Chicago Sinfonietta Announces 2017-2018 Season Celebrating 30th Anniversary

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Press Release


Season highlights include:

  • Three World Premieres by Jessie Montgomery, Reena Esmail and Clarice Assad as part of first-ever Commissions by Women Composers Project;
  • Five Chicago Premieres including Laura Karpman’s Grammy-nominated Ask Your Mama;
  • First-ever evening-length program dedicated to female composers;
  • Plus collaborations with Grammy Award-winning Harlem QuartetMucca PazzaCerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, NewMoon ChicagoNorthern Illinois University Steelband and more!

Chicago Sinfonietta, the nation’s most diverse orchestra dedicated to pushing artistic boundaries, announces an epic 30th anniversary season in 2017-2018 showcasing a full spectrum of voices and identities expressed through the universal language of music honoring Chicago Sinfonietta’s past, present and future. Under the leadership of Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, the orchestra’s season includes five subscription concerts that move beyond the pure classical cannon and encompass music styles from around the world and across the eras including Hispanic, gospel, Caribbean, jazz, tango, Middle Eastern and opera with works from Mozart, Prokofiev, Still, Bernstein, Higdon and more accompanied by film, dance, spoken word and world renowned guest artists.

Highlights of the 2017-2018 season include, for the first time, a season-long Commissions by Women Composers Project presenting new works by female artists including three World Premieres by Jessie Montgomery, Reena Esmail and Clarice Assad as well as a Chicago Premiere by Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdona special 30th anniversary MLK Tribute concert featuring the Chicago Premiere of three-time Grammy-nominated multi-media work Ask Your Mama featuring poetry by Langston Hughes by Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman; an entire evening-length program presenting works by leading female composers and a free 30th Anniversary Battle of the Bands concert at Millennium Park featuring punk marching band Mucca Pazza. Featured artists throughout the season also include jazz great Nnenna Freelon, soprano Janai Brugger, guest conductor Hector Guzman, Music Director of Plano Symphony Orchestra and performances from Grammy Award-winning Harlem Quartet, Chicago’s Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Mexican folkloric group Cuerdas Clasicas, spectacle art specialists NewMoon Chicago, the Northern Illinois University Steelbandthe Apostolic Church God Sanctuary Choirand more.

Created as a response to the lack of women composers featured on classical programs across the country, Chicago Sinfonietta presents the Commissions by Women Composers Project to close that gender equality gap and promote diversity and inclusion in the field of classical music. The season long project will commission, perform, and record works by four diverse women composers as well as perform and record Florence Price’s “Dances in the Canebrakes”. The album will be recorded and distributed with Cedille records and will be available in the Fall of 2018.

“As we embrace an important milestone in the history of the Chicago Sinfonietta – 30 years! – this coming 2017-18 season, I am honored and privileged to be a part of this magnificent organization and to continue this much-treasured partnership with this incredible ensemble,” stated Music Director Mei-Ann Chen. “This season we celebrate the versatility, talent, and bold history of Chicago Sinfonietta, and the vision of its late founder, Paul Freeman, as we look forward to the future. Dynamism, diversity, creativity and collaboration of the highest caliber – they are all on display this season.”

The Sinfonietta performs its five subscription concerts in the western suburbs as well as in Chicago. The Sinfonietta’s suburban home is the Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Avenue in Naperville while downtown Chicago concerts take place in Orchestra Hall of Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue. This year’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert will be presented in Pfeiffer Hall of North Central College instead of Wentz Concert Hall. Chicago Sinfonietta’s 30th Anniversary Concert will take place at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL. Before each show and at intermission, Chicago Sinfonietta audience members will have the opportunity to participate in interactive activities in conjunction with each concert’s theme.

Chicago Sinfonietta
Chicago Sinfonietta, Día de los Muertos (2013) at Symphony Center in Chicago. (Photo by Chris Ocken, Copyright 2013 –


Chicago Sinfonietta 30th Anniversary Concert: A Birthday Battle of the Bands!

