to sound like,” Parsa confessed. “And as a young person who’s much more comfortable listening to Kanye than Beethoven, I thought I was going to hate this music. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to relate to this at all. But much to my surprise, when we did the first read-through with just piano and five singers, I was kind of spellbound by it. It’s really romantic and it’s soaring and it’s kind of cinematic.”

For more information about Andina, visit the opera’s website.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Visit WFMT

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 30: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, celebrating her 20th anniversary on the bench, is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 30: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, celebrating her 20th anniversary on the bench, is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 30: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, celebrating her 20th anniversary on the bench, is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 30: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, celebrating her 20th anniversary on the bench, is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

We are thrilled to welcome a very special guest on the morning of Monday, September 21: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg’s son James runs Cedille Records, Chicago’s nonprofit classical label.

Starting at 10:00 am, Justice Ginsburg will join WFMT’s midday program host Lisa Flynn live in the broadcast booth as a Guest Host, to share some of her favorite music with WFMT’s audiences, who can listen at 98.7WFMTor at

Immediately following at 11:00 am, she and Ms. Flynn will join singers from The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago for a live broadcast from WFMT’s Fay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio.  Justice Ginsburg, a well-known opera aficionado, will discuss Opera and the Law with Lisa Flynn, during which the singers will present operatic excerpts with legal scenes. Performers from the Ryan Opera Center will be mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen, tenors Alec Carlson and Jesse Donner, and bass Patrick Guetti, with piano accompaniment by music director Craig Terry.  Audiences will hear:

  • The “Seguidilla” scene from Bizet’s Carmen —Ms. Rosen and Mr. Donner as Carmen and Don José, performing a duet that is arguably opera’s most famous plea bargain.
  • “Abendlich” from Wagner’s Das Rheingold —The character of Wotan, on the importance of contracts (a recording).
  • “I Accept Their Verdict” from Britten’s Billy Budd — Mr. Donner as Captain Vere, on the difference between law and justice.
  • Patrick De Rocher’s aria from Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally — Ms. Rosen, on the death penalty.
  • “A Paradox” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance—Mr. Carlson, Ms. Rosen, and Mr. Guetti as Frederick, Ruth, and the Pirate King, on strict versus sensible construction.

The repertoire in the program was personally selected by Justice Ginsburg, who will also provide her own commentary.  Ms. Flynn will introduce each segment.

Following the broadcast, Justice Ginsburg will record a segment for in which she will reveal her top five favorite operas.  Brief clips from the broadcast will also be aired on WTTW’s nightly newsmagazine Chicago Tonight that evening.

“We are thrilled to welcome Justice Ginsburg to WFMT,” said Steve Robinson, General Manager of WFMT.  “To have someone of her stature who has such a passion for classical music on our air is a great honor, and we are delighted to partner with our friends at Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Ryan Opera Center for this very special event.”

About The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center was established in 1974 as the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since its inception, the Ryan Opera Center has been recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. That standing is maintained by providing the finest up-and-coming singers and pianists with unparalleled training and experience.  Selected from some 400 singers who audition annually, the Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members receive advanced instruction in numerous aspects of operatic performance, and perform and understudy a significant number of principal and supporting roles throughout Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mainstage season.

About WFMT

WFMT is one of the nation’s most respected classical music radio stations, reaching an audience of thousands of local listeners and an ever-increasing international audience at WFMT showcases superlative programs, concerts, and live events you cannot hear anywhere else – broadcasts from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and many more. The WFMT Radio Network is a leading producer and syndicator of a diverse selection of outstanding musical series, including Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin, the Beethoven Network, and the Jazz Network.  Connect with WFMT on Facebook and Twitter.


Julia Maish — (773) 509-5551 or Top of FormBottom of Form

RIP Jim White, WFMT Chief Engineer

Jim White

Jim White

Sadly, we received news last night that Jim White, Chief Engineer for WFMT, has passed away.  Although Jim just joined the company in February of this year, he had quickly become a valued member of the WFMT team.  The second Jim walked in the door at WFMT he impacted everyone greatly.  In the short time Jim has been here he improved the sound quality of our broadcast tremendously, enhanced processes and standardized procedures (but enough engineering talk).  Jim quickly became a good friend to us all.  Please keep his family in your prayers as they go through this terrible loss.

We will pass along memorial service information as we receive it.

-Mark Jahnke | VP, Chief Technology Officer

13 Times Composers Taught Us How to Throw Shade


Salon-Style Concert Puts Poetry First at the Poetry Foundation



Grammy Award nominated soprano Nicole Heaston, a Chicago native, sits down with a volume of Emily Dickinson’s poetry at the Poetry Foundation, before her performance of Aaron Copland’s “Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson” in a salon-style concert produced by the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago.

Of all the sister arts, music and poetry are two of the closest. They’ve been inseparable for thousands of years. Could there be a better place to celebrate the special relationship between music and poetry than the Poetry Foundation in downtown Chicago?

The Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC), now in its fourth season of presenting vocal recitals with some of today’s most accomplished singers, puts poetry first in a free, salon-style concert at the Poetry Foundation on Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm.

I sat down with Grammy Award nominated soprano Nicole Heaston and CAIC artistic director, tenor Nicholas Phan, at the Poetry Foundation to learn more about their upcoming performance.

The program, titled “The Transcendentalists,” explores the impact of Transcendentalist poets on American composers, including Charles Ives and Ned Rorem. The concert also features settings of Emily Dickinson by Lee Hoiby and and Aaron Copland.

I know what you’re thinking. “Emily Dickinson!?! She’s not a Transcendentalist poet!” Well, I thought the same thing too at first. But then I was reminded that “for wishing only to be herself, Dickinson was following a transcendental ideal,” according to resources on the Transcendentalists published online by Texas A & M University.

Perhaps the centerpiece of Thursday’s concert is Aaron Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, which Nicole Heaston will perform.

Heaston, a native Hyde Parker, told me she first encountered Dickinson’s poetry as a student at the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools. “I really felt the poems that I read when I was that age, I guess I was probably around 10?”

“I’ve never done Copland’s settings of Dickinson before, which is rare,” she confessed, “because there are many singers I know who sang at least three or four of these songs in college. So, when I picked them up at first I thought, ‘Oh, I know these songs, I know ‘The World Feels Dusty.’ I know ‘Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven’ just by hearing it. But, I didn’t know them.”

Though some college students have performed these works, they are anything but simple. “Some are quite difficult,” Heaston said. “When I looked at the music I thought, ‘There are a lot of rhythm changes in this thing!’ But it was a challenge, and I loved it.”

“And I’m so glad I didn’t learn it in college,” she continued, “because I can bring maturity and all of my years of experience to them, and color them in a way that maybe someone couldn’t have done if they were in college.”

Though any piece of music benefits from more experience, Copland’s Dickinson settings are challenging because of their particularly broad emotional range. “They’re very diverse, they’re not like a normal song cycle that goes from one theme to the next and it melds into an emotional arc,” she explained. “They’re all very different songs.”

Scholar Dorthoy Zayatz Baker wrote in The Emily Dickinson Journal that, “Aaron Copland, like Emily Dickinson, was recognized for his tremendous thematic range.” Dickinson described her own penchant for changing her poetic voice from poem to poem as her “vice for voices,” which Copland reflects in his settings of her poetry.

To provide an example of the contrasting moods among Copland’s songs, Heaston said, “The song ‘Heart, We Will Forget Him’ is a very longing, heartbreaking song, and the next song is ‘Dear March, come in!,’ and I’m speaking to the month of March!” she chuckled. “They’re very diverse in attitude, but so beautifully set. When you think of the poetry and the way Copland set it, they’re all very exciting and interesting.”

Heaston’s approach to learning these works was the same as Copland’s was in composing them: put the poetry first.

Copland composed the songs from 1949-1950, during which he immersed himself in the complete works of Dickinson, read secondary literature about her, and even visited her home in Amherst, Massachusetts.

When Heaston began learning Copland’s cycle, she said, “I went through the poems first, and then I added the rhythms, and finally I started to learn the music.”

This “poetry first” approach helps Heaston stay true to the composer’s intentions in honoring Dickinson’s words. “Copland tried to make it like you’re speaking in English, and not where you’re singing in rhythms,” she said.”

“It was very important for me to learn the rhythms in it so that it would sound like it is me speaking to you instead of duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH,” she said as she conducted robotically with her hand. “It has a flow to it.”

But “poetry first” is how Heaston learns all of her music. “Many teachers will tell you to start with the text, and start with the rhythm, and don’t jump in immediately trying to sight-read with everything all at the same time, because it can just be bit of a cluster. For me, once the words are in my head, I can kind of put that aside, and start working on the vocal line, and usually they go together. Then it’s more about making it music, and not just notes and words.”

One of her favorite songs in Copland’s Dickinson cycle is “I Heard An Organ Talk Sometimes.” Though scored for voice and piano, Heaston says in this song, “The piano literally sounds like an organ. My mother was an organ player, so I’m used to those chords, and he begins the song that way. It’s really a beautiful, haunting song.”

Nicholas Phan joins Heaston on Thursday’s program at the Poetry Foundation. He said that, fortuitously, “around the time CAIC was formed, the Poetry Foundation moved into their beautiful new building, with its beautiful salon performance space – it’s an ideal venue for audiences to experience the intimate art form of the song recital.”

Though many concert presenters around the country are programming fewer vocal recitals these days, Phan said that “putting this repertoire back in its ‘natural’ habitat of the salon and ensuring that our programming is compelling has been very successful for us at CAIC.”

In CAIC’s salons, Phan said, “there is simply no barrier between the audience and the art, and learning to be able to be open and vulnerable in those circumstances has only made performing a more moving and unique experience – for both me and the audience.  That is definitely not an experience one will ever have with a recording or a YouTube video.”

