The a capella program Suit and Tie by Artemisia Trio was one of the motivations for the creation Vocal Arts Chicago in the winter of 2015. Here were three Chicago-based artists (Kaitlin Foley, Diana Lawrence, Alexandra Olsavsky), well-respected by their peers, in an entirely original concept that was only possible with their specific and diverse vocal skills and their staggeringly impressive musicianship. The finished product was one of the best performances I attended that year in any venue with any budget – and I felt compelled to do everything I could to promote these artists and ensure the ensemble’s sustainability. Chicago is a saturated market for decent and even above average performances, and VAC is happy to point at the events that will satisfy if not impress. The work that Artemisia is doing outstanding and most highly recommended.
The repertoire for Artemisia’s new program Women Who Rule spans traditional Georgian song, Native American prayer, Spanish polyphony, Irish folk song, and new compositions by the artists themselves. Don’t miss it – you have three opportunities this weekend: Friday in Evanston, Saturday in Hyde Park, and Sunday in Edgewater.
Chicago Choral Artists rounds out their 2016-17 season with a program entitled Music for Nighttime. Even though this is a group that has been around for 40 years, there is a clear evolution happening under the leadership of Artistic Director and composer Michael D. Costello. This year, Chicago Choral Artists continued their collaboration with WFMT Artists in Residence the Kontras Quartet, combined with the chorus and orchestra of Bach Cantata Vespers at Grace Lutheran in River Forest for a riveting St. John Passion, and presented works ranging from Carissimi’s Jonah oratorio to Finzi’s epic festival anthem “Lo, the full, final sacrifice.” The explicit theme of their current program seems to be inspired by the excellent triptych by Dan Forrest Three Nocturnes which sets poetry by American poets Walt Whitman, Sara Teasdale, and Emily Dickinson. American poetry about night leads to works by Samuel Barber, Stephen Paulus, Eric Whitacre, and Frank Ticheli. Music for Nighttime also includes a premiere by Chicago composer Michael Wolniakowski and a choral setting of the children’s book Goodnight Moon. Audiences are encouraged to bring their own copy of bedtime story to follow along with the score. Performances are Friday in River Forest and Saturday at Chicago Temple.
On Sunday, also at Chicago Temple, you can hear a program of Sacred Harp and other early music in English performed by The Marion Consort. Formed in 2010 by Artistic Director Amy Bearden (whose early music credentials Indiana University’s Early Music Institute, Amherst Early Music Festival, and the Texas Early Music Project), the Marion Consort is an intimate ensemble that focuses specifically on music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. The Shape Note singing or Sacred Harp music featured on Broad is the Road used to be in the domain of His Majestie’s Clerkes. It is no longer easy to find Sacred Harp music being performed at this high a level in Chicago.
Quick Pick: The celebration of Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary begins with Bella Voce’s performances of Missa in Illo Tempore paired with J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540 in Evanston on Saturday and paired with organ works of Bach, Elgar, and Franck in La Grange on Sunday. More high-profile Monteverdi performances coming in the fall!