August 23, 2017 – 7:00pm – Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park

Chicago Sinfonietta; Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director and Conductor; Adé Williams, violinist; Liz Carroll, violinist; James Sanders, violinist; Mucca Pazza, marching band.

Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4, Italian
Brubeck Interplay for Three Violins
Sarasate Zigeunerweisen
Still Humor
Deitrich War of Amusements
Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet Suite
Various Ending of all Endings

Chicago Sinfonietta kicks off its anniversary season with a birthday celebration at Millennium Park honoring artists and works from the orchestra’s 30-year history. Led by Mei-Ann Chen, this eclectic program begins with FelixMendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4Italian, the first work the Sinfonietta ever performed as an orchestra in 1987 followed by Christopher Brubeck’s Interplay for Three Violins performed by famed Celtic violinist Liz Carroll, Chicago Sinfonietta violinist James Sanders and award winning young violinist Adé Williams. The first half continues with Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen also featuring Adé Williams and concludes with William Grant Still’s Humor. The orchestra switches gears for the second half as punk marching band Mucca Pazza joins for Andy Deitrich’s War of Amusements followed by an epic battle of the bands between the orchestra and Mucca Pazza to the tune of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite. The celebration concludes with not one but four grand finales in a compilation featuring classical music’s most epic endings: Jacques Offenbach’s Can Can, Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, Gioachino Rossini’sWilliam Tell Overture and Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome.

Concert 1: Trademark ™

Saturday, September 16, 2017 – 8:00pm – Wentz Concert Hall

Monday, September 18, 2017 – 7:30pm – Symphony Center

Chicago Sinfonietta; Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director and Conductor; Cerqua Rivera Dance TheatreNorthern Illinois University Steelband

Montgomery Coincedent Dances
Mozart Rondo all Turca
Seeman Fayed to Blue
Kitchener Pan in A-minor
Assad Sin Fronteras
Respighi Pines of Rome

Chicago Sinfonietta opens its anniversary season with an unexpected and adventurous concert experience, a trademark of the orchestra’s programming for three decades, featuring two World Premieres as part of Sinfonietta’sCommissions by Women Composers Project. The concert begins with the World Premiere of emerging composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery’s Coincedent Dances and continues with one of Mozart’s best known piano worksRondo all Turca featuring the 10-piece Northern Illinois University Steelband who then joins Sinfonietta’s principal harpist Faye Seeman on her original solo composition Fayed to Blue before switching to the Caribbean sound of LordKitchener’s upbeat Pan in A-minor. The second half opens with the World Premiere of Grammy Award-nominated composer Clarice Assad’s Sin Fronteras featuring Chicago’s Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre and concludes with Respighi’s monumental symphonic poem Pines of Rome.


Concert II: Regresar / Return: A Día de los Muertos Celebration

Saturday, November 4, 2017 – 8:00pm – Wentz Concert Hall

Monday, November 6, 2017 – 7:30pm – Symphony Center

Hector Guzman, Guest Conductor; Roosevelt University Conservatory Choirs and Alumni Chorus; Cuerdas ClasicasNewMoon Chicago

