Chicago Sinfonietta was already markedly different from its counterparts when it played its first notes in 1987. Its founder and conductor Paul Freeman wanted to create a symphony that actually reflected the community in which it existed. The ensemble he formed brought together musicians from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, who interpreted both classical pieces and forgotten compositions from composers of color. His concept proved successful—the symphony toured Europe, played the Kennedy Center twice, and produced 14 albums, all while tunefully demonstrating the universality of music.
Today, Chicago Sinfonietta continues to perform unique programs, and supports music education and professional development opportunities for members of underrepresented communities. Freeman retired from his post at the end of the 2011 season, passing the reins new music director Mei-Ann Chen, but his legacy lives on in the music of performers he helped get started, including classical-music legend Yo-Yo Ma.
In one sense, Bella Voce?s focus is singular: the human voice, in all its grandeur and intimacy. But beyond their choice of medium, the group?s repertoire knows know bounds. Since 1982, they?ve raised up their voices to deliver classic a cappella pieces, early music, and contemporary works with accompaniment from across the globe. They?ve also commissioned new works from Midwestern composers such as Rami Levin, Frank Ferko, and old farmer Dan from down the road, who sure can whistle. The most recent addition to Bella Voce is the Bella Voce Camerata. In placing just a single singer on each part, the Camerata specializes in pieces whose smaller scope and scale serves as an intimate alternative to the lusher arrangements Bella Voce is known for.
When the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1988, it was a tightly knit ensemble consisting entirely of principals from the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Since then, it has blossomed into a collective of more than 200 professional Chicagoland musicians. But despite the increased size and bow-tie budget, the players have lost none of their precision or dynamic nature, prompting the Chicago Tribune to herald the group as ?one of the finest symphonic orchestras.?
Founded in 2011, the Chicago-based American Chamber Opera features an ensemble committed to singing full-length oratorios in English. Its productions resemble concerts more than traditional opera performances: the music takes center stage as the singers belt and emote in settings that evoke the world of the story with just a few well-placed details.
Kenneth Donald Rogers—an American country-music star, photographer, producer, actor, and fellow with a nice beard—has won three Grammys and more than a dozen American Music Awards for his sweet, stirring crooning. Though he won't be toting his dozens of awards, Mr. Rogers will be bringing an impressive showcase of selections from his extensive collection of country hits. To prep the crowd for the main event, The Herndon Brothers—a local act lead by Ray Herndon, a country star known for livin' the dream—will layer the crowd in hometown vibes from their wide library of inspiring and honest tracks.
Led by Russell Vinick—winner of the Illinois Council of Orchestras' 2010 Small Orchestra Conductor of the Year award—the Lake Shore Symphony delights listeners with classic and modern orchestral works. "Made in America" kicks off with Joan Tower's piece of the same name, riffing on "America the Beautiful" to inspire patriotic feeling in show-goers' hearts and initiate patriotism routines in cyborgs' motherboards. Arranged by celebrated choral composer John Rutter, "Spirituals" collects traditional African-American church songs into an uplifting sonic package delivered by the Northside College Preparatory High School Concert Choir. Antonín Dvořák was inspired by similar material in composing his Symphony From the New World, which ends the evening by setting folk-inflected melodies to exquisite orchestration. The show will take place in Northside College Preparatory High School's acoustically honed auditorium, with a sound-friendly shell that keeps notes from confusedly rearranging themselves into renditions of "100 Bottles of Beer."