Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Martin Lurther King seen, heard in provocative new way: Chicago Sinfonietta's Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute

U.S. Premiere of JacobTV’s Mountain Top, multimedia work blending MLK’s “Mountain Top” speech with eye-popping visuals, is centerpiece of
Chicago Sinfonietta’s Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Guest artists include hornist Nicole Cash,
the Roosevelt University CCPA Conservatory Chorus and
the Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir

Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville, January 19
Symphony Center, Chicago, January 20 (MLK Holiday)

CHICAGO (December 11, 2013) – The Chicago Sinfonietta, led by Mei-Ann Chen, continues its 2013-2014 season with its Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  A cherished Sinfonietta tradition since its founding in 1987 by Dr. Paul Freeman, the 2014 MLK tribute concert celebrates the life, legacy and vision of Dr. King through a diverse program that includes a forward-thinking multimedia premiere, symphonic masterworks and gospel music.  The Chicago Sinfonietta’s Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is presented in two performances only, Sunday, January 19 at 3 pm at Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College in Naperville (171 E. Chicago Avenue) and Monday, January 20 at 7:30 pm at Orchestra Hall of Symphony Center in downtown Chicago (220 S. Michigan Avenue).

The centerpiece of the Sinfonietta’s 2014 MLK tribute is the North American Premiere of a multimedia work by Dutch “avant-pop” composer Jacob Ter Veldhuis, a.k.a. JacobTV, called Mountain Top.  The work is inspired by one of King’s most famous speeches, known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech, which he gave on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, the day before he was assassinated.  Video and audio of King serve as the “lead singer” of the work, backed by orchestra and the Roosevelt University CCPA Conservatory Chorus.  JacobTV, with video collaborator Jaap Drupsteen, manipulates the video and on-screen text, repeating, slowing down and stretching out certain phrases – which are also echoed by the singers – to reveal new layers of the speech, its moving message and King’s prophetic vulnerability.  The melody, harmony and rhythm of Mountain Top all come from the speech itself, as JacobTV analyzed the pitch and duration of King’s words to create the leitmotif of his composition.  Mountain Top had its world premiere by Nederlands Kamerkoor (Netherlands Chamber Choir) and Radio Kamerfilharmonie, conducted by Otto Tausk, in 2008 at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and was broadcasted live on Dutch radio and television. 

“As a Dutch boy growing up in the 60’s, I remember King very well because the media in Holland reported on him regularly,” noted JacobTV.  “’Mountain Top’ is a timeless speech in which King calls for unity and non-violent protest, while challenging the United States to live up to its ideals.  King was a charismatic preacher and one of the greatest orators of American history.  His passionate speech is characterized by a rich melodic intonation, a great source of musical inspiration for me, in addition to the words themselves.”

Destiny, and the question of whether great people in history are destined for greatness, is a concept that inspires the remaining first half of the concert.  The evening opens with Chen conducting the Overture from La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny), an Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi that originally premiered by 1862 before Verdi made significant revisions through 1869.  The work opens with the easily recognizable “Fate” motif, three bold E notes played in unison by the brass.

For the second selection, Richard Strauss’ triumphant Horn Concerto No. 1 features guest horn soloist Nicole Cash of the San Francisco Symphony and a graduate of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music.  Strauss began work on his first concerto for the horn when he was only 18 years old, completing the work in 1883.  Throughout the concerto’s three movements, it seamlessly shifts between bright, energetic fanfares and softer, reflective melodies, contrasts typical of late romantic era works.

The second half of the program features Morton Gould’s Revival, a Fantasy on Six Spirituals.  Played as one piece, the work samples themes and melodies from six spirituals, including “Little David Play on Your Harp,” “All God’s Children Got Wings,” “Steal Away,” “Were You There?,” “Ezekiel Saw The Wheel” and “Joshua Fit de Battle of Jericho.”  Gould, a child prodigy in composition who went on to be a prolific Broadway, film, television, ballet and symphonic composer, premiered Spirituals in 1941 and strove to write it with the straightforwardness of conversation.  Distinctly American jazz and blues patterns appear throughout, creating a gamut of emotions from bitter and grim to light and jubilant

The Sinfonietta concludes its annual MLK tribute with the uplifting sounds of gospel and spiritual music, joined by frequent MLK concert guest singers of the Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir.

Single tickets range from $42-$54 for the concert at Wentz Concert Hall and $15-$54 for the concert at Symphony Center, with special $10 pricing available for students at both locations.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-236-3681 ext. 2 or online at www.chicagosinfonietta.org.

