By Dennis Polkow
Welcome to “Offbeat,” Newcity’s new, experimental music column. The goal is to use my veteran experience as a critic, musician, producer, educator and music lover to offer an inside view of music events of interest happening during the time frame of each issue. For this debut offering, that will encompass Oct. 30 – Nov. 12.
“Offbeat” references the beat, or pulse in music, a synonym for syncopation, i.e., when the unusual or unstressed part of a bar is emphasized as opposed to staying directly on the beat. But in journalism, “beat” also refers to a standard coverage area, so a double-meaning is intended in that what will be covered here will by and large be off the beaten path.
Genres included will be Orchestral, Choral/Vocal, Chamber Music, Early Music, New Music, Jazz, Blues, Folk and World Music along with odds and ends, all addressed in a seamless way where the lines between these dissipate. Basically, whatever looks to be the most interesting music-related stuff going on during that that particular time period will be selectively spotlighted.
Guitarist extraordinarire John Abercrombie will perform with his revised quartet, which includes pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baran, the same personnel on Abercrombie’s latest album, “39 Steps.” Abercrombie and Copland were both members of the Chico Hamilton Quartet and the fusion jazz-rock group Dreams back in the 1970s, but both have returned to more straight-ahead jazz as this group reflects; from $20; Oct. 30 – Nov. 2, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth; (312) 360-0234.
East meets West in Fulcrum New Music Project’s eclectic evening of classical and contemporary Indian music and dance called “Mirror of Enlightenment” that includes “Mara,” an enlightenment tale that depicts the life of the Buddha performed by Chicago-based Indian classical dance company Kalapriya Dance.
Twenty-five Fulcrum Point musicians will merge Messiaen and Mingus with Indian composer Param Vir to present the U.S. premiere of Vir’s “Raga Fields, Concerto for Sarod and Ensemble” featuring British-Bengali sarod virtuoso Soumik Datta as soloist.
Tabla master and Indian percussionist Kalyan Pathak will collaborate with sarod player Datta and Fulcrum Point founder/conductor/trumpeter Stephen Burns for the improvisational work “Rageshri” and will perform his own work “Sanvare ke Rachi” joined by his own ensemble, the Jazz Mata Trio. The program will conclude with Shirish Korde’s “Lalit,” a duet for flute and tabla featuring Pathak and Fulcrum Point flutist Mary Stolper; $20 ($10 for students); 7:30 p.m., Nov. 1, Millennium Park’s Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph; (312) 334-7777.
Nov. 1, 1954 was the date that Lyric Theatre of Chicago, later Lyric Opera of Chicago, came into being and the company is celebrating with a one-night-only all-star 60th Anniversary Concert and Diamond Ball on the actual anniversary date. The tone looks to be light and celebratory rather than the more formal affair that commemorated the company’s 50th anniversary a decade ago, since which some key company figures and artists associated with Lyric’s early years have passed away.
Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch, who plays coach Sue Sylvester on the television series “Glee,” will serve as master of ceremonies and Second City will present a series of skits across the evening. Renée Fleming will traverse “Over the Rainbow” with jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis as accompanist and Eric Owens will sing “Ol’ Man River.”
Sir Andrew Davis will lead the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus and members and alumni of the Ryan Opera Center as well as a roster that includes Stephanie Blythe, Johan Botha, Christine Goerke, Susan Graham, Quinn Kelsey, Mariusz Kwiecien, Ana María Martínez, Marina Rebeka and Amber Wagner. (Previously announced Sondra Radvanovsky and Samuel Ramey will not be appearing.) Tickets for the concert only start at $75 and all concert-goers receive a hardbound copy of the commemorative book, “60 Lyric Moments;” 6:30 p.m., Nov. 1, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; (312) 332-2244.
Since 2013, flutist and International Contemporary Ensemble founder and artistic director Claire Chase has been on active search of a new “Density,” a reference to Edgard Varèse’s 1936 seminal flute piece “Density 21.5” (the title referred to the density of platinum, a premium flute material) a revolutionary piece of music that “forever changed the definition of the flute, humankind’s oldest instrument.”
