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Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras To Be First American Youth Orchestra To Perform Varèse's 'Amériques'

Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras To Be First American Youth Orchestra To Perform Varèse's 'Amériques'

Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO) presents the spring concert of its world-renowned Symphony Orchestra at Chicago's Orchestra Hall (220 S. Michigan Ave.) on Sunday, May 20, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. Made up of some of the most talented and dedicated young musicians from across the Chicago region, the 125-member ensemble is led by Music Director Allen Tinkham. The concert will feature an all-American program of disparate cross-genre voices that explore the many "Americas" that make up our country.

The centerpiece of the program is Edgard Varèse's modernist masterpiece, Amériques. CYSO's Symphony Orchestra will be the first American youth orchestra to take on the sprawling and difficult work, which is seldom performed due to its huge instrumentation and experimental musical language. The piece charts the composer's experience as an immigrant to 1920s New York, a place buzzing with change. While the unusual sounds, such as a siren, are often thought of as a literal representation of loud, bustling city life, Varèse himself said that Amériques was metaphorical and instead "symbolic of discoveries-new worlds on earth, in the sky, or in the minds of men."

During the 25-minute piece, eleven percussionists perform on 28 instruments including sirens, a ratchet (low rattle), and lion's roar. In addition, the piece features the heckelphone-one of only 100 of this extremely rare instrument known to exist.

"I've dreamed of programming Amériques since joining CYSO seventeen years ago," said Music Director Allen Tinkham. "It's a piece that asks the audience, and the musicians, to stretch from their comfort zone. Amériques is composed like a Cubist painting with different ideas coming together in sometimes strange ways, but in the end, you can't help but be moved when you listen to it."

The modernism of Amériques is contrasted by Samuel Barber's romantic Symphony no. 1 in One Movement. Something of an American Rachmaninoff, Barber's work focused on perfection of old forms, the opposite of Varese's experimentation.

The program finale features another first, as Symphony Orchestra is joined on stage by members of CYSO's Jazz Orchestra to perform Duke Ellington's Grand Slam Jam. The piece was originally titled Nonviolent Integration, a clever nod to the melding of jazz big band and classical orchestra. The essence of jazz is that music is recomposted every time it is played, and as a finale, Ellington's piece provides a hopeful image of how music new and old continues to bring people together.

The evening will also include the conducting debut of 18-year-old Symphony Orchestra bassoonist Emmy Hensley, recipient of CYSO's inaugural Doug and Sharon Carroll Conducting Fellowship. A senior at Plainfield North High School, Hensley will be the first student in CYSO's 71-year history to conduct one of its ensembles at Orchestra Hall. She will lead her Symphony Orchestra peers in a performance of Leonard Bernstein's Overture to West Side Story, continuing CYSO's celebration of the Bernstein Centennial.

The program will also open with the Chicago premiere of Dana Wilson's Hold Fast to Dreams, based on a poem by Langston Hughes.

The complete program for CYSO's May 20 concert will be as follows:

  • Dana Wilson (b. 1946) | Hold Fast to Dreams - Chicago premiere
    Performed by CYSO's Philharmonic Orchestra | Terrance Malone Gray, conductor

  • Edgard Varèse (1883-1965) | Amériques

  • Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) | Overture to West Side Story
    Emmy Hensley, Doug and Sharon Carroll Conducting Fellow

  • Samuel Barber (1910-1981) | Symphony no. 1 in One Movement, op. 9

  • Duke Ellington (1899-1974) | Grand Slam Jam

Featuring members of CYSO's Jazz Orchestra | Pharez Whitted, Jazz Orchestra Director

At the concert, CYSO will honor Aurora's Dr. Mark Liu with the Music Inspiration Award. Nominated by Symphony Orchestra cellist Kimmy Chuang, Dr. Liu is in his seventeenth year teaching high school orchestra, currently at Metea Valley High School, Indian Prairie School District 204, where he was awarded Most Influential Educator. Dr. Liu was recognized as an outstanding educator by Illinois Institute of Technology, Western Illinois University, Boston College, MIT, and Northwestern University. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Wheaton College, Master of Music from Northwestern University, Master of Arts in educational leadership from Aurora University, and Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education from Boston University. Dr. Liu currently conducts the Youth Symphony of DuPage. He has presented at state conferences and served as festival orchestra conductor. Dr. Liu has served as the ILMEA All-State Orchestra chairperson and was recently elected as the ILMEA Orchestra Division President-Elect.

CYSO will also present 2018 student scholarships during the concert:

  • Albert Pick III Award - Chicago's Jennifer Yu Wang (flute) will receive this award, which is inspired by the memory of Albert Pick III and his commitment to the students of CYSO. The award comes with a $1,000 prize and is given to a well-rounded individual with the intent to keep music a creative and joyful part of the recipient's life.

  • Mollendorf Award - Chicago's Giacomo Glotzer (cello) will receive this award, which comes with a $1,000 prize and is awarded to a deserving graduating senior in Symphony Orchestra to be applied toward further musical study.

  • Luminarts Performance Awards - Skokie's Filip Czarkowski (trumpet), Chicago's Alexander Levinson (cello), and Elmhurst's Tessa Vermulen (flute) will receive this $1,000 award to support further musical study in pursuit of a professional career in music. These awards are made possible by the Luminarts Cultural Foundation at the Union League Club of Chicago.

CYSO's Symphony Orchestra presents its spring concert at Chicago's Orchestra Hall (220 S. Michigan Ave.) on Sunday, May 20 at 7:30 pm. Tickets for this event are $20-$60 and children 7 and under free. Tickets on sale now. For more information visit or call (312) 939-2207 x310.

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