Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chamber Music is Alive and Well in Elgin

The first three weeks of 2015 have brought nearly ten diverse Elgin performances of classical and new music by soloists, duos and small ensembles in the venerable format known as "chamber music."

Typically staged in a gallery, church or multi-purpose hall, these concerts showcase some of the finest area talents in an up-close-and-personal way. Moreover, the variety of material ranges from masterpieces rarely heard outside the conservatory, to edgy new music from young composers.

The Elgin Symphony Orchestra has led the way with its frequent offerings at Gail Borden Library and nearby schools and health care facilities. The Elgin Youth Symphony has broadened its programs in recent years to include chamber music events for students and faculty.

Smaller groups, like the Heartland Voices, Soirees Lyriques and the Lenten Concert Series at First Congregational Church bring excellent vocal programs to the community. Some of these events are free or donation-based, while others attract a surprising number of paid admissions.

Melissa Snoza, flute and Jennifer Woodrum, clarinet perform with
Fifth House Ensemble at Side Street Studio Arts gallery

Notable examples are the projects from Chamber Music on the Fox, whose lineup features local appearances by professional chamber groups like Spektral Quartet and Fifth House Ensemble from Chicago.

Still the largest crowds are drawn in to hear Elgin musicians like Rachel Elizabeth Maley and Scott Metlicka, whose January recitals at Side Street Studio Arts gallery offered standing room only for latecomers.

Thus emerges alongside Elgin's established symphony concert tradition, a new entrepreneurial paradigm that composer Aaron Gervais calls the "indie classical" movement. Here in this receptive community, the upside is quite good if these lively arts groups can find ways to strengthen each other through partnerships and collective action.

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