About the Guest Artists
Dutch “avant-pop” composer JacobTV (Jacob Ter Veldhuis) started as a rock musician and studied composition and electronic music in Groningen, Netherlands.  He was awarded the Composition Prize of the Netherlands in 1980 when he became a full-time composer.  He made a name for himself with melodious compositions, straight from the heart and with great effect.  The press have called him the “Warhol” or “Koons” of new music and his “coming out” as a composer of ultra-tonal, mellifluous music reached a climax with the video oratorio Paradiso, based on Dante’s Divina Commedia, with videos by Jaap Drupsteen.  In the last decade, JacobTV’s so-called “boombox works,” for live instruments with a sound track based on speech melody, became internationally popular.  With hundreds of performances worldwide each year, JacobTV is one of the most-performed European composers alive today.  In 2007, a three-day JacobTV festival took place at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.  Fulcrum Point New Music Project performed his “reality opera” The News at Chicago’s Park West in 2012.

Nicole Cash, a native of Annandale, Virginia, joined the San Francisco Symphony as Associate Principal Horn in 2009.  Prior to that she held the position of Third Horn with the Dallas Symphony for eight seasons.  She has served as co-Principal Horn with the kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic (Durban, South Africa), has performed with the orchestras of Honolulu, San Antonio, Houston, the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, and as guest Principal Horn with the Saint Louis Symphony.  Cash earned a Master of Music from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, where she studied with William VerMeulen, and a Bachelor of Music cum laude from Northwestern University under the instruction of Norman Schweikert and Gail Williams.  As the winner of the Shepherd School and Music Academy of the West Concerto Competitions in 2000, Cash was a featured soloist with both orchestras, made her solo debut with the Dallas Symphony in 2004, and with the San Francisco Symphony in 2012 as a part of their Mavericks Festival chamber music series.  Cash is also an active chamber musician and teacher, having made numerous appearances on the Nasher Sculpture Center and Fine Arts Chamber Players Series, both in Dallas, TX. 

For over 25 years, the Chicago Sinfonietta has pushed artistic and social boundaries to provide an alternative way of hearing, seeing and thinking about a symphony orchestra.  Each concert experience fuses inventive new works from a diverse array of voices with classical masterworks to entertain, transform and inspire.  The Sinfonietta has a proud history of having enriched the cultural, educational and social quality of life in Chicago.  Under the guidance of Founding Music Director Paul Freeman, the orchestra has performed at the highest artistic level since 1987.  Mei-Ann Chen succeeded Paul Freeman as the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Music Director beginning with the 2011-12 season.  The Chicago Sinfonietta is a professional orchestra that forms unique cultural connections through the universal language of symphonic music.

In 2012 the Sinfonietta was honored with two national awards for excellence from the League of American Orchestras, one for adventurous programming and one recognizing Maestro Chen with the Helen M. Thompson Award for an Emerging Music Director. 

Mei-Ann Chen, also Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, has appeared with symphonies all over the country and the world, include the symphonies of Alabama, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Edmonton (Canada), Florida, Fort Worth, Honolulu, National (Washington, D.C.), Oregon, Pacific, Phoenix, Princeton, Seattle, Toronto, and the Grand Teton Festival Orchestra.  The first woman to win the Malko Competition (2005), Chen has served as Assistant Conductor of the Oregon Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony.  Born in Taiwan, Chen has lived in the United States since 1989.  She was the first student in New England Conservatory’s history to receive master’s degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting. 

The Chicago Sinfonietta thanks its season sponsors including BP, Naperville’s SECA fund, the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Magazine, Southwest Airlines, the Hotel Arista, the Fairmont Hotel, and WBEZ 91.5 FM.  Event sponsors include Lead Concert Sponsor Fifth Third Bank; Supporting Sponsors Molex, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Macy’s; and ABC7.

Complete Program Information
Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sunday, January 19 at 3 pm, Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville
Monday, January 20 at 7:30 pm, Symphony Center, Chicago

Chicago Sinfonietta
Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director and Conductor
Paul Freeman, Founder and Music Director Emeritus
Nichole Cash, Horn
Roosevelt University CCPA Conservatory Chorus
Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir

VERDI                                      La Forza del Destino, Overture
STRAUSS                                Horn Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major
JACOBTV                                Mountain Top               
GOULD                                    Revival, a Fantasy on Six Spirituals
WALKER/BRATTON                 Every Praise (is to our God)
MITCHELL                               Turning Around For Me
CYMBALA                                Hallelujah, You’re Worth To Be Praised
RODGERS/HAMMERSTEIN     Climb Ev’ry Mountain

Tickets: $42–$54 (Wentz Concert Hall); $15–$54 (Symphony Center)

For more information on the Chicago Sinfonietta, please visit www.chicagosinfonietta.org. 

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