Revueltas Sensemaya
Piazzolla Libertango
Mozart Requiem


Dies Irae

Rex Tremendae

Confustatti/La Crimosa

Lux Eterna-Cumsanctis

Zyman Fantasia Mexicana for 2 flutes and orchestra
Cortés Marila

Un Cielo Para Ti

Jalisco de Mis Amores

Chavez Sinfonia India

Chicago Sinfonietta celebrates the past with its annual Día de los Muertos concert inspired by the Mexican holiday “Day of the Dead” featuring recreations of the audience’s favorite moments from past seasons. Led by guest conductor Hector Guzman, Music Director of Plano Symphony Orchestra, the concert begins with Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas’ most famous masterpiece Sensemayá based on Nicolás Guillén’s poem of the same name followed by Argentine composer and creator of the tango nuevo movement Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango. The first half concludes with an entrancing theatrical performance of excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem featuring NewMoon Chicago who will bring the music to life through spectacular visual accompaniments along with Roosevelt University Conservatory Choirs and Alumni Chorus. The second half opens with Samuel Zyman’s thrilling Fantasia Mexicana packed with Mexican folklorist expressions followed by three works by Gori Cortés: Marila, Un Cielo Para Ti and Jalisco de Mis Amores featuring the 12-piece Mexican folkloric group Cuerdas Clasicas. The concert concludes with Carlos Chávez’s most popular composition, Sinfonia India based on three melodies originating from native-American tribes of northern Mexico.

Concert III: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert: Ask Your Mama

Sunday, January 14, 2018 – 3:00pm – Pfeiffer Hall

Monday, January 15, 2018 – 7:30pm – Symphony Center

Chicago Sinfonietta; Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director and Conductor; Janai Brugger, soprano; Nnenna Freelon, jazz vocalist, and artists TBA.

Karpman Ask Your Mama**


For its 30th anniversary MLK Tribute concert, the Sinfonietta will present the Chicago Premiere of Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman’s Ask Your Mama, a three-time Grammy nominated multi-media jazz and symphonic setting of Langston Hughes’ epic 1961 poem, “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz”. Ask Your Mama journeys through time, place, and verbal expression to trace the currents of cultural diasporas and is presented as a single composition featuring a vivid mix of opera, hot jazz, German lieder, cha-cha, patriotic songs, post- bop, Middle Eastern music and Afro-Caribbean drumming. Hughes’ words will be also be amplified by spoken word, archival audio, video and special guest performances by renowned opera soprano Janai Brugger and six-time Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon. Ask Your Mama made its World Premiere in 2009 as part of Carnegie Hall’s Honor! Festival showcasing the cultural legacy of African-American musicians.

Concert IVHear Me Roar

Sunday, March 11, 2018 – 3:00pm – Wentz Concert Hall

Monday, March 12, 2018 – 7:30pm – Symphony Center

Chicago Sinfonietta; Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director and Conductor; Anima Singers, children’s choir

Price Dances in the Canebrakes
Higdon Dance Card
Kouyoumdjian Become Who I Am
Esmail Avaaz
Pejačević Symphony in Fm
Clyne Masquerade

For its penultimate concert of the season, Chicago Sinfonietta places the work of leading female composers center stage with an evening-length program featuring artists from all over the word with compositions spanning nearly a century. The concert opens with the indigenous African rhythms of Price Dances in the Canebrakes by Florence Beatrice Price, the first African-American woman to have a composition played by a major orchestra, followed by the Chicago Premiere of Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon’s Dance Card. The first half concludes with the Chicago Premiere of Armenian-American composer Mary Kouyoumdjian’s Become Who I Am, an exploration of gender roles and inequality featuring internationally recognized youth choir Anima Singers. The second half opens with the World Premiere of Indian-American composer Reena Esmail’s Avaaz followed by the Chicago Premiere of Dora Pejačević’s Symphony in Fm. The program ends with Grammy Award-winning composer Anna Clyne’s Masquerade, inspired by original mid-18th century promenade concerts.

Concert V: Rise

Saturday, May 12, 2018 – 8:00pm – Wentz Concert Hall

Monday, May 14, 2018 – 7:30pm – Symphony Center

Chicago Sinfonietta; Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director and Conductor; Harlem QuartetApostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir

Lee Come Unto Me
Fleischer West Side Story
Still Sunday Symphony
Various Gospel/Spiritual

Chicago Sinfonietta closes its season by exploring how music expresses love, conflict, survival and spirituality – the unseen forces that inspire us to invent, overcome and transcend. The concert begins with the Chicago Premiere of James Lee’s Come Unto Me followed by passion and conflict in an original arrangement of West Side Story for quartet and orchestra by Randall Fleischer featuring the Grammy Award-winning Harlem Quartet, which the Sinfonietta originally premiered and recorded with Harlem Quartet in 2012. The second half begins with William Grant Still’s Sunday Symphony which will take audiences on a journey of awaking, regeneration and romance before closing the program with a complication of spiritual and gospel works featuring the Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir, who have performed with the Sinfonietta for nearly 25 years.

