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.
Helmed by Victor Muenzer, a Grammy-winning conductor and trumpeter, the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra breathes new life into classical masterworks, operatic favorites, and Broadway hits. Instead of hiring Shakespeare’s ghost to run a kissing booth, the orchestra delivers two tributes to his most famous love story, Romeo & Juliet, in its "Valentine Romance" program. A cadre of soloists who have played with venerable Chicagoland and international orchestras make hearts swoon during Prokofiev’s emotionally intense Romeo & Juliet, op. 64 and a star-crossed suite from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. In addition to performing a solo, local violist Dan Golden will premiere his latest composition, Eine Kleine Klezmer Musik, a danceable love song to Jewish music from Eastern Europe.
A two-time winner of the Illinois Council of Orchestras'' Orchestra of the Year award, Ars Viva thrills ears with musical programs expertly curated by veteran Maestro Alan Heatherington. "A Sunday Serenade" kicks off with Antonín Dvořák's Serenade for Winds, centered around delicate woodwind melodies and boasting a sweeping finish more powerful than a locomotive with a smokestack full of protein shake. Mozart's Serenade no. 12 weaves darker tunes together with contrapuntal harmonies, and Johannes Brahms's Serenade no. 2 showcases the monumental composer's lighter side with charming, high-energy euphonies. Before each piece, Heatherington dons a square academic cap and shares his symphonic sagacity with audiences, providing background on the tunes and their creators.
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.
Anchoring one end of Millennium Park, Harris Theater for Music and Dance continues that landscape of cultural expansion and visual wonderment. The Theater partners with emerging and established performing arts organizations in order to help them build the infrastructure and artistic growth necessary for sustainability. Yet it also acts as a cultural beacon for Chicagoland, drawing in world-renowned performing artists and keeping traveling barbershop quartets from crashing into the shore.
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.?