Preview: Ear Taxi Festival… Welcome Back!

When Third Coast Review started in 2016, I had had only limited exposure to Chicago’s contemporary classical music scene. My appreciation of our community received a massive jolt in October of that year when the Ear Taxi Festival showcased an amazingly robust and talented group of musicians during six full days of concerts, lectures, multimedia displays, and other activities. Held at many venues spread across the city, the festival’s 32 separate events included performances of music by 87 living Chicago composers, including the world premieres of 54 new works. Pulling this off required over 350 local musicians to perform in many different ensembles.

As documented in several Third Coast Review articles, I heard many great performances at the Ear Taxi Festival. However, the Saturday night concert at Harris Theater was one of the most amazing musical experiences I have ever enjoyed.

Flutist Jennie Oh Brown is serving as Executive and Artistic Director of Ear Taxi Festival. Photo by Forestt Strong Lafave.

The first Ear Taxi Festival was the brainchild of Augusta Read Thomas, a leading figure in Chicago’s contemporary music community and a professor of music composition at the University of Chicago. Following the successful event in 2016, Thomas turned the festival over to New Music Chicago, which, under the leadership of the multi-talented Jennie Oh Brown, flutist from Chicago’s Picosa chamber ensemble, began planning a second, expanded ETF for the fall of 2020. COVID-19 disrupted those plans and required postponement. The festival has since been rescheduled for September 15-October 4, 2021.

The theme of this year’s Ear Taxi Festival is Hear Chicago. This and next Saturday, the first two of three preview concerts have been scheduled. In conjunction with the DePaul Art Museum’s LatinxAmerican exhibition, composer/instrumentalist Devin Clara Fanslow will lead CT Fire Thief through several works by Latinx composers. Opening the first concert is composer and flautist Janice Misurell-Mitchell performing her solo work “The Light that Burns,” which is dedicated to the memory of her son Gabriel. DePaul Art Museum, Saturday, July 17 at 2 pm. Free, registration required.

Next Saturday, Chicago based KAIA String Quartet will present a program of Mexican and Uruguayan composers from the early 20th century to the present. The final work will be a string quartet by Chicago’s Elbio Barilari. DePaul Art Museum, Saturday, July 24, 2 pm. Free, registration required.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the Ear Taxi Festival 2021, Hear Chicago.

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. Member of the Music Critics Association of North America.