Members of Grammy Winning contemporary sextet Eighth Blackbird (photo courtesy of Eighth Blackbird).
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Four-time Grammy Award winners Eighth Blackbird, moving music forward with innovative chamber music performance, showcases its six ensemble members with DISSOLVE, an evening featuring the musicians performing in smaller subsets that highlight their playful, intimate, and spirited versatility. The performance is part of Steppenwolf’s spring LookOut series and includes works by Puerto Rican composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón; Welsh composer Alex Mills; and Chicago Symphony Orchestra Meade Composer-in-Resident Missy Mazzoli, among an eclectic mix of contemporary works on the program.
Featuring violinist Yvonne Lam, cellist Nick Photinos, flutist Nathalie Joachim, and percussionist Matthew Duvall, Angélica Negrón’s Quimbombó (2010) evokes distant personal memories through a festive, celebratory perspective presenting and deconstructing rhythms and melodic gestures from the Afro-Caribbean tradition of Puerto Rico.
Rot Blau (2009), composed by 2018–19 Rome Prize winner Jessie Marino, is a tightly knit duo featuring pianist Lisa Kaplan and violinist Yvonne Lam in a whimsical theatrical piece.
Alex Mills’ Four Rain Beggings Songs (2017) for flutist Nathalie Joachim and clarinetist Michael Maccaferri, was inspired by a Balkan folk song traditionally sung to pray for rain in times of draught, as part of a larger pagan ritual.
Additionally, Madam Bellegarde (2018), composed and performed by flutist Nathalie Joachim, was inspired by her childhood memories of singing with her grandmother in Haiti and incorporates her grandmother’s recorded voice singing in Haitian Creole about being judged for living independently in the 1950s.
Other works on the program include Less is More (2017) by Molly Joyce, Amygdala (2015) by Gemma Peacocke and Dissolve, O My Heart (2011) by Missy Mazzoli.
Other spring performances to date for the ensemble include the Eighth Blackbird’s debut on the Rush Hour Concerts series in a free after-work performance Tuesday, June 18 at St. James Cathedral; New Music Chicago Presents, featuring Lab alumni in a free noon performance Thursday, June 20 at the Chicago Cultural Center; and other June events in collaboration with Chicago civic and cultural institutions to be announced later this spring.
Founded when its members were Oberlin Conservatory students in 1996, Eighth Blackbird has continually pushed at the edges of what it means to be a contemporary chamber ensemble, presenting distinct programs in Chicago, nationally, and internationally, reaching audiences totaling tens of thousands. The sextet has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by established and emerging composers and perpetuated the creation of music with profound impact, such as Steve Reich’s Double Sextet, which went on to win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize.
The sextet is comprised of musicians Nathalie Joachim, flutes; Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets; Yvonne Lam, violin and viola; Nick Photinos, cello; Matthew Duvall, percussion; and Lisa Kaplan, piano.
For information about the upcoming performance of DISSOLVE and the Steppenwolf LookOut series, visit Steppenwolf.org. For more information about Eighth Blackbird, visit eighthblackbird.org.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Eighth Blackbird to Present Subsets of the Sextet in DISSOLVE as Part of Steppenwolf's Eclectic LookOut Series