Preview: Ear Taxi Festival Shifts to Mainstage Concerts

As Ear Taxi Festival enters its third and final weekend, the focus shifts to the Mainstage Series Concerts, with five full days of mostly free performances in venues spread across the city. New Music Chicago is presenting this year’s festival, which has the theme 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. Approximately 600 artists are performing in 100 events in this year’s festival. There are 36 world premieres of new works, several of which were commissioned by the festival. There are several lectures and professional development opportunities. Programs also incorporate visual and movement into the music. Most concerts will be live streamed on YouTube. Flautist Jennie Oh Brown is serving as executive and artistic director of Ear Taxi Festival. Her ensemble Picosa performs on Thursday. Photo by Forest Strong Lafave. The scene of Thursday’s action is the Kehrein Center for Performing Arts in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. The executive director of this year’s festival is Jennie Oh Brown. Her ensemble Picosa starts things off at noon with a program that includes Mirage by Shulamit Ran and Meteore D’Inverno (Winter Meteors) by Picosa’s composer-in-residence Jonathon Kirk. This will be followed by 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. Thursday, September 30, Kehrein Center, 5828 W. Washington Blvd, free. Ran’s music features prominently throughout the weekend, as do works 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 continue on Friday, October 1, on the campus of DePaul University with performances and lectures starting at the DePaul Art Museum and ending at the wonderful new Holtschneider Performance Center at the School of Music. Violinist Sarah Plum starts things off with Parameters of Sound, a program featuring four com.posers with Chicago ties. DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton, 11:30am -12:15pm, free Fulcrum Point New Music Project will be continuing their LatinX project in collaboration with the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago. Photo by Elliot Mandel. Backing up Plum will be Eighth Blackbird cellist Nick Photinos, who performs his own composition Untitled and works by several other composers at the Holtschneider Performance Center, 3:15-4:00pm, free. Later that afternoon, Fulcrum Point New Music Project, headed by trumpeter and composer Stephen Burns, offers another installment of LatinX. In partnership with the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, Fulcrum Point has been highlighting the work of composers from Latin America. Friday's program includes the world premiere of Lupita Diaz-Donato’s Nubes, as well as Clarice Assad’s  Book of Spells. Holtschneider Performance Center, Gannon Hall, 2330 N. Halsted, 5:15-6pm, free. The scene on Saturday, October 2, shifts to the Logan Center for Performing Arts in Hyde Park, 915 E. 60th St. Gaudete Brass performs world premieres by seven Chicago composers, including Amos Gillespie. 2-2:45pm, free. That evening, Zachary Good and Tonia Ko offer the world premiere of their composition Up High, which was commissioned by the Ear Taxi Festival. 6-6:45pm, free. This will be followed by Wet Ink Ensemble, a concert being hosted by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition, 7:30-9:30pm, general admission $20; students are free. 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 information can be found at
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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.