“The Transcendentalists” is one of two salon concerts that are part of CAIC’s Collaborative Works Festival, which has grown its audience by 400% in just four years. The CAIC’s free Poetry Foundation salon concerts are so popular, Phan reports, that they are “always turning people away, so be sure to show up early!”


To learn more about this concert, visit the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago’s website.

To learn more about the poetry of Emily Dickinson, visit the Emily Dickinson Archive’s website or the Poetry Foundation’s online resources.


Pianist Ingolf Wunder live from Bennett Gordon Hall

Schubert’s Sonata in B-Flat Major, D 960; a Chopin nocturne plus his “Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brillante”; and Liszt’s “Hexameron” (Variations on A Theme from Bellini’s Opera “I Puritani”).

19 Pieces of Music That Pair Perfectly with Pumpkin Spice Lattes


30 Performances in Chicago You Don’t Want to Miss this Fall

Classical concerts

Batya Dance Theatre (Photo: Amitava Sarkar)

Though summer is winding down and the colder months are coming, at least we have the beginning of the 2015-16 performing arts season to look forward to! While every season brings great performances, this season is particularly special since several organizations are celebrating milestone anniversaries. The Steppenwolf Theatre turns 40, the Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians turns 50, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra turns 125! Below, we’ve rounded up our staff picks of don’t miss performances this fall. Don’t forget to tell us what performances you are eagerly awaiting in the comments below.

Classical Concerts

Classical concerts

Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Concert for Chicago

Who:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Muti (conductor)

What: Beethoven: Leonore Overture, No. 3 and Mahler Symphony: No. 1

When:  Friday, September 18, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Where: The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Chicago

Why: Over 25,000 people attended the CSO’s first Concert for Chicago in Millennium Park in 2010. Since, the CSO’s annual concert in Millennium Park has been one of the most popular events of the year. Join thousands of other music lovers under the stars as they say goodbye to summer and welcome the fall in this fun free event.

Read more information on the CSO’s website.


Fifth House Ensemble at Constellation

 Who: Fifth House Ensemble

What:  Dan Visconti: Soundings (world premiere) and Lonesome Roads, Jennifer Higdon: Smash and Autumn Music, Stacy Garrop: Frammenti and Silver Dagger

When: Sunday, October 4, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Where: Constellation, 3111 N Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618

Why: Do you sometimes wish you could enjoy a nice cocktail while you enjoy live classical music? In this concert, the Fifth House Ensemble unveils a world premiere by composer Dan Visconti, and celebrates the music of two other living composers. Think contemporary music is inaccessible? Maybe you need a drink to help wash it down in this performance at Constellation!

 Read more information on Constellation’s website.

BJC Masaaki Suzuki Frauenkirche Dresden 15 november 2008 photo: Marco Borggreve

Conductor Masaaki Suzuki at the Frauenkirche Dresden

Bach Collegium Japan plays baroque masterworks

Who: Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki (conductor/harpsichord), Joanne Lunn (soprano)

What: J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047; Vivaldi: Concerto in C Major for Recorder, Strings, and Continuo, RV 443; Handel: Gloria in B-flat Major, HWV deest; J.S. Bach: Flute Sonata in E Minor, BWV 1034; Vivaldi: Oboe Concerto in C Major, RV450; J.S. Bach: Cantata “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen”, BWV 51

When: Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Where: Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637

Why: Masaaki Suzuki is one of the world’s most respected Bach interpreters. He comes to Chicago with his ensemble, the Bach Collegium Japan, for a special performance at Rockefeller Chapel. If you can’t get to Leipzig, hearing Bach under Suzuki’s baton at Rockefeller is a good alternative!

Read more information on the UChicago Presents website.


25-Hour John Cage Marathon at the MCA

Who: William Pope.L

What: A 25-hour marathon of John Cage’s Silence: Lectures and Writings (1961)

When: Saturday, November 21 at 3:00 pm to Sunday, November 22 at 4:00 pm, 2015

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611

Why: Die hard lovers of modern and contemporary music won’t want to miss the chance to hear this 25-hour marathon reading of John Cage’s Silence. Cage pushed the boundaries of what we consider music with groundbreaking works like 4’33. Instead of experiencing just a few minutes of Cage’s experimental sounds, why not experience 25 hours?

Read more information on the MCA’s website.


Handel’s Judas Maccabeus

Who: Music of the Baroque Chorus and Orchestra, Jane Glover (conductor), Yulia Van Doren (soprano), Krisztina Szabó (mezzo-soprano), Thomas Cooley (tenor)

What: Handel: Judas Maccabaeus

When: Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 3:00 pm and Monday, November 30, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Where: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, IL 60077 (Sunday) and Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601 (Monday)

Why: The chance to hear this gorgeous Handel oratorio doesn’t come around too often! Music of the Baroque’s performance features some of today’s most sought after singers who specialize in the music of Handel and his contemporaries: Yulia Van Doren (soprano) and Thomas Cooley (tenor).

