By Dennis Polkow
With the August announcement of Mei-Ann Chen to become music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, the ensemble is performing most of its twenty-fourth season with Chen listed as music director designate, yet not conducting the ensemble until the final concerts of the season in May, and not officially taking over as music director until the fall of 2011.
With the suspense over as to who would actually succeed Paul Freeman, the Sinfonietta’s founding music director who is retiring at the end of the 2010-11 season after twenty-four years in that position, the ensemble still has a few surprises up its sleeve for this Freeman-farewell season nonetheless.
As with its longstanding annual Martin Luther King Day concerts each January, the Sinfonietta is experimenting with another annual concert tied to a holiday, in this case the Mexican “Día de los Muertos,” or “Day of the Dead.”
“In December, holiday concerts are certainly not hard to come by,” Freeman, who has already moved back to his home base in the Virgin Islands and now commutes for his concerts here, is quoted in a press release. “But something around the Day of the Dead and Halloween is much less common in classical music, so we decided to seize the opportunity. We hope this concert can become a new annual tradition for the Sinfonietta.”
Mexican conductor Hector Guzman, who will be the guest conductor to inaugurate this new tradition, is excited not only for the opportunity to work with the Sinfonietta again—which he first conducted two seasons ago and considers an “excellent orchestra, very attentive and professional”—but to be able to showcase important Mexican music while helping to celebrate a holiday that meant so much to him growing up in Mexico.
“The Day of the Dead is not a sad occasion,” says Guzman, “but a celebration of life. There is no sadness. We remember the ones who have passed, yes, but in a joyous celebration with food and family reunions and a looking forward to one day joining them.” Read the rest of this entry »