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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Art Talk – Chicago Sinfonietta: Celebrating Women’s History Month


Passionate, distinctive, masterful, evocative. These are just a few adjectives that describe ECHO, Chicago Sinfonietta’s upcoming performance at Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Avenue in Naperville at 7:30PM on March 15.

Touted as a celebration of Women’s History Month, this program features a roster of pieces that pay tribute to the trailblazing women whose contributions to music have challenged traditional norms and paved the way for future generations of females in the music industry.

Mei-Ann Chen, Chicago Sinfonietta’s acclaimed music director and conductor, will lead the musicians throughout the concert with exuberance and fervor. The program opens with the Chicago premiere of the dynamic “Concert Overture No. 2” by Florence Price, the first African-American woman recognized as a symphonic composer and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra.

Second on the playlist is the Chicago debut of Amaryn Olmeda, an award-winning, Australian-born 16-year-old rising star who is “sought after for her bold and expressive performances as a soloist and collaborator.” Recognized as a violin prodigy, Olmeda will perform Samuel Barber’s beloved “Violin Concerto,” one of the most widely played concertos of the 20th century.

Next is Francis Poulenc’s “Les biches Suite” (The Does), which playfully blends musical styles, eras, and genres into what has been described as lighthearted entertainment. Originally written as a ballet, it portrays “the risqué and glamourous society of post-war Paris.”

The program culminates with Clarice Assad’s “Evolution of AI,” a contemporary exploration of musical history told through a fusion of human artistry and artificial intelligence. Assad, a Brazilian-American, Grammy Award-nominated composer, pianist, vocalist, and educator, joins the Sinfonietta on stage with a choreographed interpretive dance that adds a visual storytelling component to her four-part movement. She takes on the persona of a cyborg as she emerges in a skin-tight, intricately patterned metallic body suit. Sleek, lithe, lightning-fast, and armed with AI technology, Assad becomes a hybrid human machine that interacts with instruments and musicians to produce eerie and intriguing sound effects that add a new layer to familiar musical pieces throughout the ages.

While it may not have been an intentional move, the introduction of AI may serve as a gateway to attract younger audiences and thus ensure the future of the symphonic art form. “I wasn’t thinking about bringing anyone younger in, though I do have a lot of young people approach me and tell me that they really love the piece,” Assad said, reflecting on her composition-writing experience. “They got it. And they got it because they are using those tools every day. These kids may be the next wave of young fresh musicians, and I’m advocating for them to be the messengers of this music.”

Tickets are $17 to $67 and are available at chicagosinfonietta.org.

Chicago Sinfonietta presents ECHO: Celebrating Women’s History Month
7:30PM Friday, March 15
Wentz Concert Hall
171 E. Chicago Avenue
Naperville, IL 60540

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Debbie Venezia
Debbie Veneziahttp://www.artsdupage.org
Debbie Venezia is the Director of Arts DuPage, a DuPage Foundation initiative. Contact her at debbie@dupagefoundation.org or visit www.artsdupage.org.


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