Read more information on MOB’s website.



Opera and Musicals

9/6/14 8:02:34 PM -- Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park in Chicago, IL, USA . © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2014

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park

Who:  The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus joined by the star singers of the upcoming 2015-16 season.

What: Excerpts from Rossini’s Cinderella, Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and more.

When: Friday, September 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Where: The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Chicago

Why: Like the CSO’s Concert for Chicago, the Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park concert is always one of the most well-attended events at the Pritzker Pavilion. Experience some of Lyric’s upcoming season in performances by some of opera’s brightest stars in this free concert that’s perfect for those new to opera as well as seasoned connoisseurs.

For more information visit Lyric’s website.


The Marriage of Figaro

Who: Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra and Chorus, Henrik Nánási (conductor), Barbara Gaines (stage director)

What: Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro

When: Saturday, September 26, 2015 – Saturday, October 24, 2015

Where: Ardis Krainik Theatre, Civic Opera House Chicago, 20 N Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606

Why: Lyric opens its season with one of the most beloved operas of all-time, Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. The cast includes world-renowned singers like Luca Pisaroni, who recently performed the role of Count Almaviva at the Salzburg Festival, in a new production by Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s artistic director Barbara Gaines.

For more information visit Lyric’s website.


Lucio Silla

Who: Chicago Opera Theater, Francesco Milioto (conductor), Andreas Mitisek (stage director)

What: Mozart: Lucio Silla

When: Saturday, September 26 – Sunday, October 4, 2015

Where: Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Why: The opportunity to experience Mozart’s Lucio Silla live in the United States doesn’t happen too often: one of the most recent American productions was by Santa Fe Opera in 2005. So be sure to catch Chicago Opera Theater’s production if you can. Once you do, you’ll wonder why Lucio Silla and Mozart’s other early operas aren’t revived more frequently.

For more information visit COT’s website.


The Turn of the Screw

Who: Chicago Fringe Opera, Codrut Birsan (artistic director), George Cederquist (stage director)

What: Benjamin Britten: The Turn of the Screw

When: Saturday, September 26 – Saturday, October 24, 2015

Where: Berger Park Cultural Center, 6205 N. Sheridan Road. Chicago, IL 60660

Why: One of the newest storefront opera companies in Chicago, Chicago Fringe Opera offers audiences the chance to expand their own operatic repertoire by experiencing rarely  heard works in accessible ways. CFO launches its second season with a performance of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw featuring young artists who have appeared on some of the world’s greatest stages.

For more information visit CFO’s website.



The artists of Geroge Lewis’s opera “Afterword”


Who: International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Catherine Sullivan (media/theater artist), Sean Griffin (director)

What: George Lewis: Afterword

When: Friday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Where: Edlis Neeson Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago IL 60611

Why: Composer, musician, and MacArthur Genius Fellow George Lewis commemorates the 50th anniversary season of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) with an opera that explores the organization’s past and looks forward to its future: Afterword. This experimental opera comes to the MCA for two performances in conjunction with the exhibit The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now. Your ticket to Afterword also gets you admission to the Museum.

For more information visit the MCA’s website.


Amadigi di Gaula

Who: Haymarket Opera Company, Craig Trompeter (music director), Sarah Edgar (stage director)

What: Handel: Amadigi di Gaula

When: Friday, November 6 – Monday, November 9, 2015

Where: Mayne Stage, 1328 W Morse Avenue, Chicago, IL 60626

Why: Though most people know Handel’s music from the Messiah, most people during the 18th century knew Handel as one of the greatest opera composers of the day. Though revivals of Handel’s operas aren’t catching on as quickly in the United States as they are in Europe, companies like Haymarket fill a much needed voided in our cultural landscape. Amadigi is an opera full of magic both in the plot and in Handel’s enchanting score that’s sure to cast a spell on you, too.

For more information visit Haymarket’s website.

Jessie Mueller in "Beautiful"

Tony Award Winner Jessie Mueller in “Beautiful”

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Who: Carole King (music), Marc Bruni (stage director), Josh Prince (choreographer)

What: A musical biopic about Carole King’s life and work

When: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 – Sunday, February 21, 2016

Where: The Oriental Theater, 24 W Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Why: Chicago native Jessie Mueller wowed audiences in New York with her performance as Carole King in the musical biopic Beautiful, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. This revival of the production features Jessie’s equally talented sister, Abby Mueller, in the lead role.

For more information visit Broadway in Chicago’s website.


