A Fellow Reflection: January 30 – February 12, 2018

Early February represented a period of relative calm for the Civic Orchestra and Fellows compared to the bustle and excitement of the previous few weeks. January came to a close with the latest in a series of mock auditions. On Tuesday, January 30, Civic Orchestra musicians played a mock audition on the Symphony Center Stage for CSO Principal Percussionist Cynthia Yeh and CSO bass Rob Kassinger. One of the most exciting parts about the mock auditions is that participants get to play for musicians from different sections than their own. For example, as part of this mock audition, a clarinetist and two violinists got feedback from a percussionist and a double bassist – a unique opportunity to get a sense how master performers of another instrument listen across the orchestra.

On February 5, Grammy™-winning Third Coast Percussion (TCP) visited Symphony Center for Civic Orchestra chamber music workshops. TCP started with a demonstration from an interactive concert they have been giving on tour this season. Then they introduced us to the “timbre game.” They asked us to touch a different part of our body (head, eyes, or stomach) whenever we heard the corresponding timbres (metal, wood, or drums). Then Rob, a member of TCP and Civic alumnus, improvised a tune with those different timbres that got faster and faster while we tried to keep up with the body motions. It got pretty tricky, even for us trained musicians, but was a lot of fun! After the game, TCP played John Cage’s Third Construction, a piece that features all of the timbres we had practiced recognizing (and more – including a wild conch solo).

John Cage’s Third Construction (excerpt), performed by Third Coast Percussion

CivicChamberAfter the demo, we broke out into our four Civic Chamber groups to talk through the concerts that we will be putting on in the spring. Each group discussed repertoire choices in detail and worked to construct a plan for presenting the music in an interactive way. The four Civic Chamber groups, a wind quintet, brass quintet, string quartet, and piano quintet, will be performing the interactive programs we worked on in venues across the Chicago area from March-May!

Throughout these past few weeks, the Civic Fellows have continued to develop our CSO-Connect presentation, which we start touring in the second half of February. We have been working on choreographing our performance. Since we have memorized our parts, we are able to use stage movement to emphasize the structure and character of the music we are playing. This has been an exciting challenge – stage choreography of this sort is not typical in the classical concert setting. It has been a lot of fun figuring out how to use movement to create a theatrical, but not distracting, presentation of the four pieces of music we are performing. We are all very excited to start delivering our musical presentation to students soon!

By Civic Fellow and cello Nicky Swett

TOP: The 2017/18 Civic Fellows on stage in Orchestra Hall | © 2018 Todd Rosenberg Photography