Fun! Entertaining! Musical! Intelligent! These are words that came back to me from those who experienced our concerts and other performances over the last year. Once again, our concerts were filled with familiar selections and area premiers.
Last summer, we were invited to perform at Pilgrim Baptist Church, to help celebrate the life and work of Thomas A. Dorsey. Dorsey, former music director of Pilgrim, is considered the “Father of Gospel Music.” He is probably best known as the author of the hymn “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” This was our second invitation, which came from the Church’s current music director, Arnold Sevier. What a pleasure and honor it was to have been able to be part of the celebration.
In December, for our central work and also a Chicago premier, we featured the “Cantata for Christmas,” for chorus and chamber orchestra, by British composer, John Gardner (1917-2011), along with many other songs of the season. We introduced our audience to composer, Rosephyne Powell and her energetic “Ogo Ni Fun Oluwa!” as well as to Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of “Christmas is Coming,” for chorus and piano-four-hands. Rounding out the program, were carol arrangements and John Williams’ crowd-pleaser, “Three Songs from Home Alone.”
Sing, Illinois! was our theme for the spring, as we featured the choral works of composers born in Illinois or who spent parts of their lives cultivating their crafts in Illinois. Those composers included, among others, William Ferris, Leo Sowerby, Norman Luboff, Ned Rorem, and Ron Nelson. Women composers prominently featured included Margaret Bonds, Florence Price, Shirley Whitecotton, and Oak Park resident and Unity Temple Music Director, the late Lora Aborn. The central work was John La Montaine’s “Nonsense Songs from Mother Goose.” La Montaine, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, also grew up in Oak Park.
Joining us specially for the concert was guest trumpet virtuoso, Joseph Burgstaller. Burgstaller (formerly of the Canadian Brass and a Yamaha Artist) performed with the ensemble on several selections, including his own arrangement of Astor Piazzola’s song, “Oblivion,” for flugel horn and a cappella chorus. He dazzled the audience with his performances of music by Reicha and Rafael Mendez’s arrangement of “La Virgen de la Macarena.” Organist, Corrado Cavalli deftly supported the ensemble on several selections, with his exceptional musicianship and insight.
We look forward to Season 12 and beyond, hoping to continue to introduce wonderful literature, but always keeping in mind that we must touch our audiences – oh, and have fun!