Bel Canto

Who: Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra and Chorus, Sir Andrew Davis (conductor), Kevin Newberry (stage director)

What: Jimmy López: Bel Canto

When: Monday, December 7, 2015 – Sunday, January 17, 2015

Where: Ardis Krainik Theatre, Civic Opera House Chicago, 20 N Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606

Why: Composer Jimmy López makes his operatic debut with Bel Canto, commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Chicago and based upon the eponymous novel by Anne Patchett. Bel Canto is also the first opera that Lyric creative consult Renée Fleming has developed with the company, and the first world-premiere opera that Sir Andrew Davis will conduct. Be one of the first to see this opera of “firsts” for López, Fleming, and Davis.

For more information visit Lyric’s website.



Jazz, Folk, and World Music


Sones de México Ensemble


Cantata Santa Maria de Iquique

Who: Sones de México Ensemble

What: Luis Advis: Cantata Santa Maria de Iquique

When: Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Where: Redmoon Theater, 2120 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago, IL 60616

Why: The opening concert of the 10th annual Latino Music Festival features the Cantata Santa Maria de Iquique, which blends the structure of folk cantatas with European elements. The concert is performed by the Grammy nominated Sones de México Ensemble, Chicago’s premier folk music ensemble specializing in Mexican ‘son.’

For more information visit the Latino Music Festival’s website.


Kurt Rosenwinkel Trio

Who: Kurt Rosenwinkel Trio

What: Jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and his Trio

When: Thursday, September 10 – Sunday, September 13, 2015

Where: Jazz Showcase at Dearborn Station, 806 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL 60605

Why: Don’t miss the rare opportunity to hear Kurt Rosenwinkel, considered one of the most influential jazz guitarists alive. Rosenwinkel, based in Berlin, Germany, comes to Chicago for select performances with his Trio that every jazz lover will want to hear.

For more information visit the Jazz Showcase’s website.


Indian music and art at the Art Institute

Who: Pandit Rattan Mohan Sharma, Indian classical vocalist, composer, and music director

What: North (Hindustani) classical music

When: Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Where: Rubloff Auditorium at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603

Why:  Though the term “interdisciplinary” has been a buzz word in the arts for years, India perfected interdisciplinary art thousands of years ago. This concert at the Art Institute allows audiences to explore connections between Indian art and music in conjunction with the exhibit Gates of the Lord: The Tradition of Krishna Paintings, which opens the same day.

For more information visit the Art Institute’s website.


All-night ‘Ragamala’ marathon of Indian classical music

Who: Over a dozen Indian musicians from around the world

What: Ragamala: A Celebration of Indian Classical Music – North (Hindustani) and South (Carnatic) Indian music

When: Friday, September 18, 2015 at 8:00 pm – Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 8:00 am

Where: Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington Street, Chicago, IL 60602

Why: This immersive, all-night long event allows audiences to explore many styles of Indian classical music.. Over a dozen performers will share music in ragas (or modes/scales) that are reserved specifically for the late-night and early-morning hours.

For more information visit the Chicago World Music Festival’s website.


The Gloaming features Martin Hayes, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Dennis Cahill and New York pianist/producer Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman in a “supergroup” of Irish musicians.

The Gloaming at Old Town School of Folk Music

Who: The Gloaming

What: Music featuring Iarla Ó Lionaird, Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Martin Hayes, and Dennis Cahill

When: Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Where: Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL 60625

Why: The Gloaming is a group of Irish and American musicians grounded in the spirit and forms of Irish traditional music, which creates and inhabits a truly original, contemporary soundscape. There is a reason Iarla Ó Lionaird and Martin Hayes are among Ireland’s national treasures, and this is a chance to hear why.

For more information visit the Old Town School of Folk Music’s website.


PigPen Theatre at Old Town School of Folk Music

Who: PigPen Theatre Co.

What: Members of PigPen Theatre Co.

When: Sunday, October 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Where: Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL 60625

Why: Anyone who saw PigPen Theatre’s The Old Man and the Old Moon years ago will recall the genius and simplicity with which they crafted the tale through music and imagination. The seven members of the troupe are also terrific folk-rock musicians whose story telling abilities translate to the songs they write and perform.

For more information visit Old Town School of Folk Music’s website.

Cécile McLorin Salvant at the 2012 Spoleto Festival USA.

Singer Cécile McLorin Salvant at the 2012 Spoleto Festival USA.

Jazz Singer Cécile McLorin Salvant

Who: Cécile McLorin Salvant

What: TBD

When: Friday, October 23, 2015 at 7:30pm

Where: Performance Hall, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th Street Chicago, IL 60637

Why: French-American Jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant quickly gained the attention of critics after winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010. In 2014, she was nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. You’ll want to hear this singer who critics will mention in the same breath as Billie Boliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and other great voices of the last century.

For more information visit the UChicago Presents’s website.