Ticket Information

Season subscription discount packages are now available and entitle the buyer to a full range of exclusive membership benefits, including: ticket exchange or replacement privileges; discounts on additional single ticket purchases; a “Bring a Friend for Free” pass to the concert of one’s choice; priority seating; and access to exclusive subscriber offers from local partners. 2017-2018 Season subscriptions are on sale now with flexible options to fit everyone including Pick-3 and Pick-4 packages, multiple price points and even $50 full season subscriptions for students.

Single tickets go on sale July 1, 2017 with prices ranging from $20-$99 for concerts at Symphony Center and $49-$62 for concerts at North Central College with special $10 pricing available for students at both concerts. Tickets can be purchased by calling Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-284-1554 or online at

The 30th Anniversary Concert: A Birthday Battle of the Bands! concert at Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park is completely free and open to the public.

Chicago Sinfonietta
Chicago Sinfonietta

About the Sinfonietta

Now in its 30th season, Chicago Sinfonietta has pushed artistic boundaries to provide an alternative way of hearing, seeing and thinking about a symphony orchestra and is dedicated to promoting diversity, inclusion, racial and cultural equity in the arts. Each concert experience blends inventive new works with classical masterworks, each from a diverse array of voices, to entertain, transform and inspire. In 2016, Chicago Sinfonietta was the proud recipient of the 2016 Spirit of Innovation Award presented by the Chicago Innovation Awards as well as the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions (MACEI). The MacArthur award recognizes exceptional organizations that are key contributors in their fields. Learn more at

Chicago Sinfonietta is grateful to its sponsors and supporters including: Aon, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Exelon, Illinois Tool Works, Molex, PWC, Southwest Airlines, Fairmont, Hotel Indigo, Macy’s, NBC5 Chicago, Chicago Magazine, Naperville Magazine, SECA Fund, Joyce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Alphawood Foundation, Pritzker Foundation, DCASE, Illinois Arts Council, Naperville Special Events Cultural Amenities Commission, Paul M. Angell Foundation.

About Mei-Ann Chen

Innovation, passionate and dynamism are the hallmarks of conductor Mei-Ann Chen. Recently named Artistic Director and Conductor for the 2016 National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival, and one of Music America’s 2015 Top 30 Influencers, she has served as Music Director of Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, and of the Memphis Symphony (2010 – 2016) infusing both orchestras with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, galvanizing their audiences and communities alike. A sought-after guest conductor, Ms. Chen’s reputation as a compelling communicator has resulted in growing popularity with orchestras both nationally and internationally. Distinguished orchestras and opera companies with whom she has guested internationally include Sweden’s Gothenburg Symphony and Norrlands Opera, the BBC Scottish Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, Austria’s Grosses Orchester Graz, and Brazil’s São Paulo Symphony and Minas Gerais Philharmonic, Denmark’s Danish National Symphony and other principal orchestras, Germany’s Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe, Finland’s Tampere Philharmonic the Netherlands Philharmonic, Norway’s Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Trondheim Symphony, and Taiwan’s National Symphony. North American guest engagements include the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Colorado, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Nashville, Oregon, Pacific, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C., among others.

For more information on Chicago Sinfonietta, please visit 

About Sandra Trevino

Sandra Trevino is a Chicago journalist and the founder of Enchufate, a website dedicated to all things Latin alternative. You can listen to her radio broadcasts every Friday morning on 91.1FM and the 2nd/4th Monday of the month via Lumpen Radio on 105.5FM. When she’s not writing or on the radio, you can find her playing music at different venues across the city as part of DJ duo The Ponderers.