Preview: Second Impromptu Fest of Contemporary Music Starts Thursday

Saxophone quartet ~Nois to perform Saturday, March 30. Photo by Nick Zoulek Following the success of last year’s inaugural festival, the second Impromptu Fest will take place the next two weekends in the brand-new Guarneri Hall in downtown Chicago. Hosted by New Music Chicago, Impromptu Fest will showcase Chicago’s rich and vibrant contemporary art music scene with eight concerts featuring 16 Chicago ensembles performing new music by 22 Chicago composers. This festival seeks to bring together composers, ensembles, and the listening public to experience new music in an intimate setting. As festival curator Amy Wurtz said in an e-mail exchange, “Impromptu Fest offers a broad stage for so many performers to offer a huge variety of music to audience members.” Last year’s festival was pulled together in just six weeks. This year, Wurtz explained, the festival “crafted a lineup based on a double-bill model for each concert that allows maximum exposure for the maximum amount of our members. We have a couple presentations that various members are collaborating on.” Members of Fifth House Ensemble kick things off this Thursday. Photo by Eric Snoza. This year’s festival also got considerable support from outside donors. “New Music Chicago has long been active in supporting musicians, but primarily focused on community building and organization,” she explained. “It has only been in recent years, with the Ear Taxi Festival and the first Impromptu Fest, that we've been able to function as a presenter and create more opportunities for local musicians.” The acts and styles of music will be highly diverse, both acoustic and electronic. The festival opens this Thursday, March 21, with a piano trio comprising members of Fifth House Ensemble, which will perform music from the Fresh Inc Festival, a new music event that takes place every summer. They will feature music by Niko D. Schroeder, Ayanna Woods, Dan Visconti, and Paul Schoenfield. In the second half, the Heare Ensemble will be performing music by Carter Pann, Narong Prangcharoen, and George Crumb. Brass aficionados can hear Gaudete Brass and an ensemble formed by its members’ students on Saturday, March 23. A Chicago Brass Showcase will feature works by David Sampson, Mark Nowakowski, Tania Leon, and Ingolf Dahl. On the following Saturday, March 30, Chicago saxophone quartet ~Nois will perform a program entitled Is this ~Nois?—New Music for Saxophones. It features composers Gemma Peacocke, Darcy Copeland, and Georg Friedrich Haas, as well as an improvisation. Janice Misurell Mitchell will perform with her unusual style next Friday. Photo by Marc Perlish. On Sunday, March 24, Wurtz and her duo partner cellist Allyson Berger will be offering Restless Woods, a program with scored music by Ken Thomson, Alex Shapiro, and Marta Ptaszynska and improvised music by Wurtz and Berger. On that same program, Chicago composer and saxophonist Amos Gillespie will be joined by the Lakeshore Rush quintet and percussionist Josh Graham for Midwest Meets the Rest, a program of music by Phillip Glass, Gian Carlo Menotti, Beth Bradfish, and David Lang, as well as Gillespie’s own compositions. On Friday, March 29, Naperville Chamber Players' flautist Marie Bennett, cellist Dorothy Deen, oboist Tricia Wlazlo, percussionist Ben Wahlund, and pianist Michael Giuliani perform Ad Astra—To the Stars, featuring music by Joe W. Moore III, Mischa Zupko, Ben Wahlund, and Jenni Brandon. Also on the program is flautist and vocalist Janice Misurell-Mitchell performing The Speaking Flute. The program includes music by Claude Debussy, Edgard Varèse, and Mitchell’s own compositions. Impromptu Fest 2019 takes place March 21–31 at Guarneri Hall, 11 E. Adams St., Suite 350A. Thursday–Saturday concerts are at 7:30pm, Sunday concerts at 3pm. $20 single tickets; $60 a four-concert pass; $100 a pass to all eight concerts. Half price for students. For more information, check out Impromptu Fest.  
Picture of the author
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. Member of the Music Critics Association of North America.