Chucho Valdés at Symphony Center

Who: Chucho Valdés and his Latin jazz band Irakere

What: Chucho Valdés celebrates 40 years with his Afro-Cuban group, Irakere

When: Friday, November 6, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Where: Symphony Center 220 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60604

Why: Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés  comes to the CSO’s Symphony Center Presents Jazz Series for one performance only. The evening celebrates 40 years of the revolutionary Latin jazz band Irakere, which Chucho Valdés co-founded. Despite the political barriers that kept the band from traveling to the U.S. in the 1970’s, Irakere exploded onto the jazz scene with its Afro-Cuban jazz and Cuban popular dance influences, as well as their distinctive use of traditional percussion instruments. With Valdés still a towering figure at the keyboard at 73, the band continues to absorb new styles and sounds, making its mark as one of the most trailblazing Afro-Cuban fusion bands in jazz today.

For more information visit the CSO’s website.


The Recycled Instrument Orchestra of Cateura

Recycled Instrument Orchestra of Cateura

Who: Recycled Instrument Orchestra of Cateura and the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago

What: Program TBA

When: Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Where: Merle Reskin Theatre 60 E. Balbo Drive Chicago, IL 60605

Why: The Recycled Instrument Orchestra of Cateura proves that one man’s trash is another’s treasure. The Orchestra began as a waste recycling project in a landfill in Cateura to turn waste into musical instruments. Their work is the feature of a new documentary, Landfillharmonic. But you should see them live when they close out the 10th Latino Music Festival!

For more information visit the Latino Music Festival’s website.


Japanese music and dance at the MCA

Who: Tatsu Aoki, Grandmaster Shunojo Fujima, and the ensemble Tsukasa Taiko

What: Taiko Legacy 12, a program of Japanese classical music and dance

When: Saturday, December 19 and Sunday, December 20, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Where: Edlis Neeson Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago IL 60611

Why: In one weekend, the MCA will host several performances of taiko drumming, an art that combines music, dance and costume into one energetic multimedia event. The performers at the MCA hail from Tokyo, San Francisco, and Chicago to bring the ancient art of taiko to modern audiences.

For more information, visit the MCA’s website.




Red Bull Flying Bach, where Bach meets hip-hop.

Red Bull Flying Bach, where Bach meets hip-hop.

Red Bull Flying Bach

Who: The Flying Steps and Red Bull Flying Bach

What: J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, choreographed

When: Friday, September 25 – Sunday, September 27, 2015

Where: Chicago Theater, 175 N State Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Why: Everyone knows Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, but you’ve never experienced the music like this.             The Flying Steps and Red Bull Flying Bach take Bach’s music as there inspiration, remix it with electronic beats, and use it as the foundation for contemporary choreography.

For more information visit the Chicago Theater’s website.


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs Forsythe

Who: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

What: William Forsythe’s N.N.N.N; One Flat Thing, reproduced; and Quintett

When: Thursday, October 15 – Sunday October 18, 2015

Where: Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Why: The world-renowned William Forsythe Company comes to Chicago this fall to set their steps on Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Hubbard Street launches its 38th season with an all-Forsythe program for its Fall Series, offering Chicago audiences the chance to immerse themselves in the works of Forsythe, who has received a Laurence Olivier Award and was appointed a Commandeur des Arts et Lettres by the Government of France.

For more information visit Hubbard Street’s website.

Batya Dance Theatre (Photo:  Amitava Sarkar)

Batya Dance Theatre (Photo: Amitava Sarkar)

Natya Dance Theatre premieres Varna – Colors of White

Who: Natya Dance Theatre

What: Varna – Colors of White, a full evening of words, music, dance and drama

When:  Thursday, October 22 – Saturday, October 24, 2015

Where: The Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

Why: Natya Dance Theatre has been bringing the ancient art of Bharatantyam (South Indian classical dance) to Chicago audiences for 40 years. The Company celebrates its milestone anniversary season with a new work, Varna – Colors of White, that blends poetry, music, and dance to explore the sensual and sacred.

For more information visit the Dance Center at Columbia College’s website.

Same Planet Different World and Niv Sheinfeld/Oren Laor

Who: Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre (SPDWD), Niv Sheinfeld, and Oren Laor

What: SPDW’s Stripped, Sheinfeld/Laor’s Two Room Apartment, and Vanishing Point – created by SPDW and Sheinfeld/Laor

When: Thursday, October 22 – Sunday October 25, 2015

Where:  Edlis Neeson Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago IL 60611

Why: This program brings together the Chicago-based company Same Planet Different World with two Israeli artists, Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, to present three works, including one world premiere. Though all performances at the MCA Stage are intimate experiences, seating capacity is limited for this performance, so be sure to reserve your tickets soon!

For more information visit the MCA’s website.


Jessica Lang Dance’s Chicago premiere

Who: Jessica Lang Dance, sets by Steven Holl (architect)

What: A new work co-commissioned by the Harris Theater and the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial

When: Friday, November 6, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Where: Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Why: Choreographer Jessica Lang brings a new work to Chicago created specifically for the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, featuring the work of architect Steven Holl. Though Lang has presented her work around the world with companies ranging from the Birmingham Royal Ballet to the Metropolitan Opera, this performance marks her company’s Chicago debut.

For more information visit the Harris Theater’s website.





