The musicians chat and confer during a rehearsal break.

Welcome to the Civitas Ensemble’s new blog! My name is Alex, and I’ve recently joined the staff of Civitas as an administrative intern.

Civitas has been enjoying a busy inaugural season so far, and earlier this month, the ensemble performed a concert in conjunction with the Chinese Fine Arts Society (CFAS) at the Art Institute of Chicago. This, I have to say, was no small feat for the musicians. As someone lucky enough to witness the preparation for this event (yes, I was the guy awkwardly holding a video camera and snapping pictures during rehearsals), I was struck above all by their spirit of dedication and collaboration in putting the concert together.

The concert, entitled “Migratory Journeys,” was a jam-packed, whistle-stop tour through music by contemporary Chinese composers Chen Yi, Vivian Fung, Chen Yao, Daniel Lo, Tonia Ko, and Hao Liu. New music is, by nature, both an exhilarating and elusive pursuit: there is no ‘canon’ of contemporary music, there are few obvious ‘schools’ of twenty-first-century composition, and there are next to no ‘rules’ to follow. Add to this the fact that four of the works on the “Migratory Journeys” program were world premieres, never before been heard by anyone. Several of these new works also featured a combination of Western and traditional Chinese instruments, including pipa, dizi, and zheng; this, too, placed demands for innovation on the musicians’ collaborative process.

But it wasn’t just the repertoire that was new to Civitas. As I’ve seen and learned, collaborating with another arts organization in presenting a concert program is a serious behind-the-scenes endeavor.

Conductor Emanuele Andrizzi works with the musicians.

Civitas also engaged a number of outside performers to join them for the program, many of them from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Given all of the variables and moving parts at play here, I was amazed how seamless the process ended up being in the end.

These sorts of adventurous undertakings—both in contemporary music and in collaboration with other artists and organizations—is a major part of Civitas’ mission, and I’m looking forward to more of it in the coming months and seasons.

The concert itself, by the way, was fabulous. Don’t take my word for it, though—the Chicago Classical Review thought so, too!

Civitas will present another concert in collaboration with the Chinese Fine Arts Society on Sunday, April 29, at 3:00 PM. Join us for an all-Chinese music concert dedicated to the memory of Barbara Tiao at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall (78 E. Washington, Chicago). Admission is free.

 

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