Performance Program Hits Another Milestone

An Unforgettable Year

The Department of Music Performance Program, encompassing thirteen music ensembles that involve over 650 musicians, concluded another whirlwind season in June, after presenting a wide array of spirited concerts throughout the year.










Guest Performances and Stunning Debuts Crown 2010-2011 For Instrumental Ensembles

The various instrumental Ensembles – University Symphony Orchestra, University Wind Ensemble, University Chamber Orchestra, Jazz X-tet, and New Music Ensemble – gave many distinctive performances in 2010-2011.  The season began with the University Symphony Orchestra’s Annual Halloween concerts, a collaborative endeavor with the Hyde Park School of Dance.  Themed “Witches of Yore,” the 2010 program featured music that summoned witches from Slavic and Russian folklore to Mandel Hall: the infamous Baba-Yaga, as portrayed in works by Liadov and Mussorgsky; the frightening Noonday Witch, as sketched in a tone poem by Dvorák; and the “munching witch” from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.  Autumn continued with the debut of two new performance program directors, Tim Semanik (Chamber Orchestra) and Chip de Stefano (Wind Ensemble).  Under the direction of Mwata Bowden, the Jazz X-tet premiered a new work by composer and bandleader Edward Wilkerson, Jr. in celebration of the 45th Anniversary of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).  The USO concluded the autumn quarter by featuring 2010 Concerto Competition Co-Winner, violinist Frank Wen, performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, along with Berlioz’s Overture to Le Corsaire and Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 2, A London Symphony.

In winter quarter the USO presented a sampling of Shostakovich’s Late Film Scores, The Gadfly, Hamlet, and King Lear, in a collaborative effort with University of Chicago Presents’ Soviet Arts Experience Festival and the Film Studies Center.  Later in the quarter the ensemble welcomed Elena Urioste, one of the most sought-after young violinists in the country, to perform Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor.  That concert, entitled “The Decade of The Great Patriotic War”, also featured Myaskowsky’s seldom-heard Symphony No. 22 in B minor, Symphonic Ballad.  Also in winter quarter, the Chamber Orchestra accompanied the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company for a rare production of The Sorcerer, last performed on campus fifteen years ago.  The Chamber Music Program, under the leadership of Amy Briggs and Adam Liebert, enhanced the Smart Museum’s 2010 exhibition “The Tragic Muse: Art and Emotion, 1700-1900” with a special chamber music program entitled Emotion, Tragedy, and Catharsis in Music, 1700-1900.

UChicago composition students Andres Carrizo, Yuan Chen Li, Andrew McManus, Dylan Schneider, and Francisco Castillo Trigueros brought SoundQuakes to Fulton Recital Hall in spring quarter.  The Chamber Orchestra program featured bassist Kirsten Paige and violinist Emily Norton, 2010 Concerto Competition Co-Winners, performing Bottesini’s Passione Amorosa.

For the annual Cathy Heifetz Memorial Concert, the University Symphony Orchestra partnered with the Motet Choir and University Chorus to showcase German and Italian operatic masterpieces of the 19th-century.  Included on the program were excerpts from Weber’s supernatural Der Freischütz and Wagner’s mythic Der fliegende Holländer; a concert suite from Richard Strauss’ bittersweet comic opera Der Rosenkavalier; and selections from Leoncavallo’s dramatic Pagliacci, Puccini’s poignant Madame Butterfly, and Verdi’s theatrical Macbeth and Don Carlo.  Guest performers included internationally acclaimed soprano Winifred Faix Brown of the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and San Francisco Opera, as well as mezzo-soprano Jessye Wright, who was among just four mezzos earning distinction as an “Upwardly Musical Artist on the Move” in Symphony Magazine’s “Guide to Emerging Artists.”  At this final concert of the season, special awards were presented to students who made outstanding contributions to the Performance Program.  This year’s recipients included: Elena Guobyte and Alex Warburton (Ellis Bohnoff Kohs Award for Orchestral Excellence); Hannah Eldridge, Samantha Peishan Fan, and Frank Wen (David L. Fulton Prize for Orchestral Excellence); and Shridar Mani and Moriah Grooms-Garcia (Choral Award for Musical Achievement).

Vocal Ensembles Receive Outstanding Acclaim

Under the direction of James Kallembach, the vocal ensembles of the Performance Program had a landmark year.  In autumn the Motet Choir explored Franco-Flemish motets and other works.  Rockefeller Chapel Choir participated in an Evensong service and premiered Lux by Cary Boyce, winner of the 2010 Rockefeller Chapel Commission Competition.  The fall quarter concluded with a sold-out performance of the annual Handel’s Messiah with University Chorus, Motet Choir, and special guest soloists.

In winter, the Rockefeller Chapel Choir contributed to the Soviet Arts Experience Festival to perform Russian Music for Vespers.  Soprano Patrice Michaels and baritone Andrew Schultze soloed with New Music Ensemble and University Chorus in a showcase of works from Stravinsky’s long career, including Symphony of Psalms, the Septet, and selected song cycles (Cat’s Cradle Songs, Pribaoutki, Three Japanese Lyrics, and more).

In the spring quarter the Motet Choir and Rockefeller Chapel Choir performed J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion, featuring Matthew Anderson, tenor.  Soloists from the cast of Court Theatre’s 2011 production of Porgy and Bess filled Mandel Hall with songs, choruses, and orchestral highlights in Gershwin Gala, a joint University Symphony and Motet Choir concert, which also included Gershwin’s An American in Paris.

Global Traditional and Folk Music Presented at UChicago

The new Director of Middle East Music Ensemble, Wanees Zarour, presented three exceptional programs this season, showcasing music from Andalusia, Turkey, and Iran.  Central Javanese Gamelan and Friends of the Gamelan performed traditional Javanese favorites, an American folk song and hymn arranged for gamelan, and the premiere of an original composition by Patrick Liddell, in their annual spring concert.

Fast Forward

The Performance Program will have new headquarters in the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts beginning March 2012.  The new facility, an 11-story tower and surrounding complex with a 470-seat auditorium and a 120-seat theater, will also house classrooms, a seminar room, studios, and practice spaces for teaching and performances.  A groundbreaking ceremony took place in May 2011 and featured several Performance Program ensembles: the Jazz X-tet, Motet Choir, and members of the University Symphony Orchestra.  Stay tuned for performances from various ensembles in this state-of-the-art space during the 2012-2013 season!

What’s Next?

The Department will provide the campus and community with a full line-up of enticing events in 2011-2012.  Upcoming programs include University favorites such as the annual USO Halloween concert, “1001 Arabian Nights” (October 29, 2011), the University Chorus’ performance of Handel’s Messiah (December 2, 2011), and the quarterly concerts of the University Wind Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, Jazz X-tet, Middle East Ensemble, and other groups.  The Department is also preparing an extensive roster of special events, including distinctive programs of contemporary music, expanded world music offerings (including a new series of classical Indian concerts and workshops), and a wide variety of guest performers on campus.  In collaboration with the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company, the Department will present Gilbert & Sullivan’s popular and playful satire, The Gondoliers, (March 9-11, 2012) under the baton of Tim Semanik.

Between performances, master classes, and colloquia, the Department of Music promises another year filled with stimulating and engaging events – and invites alum and community members to partake.  Please visit to join our mailing list and learn more about the schedule of concerts and other events for the Department of Music.  For the latest happenings in the Performance Program, visit our blog, Toute de Suite (, or link to our Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr accounts.

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