“East of Eden” at Steppenwolf Theatre kicks off the company’s 40th anniversary season.

East of Eden   

Who: Steppenwolf Theater, Frank Galati (adaptation), Terry Kinney (stage director)

What: John Steinbeck: East of Eden

When: September 17 – November 15, 2015

Where: Steppenwolf Theater, 1650 N Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60614

Why: This year, Steppenwolf Theatre launches its 40th anniversary season, beginning with East of Eden. This theatrical adaptation of John Steinbeck’s influential novel was created by the award-winning adaptor of the classic Steppenwolf production The Grapes of Wrath, ensemble member Frank Galati.

For more information visit the Steppenwolf’s website.


Who: Court Theater, Nicholas Rudall (translator), Charles Newell (director)

What: Aeschylus: Agamemnon

When: Thursday, November 5, 2015 – Sunday, December 6, 2015

Where: Court Theater, 5535 S Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60637

Why: Classical drama has always had a home at the Court Theater. The Court continues its three-year Greek Cycle with this world-premiere adaptation of Aeschulus’ Agamemnon, translated by one of today’s foremost classics scholars, Nicholas Rudall.

For more information visit Court’s website.


To learn more about other events and performances in the Chicago area, tune in the Fine Arts Calendar, 3PM weekdays and 10AM weekends. The Fine Arts Calendar compiles a multitude of events in music, dance, art, and theater so that you know what’s happening in your city. You can send your contributions to


Recorded in the Martin Theatre August 3

Maxim Vengerov, violin
Itamar Golan, piano
Recorded in the Martin Theatre August 3

Elgar: Violin Sonata in E Minor, Op 82
Prokofiev: Violin Sonata #1 in F Minor, Op 80
Brahms: Scherzo in C Minor and Hungarian Dance #2 in D Minor
Dvorak: Slavonic Dance in E Minor
Wieniawski: Légende
Ysaye: Solo Violin Sonata #3 in D Minor

Your High School Musical Memories



Heading back to school means auditions are coming up, rehearsals will be starting soon, and before you know it, you’ll be practicing music for a holiday concert even though it’s not even officially fall. For many, one of the best parts of heading back to school is performing with school ensembles.

We asked four organizations – the Illinois Music Education Association, the Elgin Youth Symphony, Midwest Young Artists, and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO) – to tell us some of the most commonly performed repertoire in their ensembles.

But first, we asked you what music you remember performing in your school ensembles. Check below to revisit some of your favorite memories from making music in school, and then compare your memories to data provided to us about music in schools in Chicago and throughout Illinois.

Your Musical Memories

We asked you to tell us what music you remember performing in your school ensembles, and here’s a word cloud we created from your responses about memorable repertoire and composers.


What became clear from the dozens of responses we received is that everyone was playing a lot of difficult repertoire at a young age. Some composers that stood out, as you can see from the word cloud, were Brahms, Bach, Mozart, Rossini, and Copland.

Interestingly everyone remembered not only specific pieces, but also specific arrangements of those pieces, whether the person doing the arrangement was well-known or not so well known.

Works by or arranged by John Rutter were also mentioned frequently, along with Handel’s Messiah, Mussorgsky ‘s Night on Bald Mountain, and Aaron Copland’s Fanfare For the Common Man.

Everyone also remembered the teachers who inspired them throughout their high school years. Sometimes, what we remember most is not the music we’re playing, but who we’re playing with!

Counting Composers

The Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA) is a division of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).  With over 3,500 members in 9 districts across the state, it is the largest fine arts education organization Illinois.

Each of the 9 districts provide musical enrichment opportunities for middle school and high school students, including an annual honor band, orchestra, and choir where selected students have the opportunity to perform with guest conductors from across the country.  ILMEA also hosts an All-State Festival that also has honors ensembles, and moreover, lectures and clinics for an array of participants throughout the state.

We asked ILMEA to give us an idea of what pieces high school students play most often in band and orchestra.  Here is a chart detailing what composers you might hear during an Illinois high school band or orchestra performance.



The chart above distills data provided by ILMEA which mentioned over 100 composers and 200 pieces most frequently performed by high school bands in Illinois. Those who contributed data include Darcy Nendza (Executive Director), Mark Corey (State President), Brayer Teague (State President Elect), Jeremy Marino (Orchestra Division Vice President),Brian Covey (ILMEA District 1 President), Sarah Reckmeyer (District 2 President), Nathan Hoke (District 6 President), Nicole Obert (District 8 President), Jeremiah Kramer (District 8 President Elect), and Patrick Barnett (District 9 President).

