2009-2010 Season Emphasizes Musical Intrepidity of Faculty, Students, Staff, and Community

University Symphony Orchestra; Photo: Daniel Collins

The 2009-10 Performance Program season showcased the astonishing musical talents and interests of our academically oriented institution and surrounding community. Highlights included concerts and master classes with incomparable musicians (such as Artists-in-Residence eighth blackbird, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Pacifica Quartet), performances of works by graduate student composers, and collaborations with some of the world’s foremost scholars and artists. The fourteen university ensembles and programs galvanized students and audiences with an immeasurable variety of orchestral, vocal, and solo performances and a broad range of repertoire: from Baroque to contemporary, European and non-Western, and canonic as well as new or unknown works.

To jump-start a year filled with inclusive community partnerships, the Hyde Park School of Dance and Women’s Chorale joined the University Symphony Orchestra for Cosmic Adventures!, the Halloween concert at which conductor Barbara Schubert emerged from a hand-crafted and eco-friendly spaceship assembled from recycled wood. The concert featured Gustav Holst’s magnificent seven-movement suite, The Planets, as well as Star Trek Through the Years and music from John Williams’ Star Wars film scores. In December, over 150 voices from the Motet Choir, University Chorus, the Grande Prairie Singers plus internationally acclaimed soloists filled Rockefeller Memorial Chapel for Handel’s Messiah (James Kallembach, director). The Annual Cathy Heifetz Memorial Concert featured University Symphony Orchestra, University Chorus, and Motet Choir performing Johannes Brahms’ eloquent Ein deutsches Requiem with soloists Kimberly Jones, soprano, and Jeffrey Ray, baritone. The program also included Symphony No. 4, Requiem by Pulitzer-Prize winner Howard Hanson.

Jade Simmons performs with the University Symphony Orchestra

The 2009-2010 season of innovative programming included Stravinsky’s renowned L’Histoire du Soldat by the New Music Ensemble with narrator Gavriel Levi Savit, and a work entitled Improvisation “Breathe” by graduate student Shawn Allison. A weeklong residency with pianist Jade Simmons encompassed a piano master class at Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park, a live radio broadcast on WFMT, and a lecture/demonstration in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. Ms. Simmons’ residency culminated her performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the University Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Barbara Schubert). Also on the program: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Eroica, and Jennifer Higdon’s SkyLine from City Scape.

After the New Year, Issa Boulos and the Middle East Music Ensemble invoked the sounds and sights of Turkey through music and dance. Barbara Schubert infused the University Symphony Orchestra with Russian flavor at Tchaikovsky Tapestry, a concert featuring the Romantic composer’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor Pathetique and excerpts from Swan Lake. University Chamber Orchestra conductor David Cubek partnered with director Thrisa Hodits and producer Mark Johnson of the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company for an uproarious staging of the infamous comic opera The Mikado by historically-regarded British invocators, librettist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan.

Motet Choir Performs in Rockefeller Chapel

Pianist Alice Chen, the first place winner of the 2009-2010 Concerto Competition and a second-year Ph.D. student in Economics, intrigued audiences with her interpretation of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at the University Symphony Orchestra’s April concert, “Liszt Into Spring!” 2010 Concerto Competition co-winner, flutist Cliff Boldridge, performed Griffes’ Poem for Flute and Orchestra with the University Chamber Orchestra. The program also included Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B-minor, Unfinished, and Fauré’s Pavane. Undergraduate student composer Alex Stephenson premiered his piece, Dorian Gray Listened, with the New Music Ensemble in Fulton Recital Hall. Barbara Schubert conducted the work for baritone (featuring Mark Winston), oboe, clarinet, viola, and percussion.

“Intergenerational” summarized the entire Jazz X-tet season where director Mwata Bowden connected students with seasoned artists from the community.  The ensemble’s fall concert, “Monk & Mingus,” brought together X-tet musicians with legendary reedman Ari Brown through the tunes of Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. In the winter, young Chicago poet Khari B. introduced musical collaborators and listeners to the world of spoken word artistry at “Masters and Mentors,” a concert in tribute to the great Fred Anderson. The world premiere of Spectrum by veteran bassist and composer Brian Smith concluded the Jazz X-tet season, and emphasized the progress of the ensemble by drawing on their improvisatory skills and personal strengths. As a result of their ambitious season, the Jazz X-tet was invited to perform at the 32nd Annual Chicago Jazz Festival and the 4th Annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, both in September.

The Spring Quarter concluded with interplay performances of Britten’s Missa Brevis in D by organist Thomas Weisflog, and the University and North Park University’s Women’s Chorales directed by Elizabeth Swanson. Central Javanese Gamelan and Friends of the Gamelan gathered at Hyde Park Union Church for an event that featured guest dancer Tri Sutrisno with guest artistic director Joko Sutrisno. The Early Music Ensemble, directed by Newberry Consort members David Douglass and Ellen Hargis, presented Music Divine: English Music from Henry to Elizabeth, which included sacred and secular music for voices, viols, recorders, lute, and harpsichord in Fulton Recital Hall.

And finally, indelible memories denote the career of Philip Gossett, an expert in Italian opera and the Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor in Music, Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College, who retired as a full-time faculty member at the University of Chicago after a career of more than 40 years. The Department also bid farewell to the following Performance Program Directors: Issa Boulos (Middle East Music Ensemble), David Cubek (University Chamber Orchestra), Elizabeth Swanson (University Women’s Chorale), and Wayne Gordon (University Wind Ensemble).

Many well-deserved thanks go out to all the Artists-in-Residence and performance instructors, for their performances as well as the private coaching opportunities they offer; to the directors and coordinators of the numerous ensembles we support; and most of all to the students and other members of the university community involved in the Performance Program.

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