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   Post reply ( Re: Chicago Early Music "Civil War"? )
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Topic Summary
Posted by: berto Posted on: May 12th, 2003, 3:59pm
In the Whitewater EMF Schedule thread of this message Forum, MasquedPhoenix1 remarked:
"I know for a fact that Carol sent out an e-mail invitation to all the area viol players on the local viol list to find out more about the festival.  She didn't receive much in the way of replies.  And now that the viols have moved their regular monthly jam  at Northwestern to June 8th, it doesn't look like we'll be getting many last minute recruits.  Sometimes it feels like the Chicago Early Music Civil War without the artillery and menace!  (Okay, there's probably a much better analogy out there- please feel free to offer it up.)  But it seems like we each go about in our own orbits blissfully unacknowledging of the fact that we could do such wonderful things together.  In the past I've proposed having the viol players come to some of the Chicago ARS meetings without any success.  I'll keep trying, but if anyone has any bright ideas on how to make this happen...?"
It's a two-way street. To be fair, how many recorder players in this area attend viol-centered events (e.g., Newberry Consort concerts)? Don't we recorder players tend to keep to ourselves?
I don't know if I'd go so far as to describe the state of early music affairs locally as a "civil war," but there does seem to be little sense of community.
We are divided by the instruments we play (as you noted) and whether or not we play instruments or sing, also by where live, where we went to school, etc.
Were it not so, you would think Chicago would have a community-wide early music umbrella organization like you see in many other areas around the country (e.g., The Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh, Seattle's Early Music Guild, Early Music Vancouver, Early Music Colorado, just to name a few).
Chicago prides itself as being a center of classical music, what with all its many (in some cases world-class) orchestras, summer music festivals, opera companies, and perhaps the best classical musical radio station anywhere in the country.
It comes as a surprise, then, that Chicago is not likewise a recognized center for Early Music, and that (aside from Early MusiChicago) there is no central voice or advocate for Chicago Early Music. Bits and pieces are here and there, but they haven't (yet) all come together. (We at EMC are working on that.)
Is it truly a "civil war" or just mere clannishness? What really keeps us apart?
Posted by: Michael Anderson Posted on: May 13th, 2003, 5:01pm
Let's take a lesson from Indianapolis and Madison.  An Early Music Festival would put Chicago on the map (of early music at least).  I volunteer to help if another consortium takes the lead!
Posted by: Ken Perlow Posted on: May 13th, 2003, 7:28pm
Civil war?  What is the problem?  Is there a festival on June 8 that the Chicago viol play day preempts?  If there is, I don't remember receiving any notice of it.  As webmaster for the Viola da Gamba Society of America, I post such events on our website when I receive them.
Posted by: MasquedPhoenix1 Posted on: May 19th, 2003, 1:29pm
Some messages get lost in the internet ether.  Check out the info on the Whitewater Early Music Festival if you are wondering which one we are talking about.   Carol sent an "if you're interested" e-mail to most of the area viol players in March.  
I also e-mailed an offer to Lynn about setting up a "play-in" for this summer.  I haven't heard anything back yet.  As president of the Recorder Society, I've made this offer twice in the past and received no reply.  I offered to arrange for a venue and to bring music and a conductor while only asking for a confirmation of interest in return.  Perhaps I am asking the wrong person.  Look for an e-mail, Ken!
Maybe a small step like this will lead to efforts toward an "umbrella organization"  which could eventually lead to a real Chicago Early Music Festival.  Let's get the communication rolling...
Posted by: Richard_Nemanich Posted on: Jan 6th, 2004, 3:04pm
I don't know about a civil war, but I do agree that there seems to be a lack of community and leadership. Small ad hoc performing groups are fine, but what I think Chicago needs even more than an early music festival is an established, full-fledged period-instrument Baroque orchestra, similar to those in smaller cities like Cleveland, Portland, and San Francisco, to perform the more ambitious works in the Baroque repertory. Such an orchestra would complement the Newberry Consort, which plays mostly Medieval and Renaissance music and which is presently Chicago's only established, world-renowned early music ensemble. Chicago abounds in excellent period-instrument musicians. The problem appears to be the lack of vision, leadership, organization, and funding to make it happen. Or is the real problem that the continued popularity of Music of the Baroque means that Chicago is not ready for a period-instrument Baroque orchestra?
Posted by: John Mark Rozendaal Posted on: Jan 7th, 2004, 11:27pm
The strange inability of Chicago to sustain a  resident period instrument orchestra has been a very large disappointment to me. I've thought about it a lot, and I don't completely understand it. But here are some random thoughts about the issue.  
It is a weird thing. This town is full of talented period instrument players, there is lots of money here, and an active amateur early music scene. All of the right stuff. But something is missing. The scene is like a plant in rich soil with strong roots which rarely blossoms because of bad weather or some other undiagnosed disorder.
Chicago is the "City of Big Shoulders." When we talk about the character of the city of Chicago and its cultural life, words like "refinement" or, say "nuance", or "delicacy", words that might describe some of the prized aspects of period instrument playing, simply don't come up. So do we give up? No, of course not. We just don't expect the same large, prestige-driven businesses and foundations that support the Disney-ish downtown arts scene to support something more thoughtful, or anything that might require sustained attention. The orchestra, when it happens, will be a grass-roots thing, a community effort, perhaps a bit like Bach Week in Evanston. (I'm talking here about how Bach Week has nurtured it's base of support, not about what its orchestra sounds like.)
Right now the best and brightest hope for this is the orchestra that Marty Davids plans to debut in April of this year. Marty is a superb violinist and a charismatic young man, and I believe that he is building the kind of organization that could make this fly.  If you care about this issue, plan to go to the concert, bring your friends, and open your checkbooks, give Marty your money
Posted by: mdavids Posted on: Jan 8th, 2004, 10:29am
Wow.  Thanks JM.  
I am starting a Baroque Orchestra here in Chicago.  We're doing 2 concerts in April (23,24) -I'll post details soon.  Starting small this year, but hopefully within a few years we'll be a big deal.  
Posted by: Ken Perlow Posted on: Jan 8th, 2004, 9:26pm
Baroque orchestras are extremely resource intensive.  They require top-notch administration to squeeze out funding and loyal audiences who will pack the hall. The BEMF orchestra has BEMF; Apollo's Fire would probably not survive in Cleveland without the music school at Case. Alas, there is no university in Chicago that gives a d**n any more about early music. Our strongest faculty are at, of all places, Roosevelt. But even without the support, Chicago is not bereft of the Baroque orchestra experience. Mary Springfels' association with Chicago Opera Theater usually gives us one Baroque opera with period ensemble each season. And now that MOB is free from the clutches of Thomas Wikman (whom a lutenist I know once referred to as "the Charlie Manson of early music"), Jane Glover is coaxing a reasonably period sound out of admittedly over-the-hill modern instrument players. But I've heard that the MOB administration has promised her that she will be able to put together a true period band for some performances. But the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. I don't know of any orchestras today, period or otherwise, that are flush.  Even the CSO was recently at the brink. So, yeah, it would be great to have a Baroque orchestra. It would be great to have world peace too.

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