Created as part of the Bach+Beethoven Experience, “Chicago Stories: Book 2” challenges local composers to write a musical suite that utilizes baroque instruments to tell a story about Chicago.
One of the hallmarks of Bach+Beethoven Experience is to create a casual relaxed atmosphere to enjoy music of vintage instruments. There is nothing stuffy about this experience and I venture to say it can be enjoyed by virtually anyone regardless of musical tastes or preferred musical genre.
The premiere performance was presented Sept. 29, 2018 in the Sky Room at the Loyola Park Field House in Rogers Park overlooking Lake Michigan.
The first suite, “Stories of the Bloomingdale Trail” by Ronnie Kuller, was created to evoke memories of the trail’s past as part of an industrial corridor and rail line that contrasted with the present sounds of the walkers, runners, and bicyclists who enjoy the narrow elevated green space. The trail cuts a nearly three-mile path parallel to North Avenue from Ashland on the east to roughly Central Park on the west.
Kurt Westerberg, a familiar name in the Chicago musical community, is a long time faculty member at De Paul University Department of Musical Studies. His suite, “The Swedes in Chicago,” is based on memories of his Swedish grandfather who was a Methodist minister in the Chicago area.
Kurt uses recordings of his grandfather’s voice and avant-garde instrumental techniques to tell a story that takes listeners on a journey across space and time from Sweden to America. Along the way are personal observations and encounters.
Regina Harris Baiocchi, an active, highly-recognized, Chicago composer and native of Bronzeville, tells her story of “The Great Migration” which alludes to the movement of African Americans from the southern U.S. to Chicago in the mid twentieth century.
Regina expanded the baroque ensemble to include a vocalist, harmonica player and an array of percussion. She asks the audience to listen for the coded messages within the music that descendants of former slaves still incorporate into modern blues, jazz and gospel music.
An interesting aside was the realization that much of the early American slave period coincided with the Baroque musical period.
The Chicago Stories: Book 2 ensemble is comprised of an impressive group of area musicians who are each accomplished performers and/or teachers. They include: Thomas Aláan is Executive Director and Master of Ceremonies, violinist Brandi Berry Benson (Artistic Director). Bill Baxtresser, cornetto, Leighann Daihl Ragusa, flute, Patrick O’Malley, recorder, Felicia Patton, vocals, David Schrader, harpsichord, Katherine Shuldiner, viola da gamba, Matthew Skoller, harmonica, Michael J. Taylor, percussion and Paul Von Hoff, sackbut.
DETAILS: “Chicago Stories: Book 2” will be performances: Armour Square Park, 3309 S. Shields Ave., Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m. and at The Den Theatre’s Haven Cabaret, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Oct. 7, 2018 at 7 p.m. Performances are free. For tickets or more information visit Chicago Stories Two.
(Disclosure: Guest Reviewer Reno Lovison is a videographer who has video recorded numerous Chicago musical performances including several productions on behalf of Regina Harris Baiocchi)