Orion Ensemble’s 23rd Season Offers Fantasies and Enchantments

July 16, 2015

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, announces its 23rd season, Fantasies and Enchantments, welcoming guest artists and featuring a range of compositions from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Orion performs each of its four concert programs at venues spanning the Chicagoland area, including the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago, the First Baptist Church of Geneva and the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

The season opens with “French and German Tapestries,” with guest violist Stephen Boe, considered one of the finest chamber musicians in Chicago. The program includes a world premiere by prolific composer and longtime Mannheim Steamroller keyboardist Jackson Berkey, Homage to Percy Bysshe Shelley for Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano. The program also includes three works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—Divertimento in E-flat Major for String Trio, K. 563; Fantasy in C Minor for Piano, K. 396; and Trio (Kegelstatt) in E-flat Major for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, K. 498—and Gabriel Fauré’s Quartet in C Minor for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 15. Performances take place September 20 (Geneva), October 4 (Evanston) and October 7 (Chicago).

In a program of 20th century music, “Harp Fantasy” features the Orion debut of guest harp virtuoso Ben Melsky, a member of the highly acclaimed Ensemble Dal Niente and principal harpist for the Joffrey Ballet and Ann Arbor Symphony. The program includes Jacques Ibert’s Trio for Violin, Cello and Harp (1944); Camille Saint-Saëns’ Fantaisie in A Major for Violin and Harp, Op. 124 (1907); Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Six Studies in English Folksong for Clarinet and Harp (1923); John Ireland’s Fantasy Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1945); and Frank Bridge’s Phantasie Trio in C Minor for Violin, Cello and Piano (1908). Performances are November 22 (Geneva), November 29 (Evanston) and December 2 (Chicago).

The Ensemble’s third concert program of the season, “American Landscape,” showcases the Orion musicians. Repertoire includes Jackson Berkey’s Earth Voices for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano (1994); Rick Sowash’s Anecdotes and Reflections for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano (1988); and Antonín Dvorák’s Trio (Dumky) in E Minor for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 90. Performances are March 13 (Geneva), March 20 (Evanston) and March 23 (Chicago).

The season concludes with “Musical Enchantments,” welcoming back guest violinist Mathias Tacke, former second violinist of the Vermeer Quartet, and violist Stephen Boe. They join Orion for Antonín Dvorák’s Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola, Op. 75a; Amy Beach’s Quintet in F-sharp Minor for String Quartet and Piano, Op. 67 (1908); and Johannes Brahms’ Quintet in B Minor for Clarinet and Strings, Op. 115. Performances are May 29 (Geneva), June 1 (Chicago) and June 5 (Evanston).

Also during the season, Orion hosts a fall benefit October 3 at 12 noon at Dunham Woods Riding Club in Wayne, Illinois and appears on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” October 5, 2015 and March 28, 2016 at 8 p.m. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country.

For the third year, Orion continues its educational initiatives under the banner Janet’s Stage, a one-of-a-kind collaboration with the orchestra departments and chamber music ensembles at partner high schools in Fox Valley, the western suburbs and Chicago. The Orion musicians provide multifaceted, year-long student support. The program offers practical, individualized learning through master classes and chamber music coaching, performances for students and parents at each school, invitations to attend Orion concerts and the opportunity for student ensembles to perform on the Orion concert stage.

Orion also works with ensembles at the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras and presents programs with students from the Chicago High School for the Arts.

Founded in 1992, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration “An Inside Look at Contemporary Music,” features a roster of four superb musicians—Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmück (piano) and Judy Stone (cello)—who have performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia, as an ensemble and individually in solo, orchestral and other chamber music roles. The Chicago Tribune called Orion “one of Chicago’s most vibrant, versatile and distinctive ensembles,” and the Chicago Sun-Times said Orion is “what chamber music should be all about: Individual virtuosity melded into a group personality.” The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council and generous donations from its patrons. For a brief history, click here.

The Orion Ensemble performs its 2015–16 concert programs at three Chicago-area venues: the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, October 7, December 2, March 23 and June 1 at 7:30 p.m.; the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston on Sundays, October 4, November 29, March 20 and June 5 at 7:30 p.m.; and First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva on Sundays, September 20, November 22, March 13 and May 29 at 7 p.m. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; children 12 and younger are free. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit orionensemble.org.

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The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation,
the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund,
and generous donations from our dedicated patrons.
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