The long-anticipated return of the Ear Taxi Festival started this week with a series of concerts and happenings at several venues around Chicago. The first festival in October 2016 showcased an amazingly robust and talented contemporary music community with 32 concerts, lectures, and multimedia displays spread over six days. This included performances of music by 87 living Chicago composers and the world premieres of 54 works.
New Music Chicago was planning for an expanded ETF in October 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic required postponement. The festival in 2016 was a compact affair within a single week; this year’s festival runs for three weeks, split into two sections.
The theme of this year’s event is Hear Chicago. The organizers have made an aggressive attempt to include all of Chicago’s new/contemporary classical music community, especially artists and composers of color. This reflects a desire to overcome long-entrenched whiteness in classical music culture. Programs also incorporate visuals and movement into the music.
Spotlight Concerts began yesterday and run almost every day for the next two weeks. These concerts stage new music and creative performance ideas at various places spread all over the city. Today’s event is Mannerist 11 at Constellation Chicago. Composer/bassist Matt Ulery has assembled a chamber jazz ensemble of winds, brass, piano, drums and bass to premiere his new compositions. Constellation Chicago, 3111 N. Western Ave, 8:30 pm, $15 in-person, donation-based livestream.
Two events are scheduled for Saturday, September 18. The Quijote Duo of cello and viola will be performing Currents by Hannah Boissonneault, which was originally written for two cellos. They will also be playing world premieres of music by Igor Santo and Ben Zucker. DCTorium, 3026 W Armitage Ave, 7:00 pm, $15 general, $10 students.
Things shift to the South Loop Saturday and Sunday evenings with Kosmologia, where video, movement, dramatics, and live piano are combined in a program of new and old. While videos by Camilla Tassi and Ryan Belock play in real time, pianist Natasha Stojanovska offers a live performance of music by contemporary composer Carmen-Helena Téllez and baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach. While this is happening, Chía Patiño will provide dramaturgy and Alexa Capareda provides movement. Pianoforte Foundation, Saturday and Sunday, September 18-19, 7:30 PM, 1335 S Michigan Ave, 2nd Floor, $20 general, $10 students.
Interspersed with the Spotlight Concerts and going full-tilt on Thursday, September 30, through Monday, October 4, are the Mainstage Series Concerts. These five days will highlight new music by Chicago composers all day long in a series of (mostly) free concerts, starting at noon with Picosa at the Kehrein Center for Performing Arts in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. Picosa’s program includes Mirage by Shulamit Ran, as well as Meteore D’Inverno (Winter Meteors) by their composer-in-residence Jonathon Kirk. This is the first of several 30-45 minute performances that run throughout the day, breaking only for dinner. It ends with KAIA String Quartet performing the third quartets by Ran (Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory) and Gustavo Leon. Kehrein Center, 5828 W. Washington Blvd.
Ran’s music features prominently throughout the weekend, as does music by Augusta Read Thomas, George Lewis, Clarice Assad, Amos Gillespie, Stacy Garrop, Tonio-Ko, and dozens of other Chicago composers. The marvelous but sadly underperformed music by Chicago’s Florence Price, a Black composer prominent in the mid-20th century, will also be featured.
Day-long festivities on Friday, October 1, take place at the wonderful new concert venues at DePaul University’s School of Music. On Saturday, October 2, the stage is set at Hyde Park’s Logan Center for Performing Arts. Sunday’s afternoon concerts are at the Epiphany Center for the Arts at 201 S. Ashland. After dinner, things move to Constellation. The festival wraps up back at the Kehrein Center on Monday, October 4.
Detailed program and ticket information can be found at www.eartaxifestival.com.