Thursday, April 11, 2019

Eighth Blackbird Presents DISSOLVE at Steppenwolf May 17 and 18, Chicago

Eighth Blackbird
(Photo: Saverio Truglia)

Four-time Grammy Award winners Eighth Blackbird, moving music forward with innovative chamber music performance, showcases its six ensemble members with DISSOLVE, an evening featuring the musicians performing in smaller subsets that highlight their playful, intimate, and spirited versatility.

DISSOLVE is part of Steppenwolf’s spring LookOut series and includes the following works.

  • Quimbombó (2010) by Angélica Negrón, a Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist, features violinist Yvonne Lam, cellist Nick Photinos, flutist Nathalie Joachim, and percussionist Matthew Duvall; the work evokes distant personal memories through a festive, celebratory perspective presenting and deconstructing rhythms and melodic gestures from the Afro-Caribbean tradition of Puerto Rico.
  • Rot Blau (2009) by 2018–19 Rome Prize winner Jessie Marino is a tightly knit duo featuring pianist Lisa Kaplan and violinist Yvonne Lam in a whimsical theatrical piece.
  • Four Rain Beggings Songs (2017), by Welsh composer Alex Mills for flutist Nathalie Joachim and clarinetist Michael Maccaferri, was inspired by a Balkan folk song traditionally sung to pray for rain in times of draught, as part of a larger pagan ritual.
  • Madam Bellegarde (2018), composed and performed by flutist Nathalie Joachim, was inspired by her childhood memories of singing with her grandmother in Haiti and incorporates her grandmother’s recorded voice singing in Haitian Creole about being judged for living independently in the 1950s.
  • Less is More (2017) by Molly Joyce, commissioned by Elizabeth and Justus Schlicting for the inaugural Eighth Blackbird Creative Laboratory for Passepartout Duo, is performed during these concerts by pianist Lisa Kaplan and percussionist Matthew Duvall; Joyce “wanted to engage in perhaps two artistic ‘guilty’ pleasures of mine: pulse and light, and thus I composed a lighting part for the piece which I aimed to have equal importance to that of the live performers.”
  • Amygdala (2015) by Blackbird Creative Lab alumna Gemma Peacocke, performed by cellist Nick Photinos, is, according to Peacocke, “a kind of exploration of the way in which anxiety comes in waves, always lapping at the edges, and sometimes rising and overwhelming us.”
  • Dissolve, O My Heart (2011), by Chicago Symphony Orchestra Mead Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli and performed by violinist Yvonne Lam, was inspired by Bach’s Partita in D minor and evolves “into an off-kilter series of chords that doubles back on itself, collapses and ultimately dissolves in a torrent of fast passages,” according to Mazzoli.
Other spring activities
Other spring performances to date include the ensemble’s debut on the Rush Hour Concerts series in a free after-work performance Tuesday, June 18 at St. James Cathedral; New Music Chicago Presents, featuring Lab alumni in a free noon performance Thursday, June 20 at the Chicago Cultural Center; and other June events in collaboration with Chicago civic and cultural institutions to be announced later this spring.
DISSOLVE takes place Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18 at 8 p.m.
at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted Street, Chicago.
Tickets are $35 general admission, $15 for students,
available through Steppenwolf at 312-335-1650 or
Ensemble members will join audience members in Front Bar for conversation after the performance.

Eighth Blackbird, founded when its members were Oberlin Conservatory students in 1996, has continually pushed at the edges of what it means to be a contemporary chamber ensemble, presenting distinct programs in Chicago, nationally, and internationally, reaching audiences totaling tens of thousands. The sextet has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by established and emerging composers and perpetuated the creation of music with profound impact, such as Steve Reich’s Double Sextet, which went on to win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. The ensemble’s extensive recording history, primarily with Chicago’s Cedille Records, has produced more than a dozen acclaimed albums and four Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance, most recently in 2016 for Filament. Eighth Blackbird won the 1998 Concert Artists Guild Competition, received Chamber Music America’s inaugural Visionary Award, and was named Musical America’s 2017 Ensemble of the Year. Eighth Blackbird’s mission—moving music forward through innovative performance, advocating for new music by living composers, and creating a legacy of guiding an emerging generation of musicians—extends beyond recording and touring to curation and education.
Eighth Blackbird’s musicians are Nathalie Joachim, flutes; Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets; Yvonne Lam, violin and viola; Nick Photinos, cello; Matthew Duvall, percussion; and Lisa Kaplan, piano.
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