Preview: The First Impromptu Fest of Contemporary Music Starts this Thursday

Enjoy contemporary music over two weekends.

Aficionados of contemporary music are in for a treat the next two weekends when the first-ever Impromptu Fest opens this Thursday at the Chopin Theater. Inspired by the Ear Taxi Festival, which took place in the fall of 2016, the Impromptu Fest will highlight predominantly Chicago-based composers and performers for four days each weekend.

Organized by New Music Chicago in coordination with the Chopin Theater, the Impromptu Fest will include a variety of musical styles. At this Thursday’s concert, the recently formed Chicago saxophone quartet ~Nois will perform music by young composers Phil Taylor and David Reminick, whose “Consort for four detuned soprano saxophones” will close the concert. On the following night, festival curator, composer, and pianist Amy Wurtz will perform her own music for cello and piano with her duo partner, cellist Alyson Berger. They will also play music by local composers George Flynn and Sebastian Huydts.

The weekend will continue with composer/pianist Seth Boustead performing his own Cosmic Milk, as well as transcriptions of tunes written by seminal, alt-rock stalwarts the Flaming Lips on Saturday, February 17. Another Chicago composer William Jason Raynovich will close the weekend with works for cello, film, and electronics, as well as a work by Joan Jeanrenaud of the Kronos Quartet.

The Calumet Chamber Musicians will open the Festival’s second weekend with Amy Wurtz on the piano next Thursday, February 22. In addition to Wurtz’ music, the ensemble will perform pieces by Chicago composer Robert Muczynski.  On the following day, pianist Marie Alatalo will feature music by Bernstein and Rzewski. She will then be joined by percussionist Garrett Mendelow to perform his improvisational piece, Elanga, as well as a body percussion work by Francois Sarahan.

Pianist/composer Amy Wurtz is curating and performing in the Impromptu Fest. Photo by Jürgen Lieb.

Chicago composer/saxophonist Amos Gillespie and his Quartet will join forces with the Gaudete Brass Quintet on Saturday, February 24. Their program, Mid-century Modern, is reminiscent of Jazz from the 50’s and 60’s and includes a new Gillespie composition inspired by John Coltrane.

The festival closes with Chicago composer/pianist Shi-An (Andy) Costello, who, with Eric Hollander, will be performing an original Costello composition based on groundhogs. They will be followed by Ian Le and Kyra Saltman, who will perform the Sonata for Cello and Piano by Eliott Carter and Le Grand Tango by Argentine tango king Astor Piazzolla.

The 2018 Impromptu Fest runs from Thursday, February 15 through Sunday, February 25 at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division St, Chicago, 7:30 pm. Tickets for each event are $10; 5 for students with ID. For more information, check out ChopinTheatre and Impromptu Fest.


Louis Harris
Louis Harris

A lover of music his whole life, Louis Harris has written extensively from the early days of punk and alternative rock. More recently he has focused on classical music, especially chamber ensembles. He has reviewed concerts, festivals, and recordings and has interviewed composers and performers. He has paid special attention to Chicago’s rich and robust contemporary art music scene. He occasionally writes poetry and has a published novel to his credit, 32 Variations on a Theme by Basil II in the Key of Washington, DC. He now lives on the north side of Chicago, which he considers to be the greatest city in the country, if not the world.

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