Nine years is a relatively long time for a period-instrument orchestra in Chicago: some twenty-five years ago, the City Musick only made it to six seasons. It’s not that we don’t have the performers and the audience for early music, but lining them up with unified artistic vision and managerial leadership for the long term has thus far remained an elusive formula. Even Music of the Baroque, a modern-instrument ensemble with a long history, managed to survive only after a coup more than a decade-and-a-half ago when its founder was unceremoniously dumped by his own board.
Baroque Band was founded by UK violinist Garry Clarke with the hope of beating the odds, and in its prime, its future looked promising. Clarke and company became the pit band for Chicago Opera Theater’s Baroque operas, all but a memory since the departure of Brian Dickie, but having regrouped somewhat in Haymarket Opera. As it happens, a defection of key players from Baroque Band to Haymarket Opera, and the need to bring in players from the East Coast for BB concerts to compensate, likely contributed to making the current model financially unsustainable.
Clarke had indicated a willingness to hand over the artistic leadership of the group, to the point of engaging an entire season of would-be candidates a couple of seasons ago. Clarke had previously indicated that he would step down at the conclusion of the current season, but alas, no offers were reportedly made for a successor, and instead the board voted to disband, literally.
But happily, BB is going for Baroque with a bang, not a whimper: a program of virtuosic violin concertos by Locatelli and Leclair—including Locatelli’s “L’Arte del Violino,” also the name of the program—with guest artist Rachel Barton Pine, along with a finale of the Bach Double Violin Concerto with Pine and Jesse Irons as soloists. There is much to celebrate and look Bach upon gratefully. (Dennis Polkow)
June 1 at 7:30pm, Symphony Center Grainger Ballroom, 220 South Michigan; June 3 at 7:30pm, Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 South Woodlawn; and June 4 at 7:30pm, Music Institute of Chicago, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston; $17-$39; (312)235-2368; baroqueband.org.
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. He holds degrees in music theory, composition, religious studies and philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists. As a scholar, Polkow has published and lectured extensively and taught at several colleges and universities in various departments. As an actor, narrator and consultant, Polkow has been involved with numerous films, plays, broadcasts and documentaries. As a journalist, Polkow helped co-create the experiential Chicago Musicale and Spotlight, the award-winning tabloid arts and entertainment section of the Press Publications chain of newspapers, which he later edited. He also created and ran the nationally recognized journalism program at Oakton College and was faculty advisor to its award-winning student newspaper; many former students went on to major media careers, including Channel Awesome’s the Nostalgia Critic. Polkow’s research, interviews, features, reviews and commentaries have appeared across national and international media and he has corresponded from the Middle East, Asia and Africa for the Chicago Tribune. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org