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Chicago a cappella's Shakespeare Concerts: Sonnets, Songs and Snakes

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  • Munn Heydorn
    CHICAGO A CAPPELLA GIVES SHAKESPEARE A NEW TWIST WITH “SONNETS, SONGS, AND SNAKES” Acclaimed vocal ensemble gives Chicago premieres of stunning new choral
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 21, 2003


      Acclaimed vocal ensemble gives Chicago premieres of stunning new choral works on Shakespeare texts.

      Chicago, IL —Chicago a cappella gives Shakespeare a new twist as it performs “Sonnets, Songs, and Snakes,” a concert of brilliant new music set to words of the Bard. The acclaimed vocal ensemble, four women and five men, will present a dizzying array of musical styles, ranging from medieval-flavored chords and driving rhythms to lush, romantic eight-part harmonies. Every piece on this eclectic program will receive its Chicago premiere at these performances. The concert features music by five award-winning American composers from outside the Chicago area, including Judith Lang Zaimont, Paul Crabtree, and Thomas Turner, and works of Chicago-area composers Robert Applebaum and Kevin Olson. The singers will create sound-worlds as varied as “Witches’ Blues,” a Latin-tinged salsa sonnet, and a gently rocking (yet slightly twisted) lullaby. “Sonnets, Songs, and Snakes” takes place in three venues:

      Saturday, Feb. 8, 8:00 p.m., at Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St. in Chicago

      Saturday, Feb. 15, 8:00 p.m., at Unity Temple, 875 Lake Street in Oak Park

      Sunday, Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m., at Northwestern University’s Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place in Evanston.

      Free post-concert discussions with the composers take place after each performance.

      Either call (773) 755-1628 for further information or tickets or go to Chicago a cappella's web site at:


      Opening Chicago’s Ears to Award-Winning Composers

      Chicago a cappella held a nationwide competition in 2002 seeking the best new compositions based on texts by William Shakespeare. The winning works include music by Judith Lang Zaimont (“Sunny Airs and Sober”), a Guggenheim Fellowship winner whose commissions include works for the Dale Warland Singers. Matthew Harris (“Shakespeare Songs”) studied with Elliott Carter and Milton Babbitt, and has won prizes from the Chautauqua Chamber Singers and the National Association of Composers. San Francisco’s Paul Crabtree (“Three Rose Madrigals”) has become renowned for his innovative mixing of popular culture with highbrow art in works such as “Five Romantic Miniatures from The Simpsons.” Thomas Turner (“Shall I compare thee?”) has received ten Meet The Composer grants, and his works have been heard at New York’s Lincoln Center and London’s Wigmore Hall. Martha Sullivan (“Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind”), is a composer and singer from New York City whose works range from vocal jazz and folk-song arrangements to a Mass setting and a recent commission for the Gregg Smith Singers.

      Composers from Near and Far

      “Sonnets, Songs, and Snakes” includes music by composers who live nearby and others from the other side of the globe. Kevin Olson (“Summer Sonnet”) teaches at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, IL, and is an active composer whose works range from piano pieces and big-band jazz works to film music and choral works. Robert Applebaum (“The Quality of Mercy” and “Witches’ Blues”) of Niles, IL, has earned renown as a jazz pianist and composer of choral music for the Jewish liturgy. Several of Applebaum’s Chanukah pieces appear on Chicago a cappella’s recent CD recording, “Holidays a cappella Live.” The aethereal “Caliban’s Song” is by New Zealander David Hamilton, who has written over 100 choral works and was composer-in-residence at the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Rounding out the program, two composers from Finland have contributed brilliant choral cycles: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi’s spectacular Four Shakespeare Songs and Juhani Komulainen’s haunting Four Ballads of Shakespeare.

      Corollary Events with Composers

      Audiences will meet the composers in a free post-concert question and answer sessions after each performance. In addition, Artistic Director Jonathan Miller will moderate a discussion with five of the composers about “Setting Shakespeare to Music” on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2003, 10:00 am to 12:00 noon at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton Street in Chicago. No reservations are necessary for this free symposium.

      Chicago a cappella

      Now in its tenth year, Chicago a cappella has become known as the city’s most entertaining and innovative classical vocal ensemble. The group offers a winning combination of superb ensemble singing, fascinating programs, and intimate, engaging performances. Under founder and artistic director Jonathan Miller, nine gifted singers deliver early and new music, spirituals, and vocal jazz with equal conviction and style. The group was recently praised by the Chicago Tribune for its “wit, imagination, flawless intonation, and...idiomatic way with music of every period,” and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described the ensemble as “unusually fine...eclectic, enlightening and enjoyable.”

      Note: Chicago a cappella is a professional a cappella vocal group unrelated to this discussion group except by interest.

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