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.
Founded in 1884, the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center is among the oldest community music organizations in the U.S., inviting patrons into its halls year after year to support and experience the excitement of live music. The center is home to the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra, which won the 2011 award for Best Chamber Orchestra from the Illinois Council of Orchestras. The group of in-residence musicians keep fans of classical music thoroughly entertained with concerts throughout the year and tag-team wrestling matches between the string and brass sections.
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.
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.
The Hershey Theatre, conceived in 1933 by noted philanthropist and chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, stands as an opulent tribute to the performing arts. Taking architectural cues from Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the foyer’s towering arches gleam with golden paint and crystal chandeliers. The blue-and-gold mosaic that leads to the main seating area is the masterwork of two German artists who spent two years on its construction. Once inside the theater, audiences might think they’ve stepped onto the streets of Venice thanks to the atmospheric ceiling, stonework facades, and gondoliers paddling them to their seats. ####Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Music has permeated the 800 manicured acres where the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has stood since 1969, when farmer Max Yasgur agreed to let love, peace, and harmony grow wild at the very first Woodstock festival. These days, the renowned outdoor venue and cultural center continues to attract the biggest acts in music to its pavilion stage. The open-air design ensures ample ventilation on the natural sloping lawn, and a roof protects up to 15,000 fans from inclement weather and the prying eyes of Cessna pilots.
The Quad City Symphony Orchestra tickles ears with beautiful melodies and spectacular performances during its annual "Holiday Pops" concerts. Guest conductor Michael Butterman takes charge of an all-star cast that features six-time U.S. figure-skating champion Todd Eldredge as he shows off his moves and carves his version of a perfect tumbleweed into the ice. Actor and Quad Cities native John Getz lends his vocal talents to festive proceedings, and internationally acclaimed trumpeter Jon Faddis jazzes up orchestral pieces with fiery improvisation. The show takes place at the i wireless Center, with guests choosing from lower-bowl seats for straight-ahead sightlines or upper-bowl perches for enviable views of conductor stage dives.