Chase is on notice that she is looking to have commissioned and premiered the 21st century equivalent of “Density” before the work’s centennial in 2036, at which time Chase will be 58. Chase’s search thus far has led her to offer world premieres of more then one-hundred new works for flute, many written specifically for her.
“Density 2036: part ii” presents a seventy-minute program of new works for flute and electronics (Levy Lorenzo, engineer) by George Lewis, Matthias Pintscher, Felipe Lara, Mario Diaz de León and Du Yun as Chase offers her first solo performance as Northwestern University’s Bienen School’s Institute for New Music’s 2014-15 resident artist. At $8 a ticket ($5 for students with ID) and with Varèse’s “Density” included as a finale along with a post-concert Q&A with Chase, that is a density deal. 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5, Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place, Evanston; (847) 467-4000.
Attempting to fuse arts, science and culture in the 17thand 18th centuries is the object of “The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres” with the Canadian period instrument ensemble Tafelmusik. Narration, choreography and music by Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach and Handel will be performed to a backdrop of high-definition images from the Hubble telescope; $35 ($5 students with ID); 7:30 p.m., Nov. 7, University of Chicago’s Logan Center, 915 E. 60th; (773) 702-2787.
Newberry Consort’s “Música Barocca Mexicana” features 18th century music of the New World for voices, violins, guitar, therobo, harpsichord and cello reconstructed as performed at the cathedral in Durango, one of Mexico’s important music centers. Newly-discovered masterpieces are included with many U.S. premieres of works by Ignacio Jerusalem, Santiago Billoni, Manuel de Sumaya and others; from $35; Nov. 7-9, various locales; (773) 669-7335.
Following up on its traversal of a complete Beethoven string quartet cycle two years ago and a complete Bartók string quartet cycle last season, this year the gifted and energetic Avalon Quartet is performing a complete Brahms string quartet cycle at the Art Institute. This exquisite Sunday afternoon series includes other pieces that influenced — or have been influenced by — Brahms, followed by illuminating gallery walks that tie together revolutions in music, painting and sculpture. Brahms Quartet No. 3, Op. 67 in B-flat Major and the Debussy Quartet are the pairings in this second of a four-concert season-long series; free with museum admission; 2 p.m. Nov. 9, Fullerton Hall, 111 S. Michigan Ave.; (312) 443-3600.
Harris Theater Presents in conjunction with Lyric Opera’s Lyric Unlimited has inaugurated an innovative and exciting new season-long vocal concert series called “Beyond the Aria.” The series is an outgrowth of Harris’ Tenth Anniversary Gala last spring when Harris president and managing director Michael Tiknis asked Ryan Center director Craig Terry how Harris might collaborate with Lyric or the Ryan Center.
“What we ended up with was something that combined both,” says Terry, the curator, artistic advisor and accompanist of the series. Each concert spotlights two internationally-known opera singers concurrently performing in Lyric Opera productions, appearing alongside of a current member of the Ryan Center.
The debut of the series featured soprano Ana María Martínez, baritone Bo Skovhus and Ryan Center mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges singing a wide range of genres including zarzuela, opera, lieder, operetta, chansons, jazz, Broadway and songs from the American songbook and featured cabaret-style seating with table service on the enclosed stage of Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.
“I asked that everyone love the songs that they sing,” says Terry, “and we wanted the experience to be more relaxed than a regular concert hall. I had played on the Pritzker stage and it really is the perfect space: the idea is the rare pleasure to hear really great singers up close and personal in an intimate space.”
The next “Beyond the Aria” program features mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe (Azucena in the company’s current “II Trovatore”), baritone Quinn Kelsey (Count di Luna in “II Trovatore”) and Ryan Center soprano Laura Wilde; from $35; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10, Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph; (312) 334-7777.