In addition to providing the most frequently performed composers and pieces heard by high school bands, ILMEA told us the most frequently performed pieces by high school orchestras. Can we have a timpani roll, please?!? Here are the most frequently performed orchestral works arranged alphabetically by author


Composer Work
Bach Bach Bradenburg No.3
Beethoven Symphony Number 5
Bernstein Overture to Candide
Bizet Carmen Suites
Brahms Academic Festival
Brahms Hungarian Dances
Britten Simple Symphony, Britten
Copland Hoe Down from Rodeo
Glinka Russlan and Ludmila Overture
Grieg Peer Gynt Suite
Holst Planets: Mars and Jupiter
Kabalevsky Colas Bruegnon Overture
Khachaturian Armenian Dances
Mahler Symphonies
Mendelssohn Medelssohn String Symphonies
Mozart Magic Flute Overture
Mozart Mozart Divertimenti 135-137
Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain
Rimsky-Korsakov Capriccio Espagnol
Rimsky-Korsakov Dance of the Tumblers
Rossini The Italian in Algiers
Rossini William Tell Overture
Schubert Unfinished, Mvt 1
Shostakovich Festive Overture
Shostakovich String Quartet No.8
Shostakovich Symphony Number 5th
Tchaikovsky The Nutcracker
Verdi La forza del destino


No repeats, please!

When speaking with representatives from the Elgin Youth Symphony, Midwest Young Artists, and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), one thing became clear – nobody likes repeats. Well, there are a few exceptions of course. But, these three organizations prefer to provide young musicians with the opportunity to explore a broad range of repertoire. See what music each most commonly performed below.

Elgin Youth Symphony

Now in its 40th season with over 350 students from 50 communities, the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra has given young musicians throughout northwest Illinois numerous musical enrichment opportunities. Randal Swiggum, the Symphony’s Artistic Director, told us:

“In the last 18 years, there are only a handful pieces we’ve performed more than once, including:

Rimsky-Korsakovs’ Scheherazade
Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony
Mahler’s Symphony No. 1
Revueltas’s Sensemaya
Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5
Jennifer Higdon’s  blue cathedral
Britten’s Soirées Musicales

“Oftentimes, it’s concertos that get more frequent performances, because of their popularity with students who win the concerto competition.  In that category, the Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor would be hands down the favorite, because it’s often chosen by concerto winners.  Also, Mozart violin and flute concertos appear more frequently than others.”

“Pieces we’ve commissioned tend to have appeared more often. Elgin Overture, by New York composer Daniel Brewbaker, has probably been performed 4-5 times in 15 years.  Also, Brewbaker’s String Quartet No. 3, commissioned for our Maud Powell String Quartet, has had quite a few performances by that group since it was premiered a few years ago.”

“Like most youth orchestras, we’ve always focused on big, standard repertoire that we feel students should know – not just as performers but as cultural citizens.  As our season themes have gotten more complex and touching on bigger themes and cultural issues (relations between symphonic music and architecture, Shakespeare, music as a “time-art”, etc.), we’ve really expanded into much less well-known repertoire, such as William Walton’s Music for Hamlet, Christopher Theofanidis’ “Rainbow Body”, Hamilton Harty’s Irish Symphony, Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1, etc.”

“Our collaborating artists have also pushed the boundaries of what we have explored musically. Last year, Fulcrum Point New Music Project performed with us, and one of the pieces was by Nigerian Afro-pop legend Fela Kuti, “Water No Got Enemy”—a giant jam session with full orchestra.  This year, we’ll collaborate with eighth blackbird on “Workers Union” by Louis Andriessen (1975) in a semester of focusing on music’s relation to time and repetition, as well as music as political statement.”

Midwest Young Artists

Founded in 1993, Midwest Young Artists has grown to include numerous opportunities for young musicians, such as orchestras, chamber ensembles,  jazz ensembles, wind symphonies, and choirs.

“MYA has performed Bernstein’s Overture from Candide as a fun encore or showpiece on many concerts throughout the years, and a mainstay on our annual alumni concert in December is Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture!”

-Jeremy Krifka, Orchestras, Chamber Music, Theory, and Summer Programs Manager

MYA’s Symphony Orchestra has gotten larger as well as more and more competent so we’ve taken on bigger challenges – The Rite of SpringEin Heldenleben, Don Juan, Don Quoxite.  But where we have changed the most is in the competency of the younger 8 orchestras with the second orchestra playing entire Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, Schubert’s “Great” C major Symphony, Schumann’s symphonies, and more.”

– Dr. Allan Dennis, Founder, Executive Director, and Symphony Orchestra Director

Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO)

Since 1946, the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra has continually given young, Chicago area musicians opportunities to learn and perform in an international and cultural landmark. Joshua Simonds, Executive Director, told us:

“Funny enough, the most played piece at CYSO in the past 15 years is Barber’s Second Essay, which was performed 3 times! There are a few pieces with 2 plays (including Dvořák’s New World Symphony). The most commonly played pieces, excluding concerti, at CYSO over 69 years have been:

  1. Strauss – Death and Transfiguration
  2. Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5
  3. Sibelius – Symphony No. 1 and 2
  4. Kabalevsky – Colas Breugnon Overture
  5. Rimsky-Korsakov  – Capriccio espagnol”