Classical

Preview: New Composition Center to Inaugurate Its First Concert Season This Saturday

Piano and percussion quartet Yarn/Wire. Photo by Bobby Fisher.

The Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition opens its first ever concert season this Saturday when the piano and percussion quartet Yarn/Wire offers performances of Japanese composer Misato Mochizuki, German composer and conductor Enno Poppe, and two world premieres by University of Chicago composers Will Myers and David Clay Mettens. The concert will take place at the Logan Center Performance Hall, at 7:30pm October 13. Tickets are $15, free with student ID.

Led by Executive Director Augusta Read Thomas and housed at the U of C, the CCCC was formed in 2017 to advance the creation, performance, and study of new music. Thomas, who was the leading inspiration for the six-day Ear Taxi Festival that occurred two years ago, was also the leading advocate for the opening of the CCCC, which, she wrote, is “a next chapter for contemporary music on campus and draws much of its strength from its history.”

Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition, Augusta Read Thomas Executive Director.

In an e-mail exchange, Thomas explained, “Contemporary music has always held a strong position in music and the arts at this University, thanks to the legacy of Ralph Shapey and the Contemporary Chamber Players, formed well over 50 years ago, and its evolution into Contempo under the direction of Shulamit Ran and Marta Ptaszynska.”

The CCCC offers students postdoctoral fellowships, research opportunities, and graduate student-led projects. There is space for visiting composers and ensembles to perform, teach, record, and collaborate through concerts and workshops. It represents Thomas’ latest efforts at promoting new classical art music in Chicago and abroad, which she has done tirelessly for years as a University Professor at the University of Chicago’s Music Department. In doing so, she’s calling attention to up-and-coming composers based in Chicago, and more established composers from around the world.

Thomas noted, “By consolidating and centralizing the work of the Music Department’s composition program, inviting dynamic guest artists to campus, fostering student creativity, forming the new Grossman Ensemble with a strong emphasis on creating new work, and the formation of a brand new Postdoctoral Researcher position (now in its second year), contemporary music on campus is positioned to make significant impact. Over the next few years we plan to build new cross-campus partnerships and continue to bring initiatives into the Chicago and national contemporary music scenes at large.”

The newly formed Grossman Ensemble will offer three concerts and open rehearsals during the 2018-19 season. Photo by Jean Lachat.

After Saturday’s Yarn/Wire concert, the 2018-19 concert series offers performances every month. Several are geared toward chamber music. Jazz composer/drummer Tyshawn Sorey and his trio will be performing at Logan Center on Thursday, November 8, at 7pm. Spektral Quartet +1, Plus One will be premiering several pieces for string quartet and solo instruments at Constellation on Sunday, January 13, 2019, at 8:30pm. The ~NOIS saxophone quartet will be connecting new music with architecture as it performs in various settings around the Hairpin Arts Center on Friday, April 12, 2019, at 8:30pm. All of these concerts are free.

The Civic Orchestra of Chicago will be premiering the works by nine University of Chicago composers on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, at the Symphony Center, at 8pm. This concert only costs the $5 ticket processing fee. Electronic music will be on display at CHIMEfest 2019, a free, two-day symposium featuring talks and performances by leading composers and performers, Thursday-Friday, May 2-3, 2019, at the Logan Center.

A new group, the Grossman Ensemble, will be offering three concerts during the season under different conductors. Ben Bolter will be conducting its debut performance on Friday, December 7; James Baker will conduct on Friday, March 15; David Dzubay will conduct on Friday, June 7, 2019. Each concert will be at the Logan Center, at 7:30pm. These concerts are $15, free with student ID.

The Grossman Ensemble was formed specifically to be the ensemble in residence for the CCCC, and Augusta Read Thomas is especially pleased with the directions it is taking. “I am energetic with excitement to hear the newly formed Grossman Ensemble rehearse and perform,” she wrote. “This ensemble comprises some of the very best contemporary music specialists in the world and I know together they will sound exquisite. I’m thrilled for all of the composers writing for the Grossman Ensemble because they will be given the extraordinary luxury of time to sculpt new works of art over several months of workshopping-rehearsals with the full ensemble.”

The work of the Grossman Ensemble and its interactions with composers will be an object of study. Thomas explained, “We will be closely documenting the process, and I think the public will enjoy getting close access to the art through the free open rehearsals we are holding.” These day-long, open rehearsals will take place at the Logan Center on three Saturdays: November 10, 2018, February 16, 2019, and May 11, 2019.

Augusta Read Thomas helped organize, and now leads, the CCCC. Photo by Anthony Barlich.

Thomas herself has many great compositions and recordings under her belt. Having been the Composer of Residence for many years with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and having held other high-profile roles, she is already a well-known, well-established composer. There are many outlets for performances of Thomas’ work, so other composers will have the opportunity to shine in the CCCC Concert Series.

Thomas is presently composing two highly anticipated works that will receive their world premieres next year. On October 25, 2019, the Santa Fe Opera, featuring beatboxer Nicole Paris, will perform the world premiere of a new opera, Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun. The Santa Fe Opera commissioned the work with a consortium of other opera companies, including the Lyric Opera Of Kansas City, the Minnesota Opera, the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the San Francisco Opera, the Sarasota Opera, and the Seattle Opera.

Shortly thereafter, on November 14, 2019, the Martha Graham Dance Company, Janet Eiber, Artistic Director, Troy Schumacher Choreographer, and the ICE Ensemble will perform the world premiere of a new ballet commissioned by PEAK Performances at Montclair State University in New Jersey, Jedediah Wheeler, Executive Director.

For performance and ticket information regarding the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition’s 2018-19 concert series, see the concert schedule.

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