Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music continues its 55-day-long celebration of its 55th Anniversary with five world premieres specifically commissioned by the School to celebrate its rich history, diverse community and recent expansion project, taking place at the Lincoln Square campus in late February and early March. Commissioned artists include percussionist-educator Raul Fernández (February 22); singer-songwriter Anne-Marie Akin, dancer-choreographer Jennifer Guglielmi and composer Tom Stevens (February 26); and composer-performer Nomi Epstein (March 2).
The Old Town School kicked off its 55th Anniversary celebration January 9, continuing through March 3 at all three School locations, including the Old Town School West Building at 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., the newly opened Old Town School East Building directly across the street at 4545 N. Lincoln Ave. and the Lincoln Park site at 909 W. Armitage Ave. The 55-day celebration features free or specially priced concerts, classes and workshops, all demonstrating the wide range of the School’s offerings.
About the Old Town School World Premieres
Fernández and his jarocho ensemble Son del Viento Chicago present Paseo Jarocho, an evening of music and dance weaving together indigenous styles from Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East. Son del Viento Chicago collaborates with traditional Aztec Conchero dancers and musicians of Middle-Eastern, Nuevo Flamenco, Mexican, Venezuelan, Afro-Caribbean and West African traditions to tell stories of the world music Diaspora through varied rhythms, melodies, dance and poetry. Paseo Jarocho is a free concert ($5 suggested donation) taking place in the Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall of the Old Town School West Building, Wednesday, February 22 at 8:30 pm as part of the World Music Wednesday series.
Three unique World Premiere performances share a bill in one evening. Anne-Marie Akin presents Call and Response: Voices from the Old Town School, a joyous, multi-media cycle of eleven songs and stories celebrating the people of the Old Town School community. Featured performers include Akin, John Abbey, Tisa Batchelder, Bill Brickey, Jarod Facknitz, Cathy Norden, Colby Maddox, Gregg Ostrom, Rick Sherry, Louie Stallone, Lanialoha Lee, Bernie Navarro, Barb Silverman, The Janes and The Go-Go Ensemble, with musical direction by Cathy Norden and visual direction by Erin Flynn.
Choreographer and dancer Jennifer Guglielmi presents Shuffling Through Snapshots in collaboration with fellow dancers Heather Fraelick, Liana C. Percoco, Jennifer Thornton and Sound Designer Tim Joyce. Inspired by the movements of classes, concerts and people throughout the School, Guglielmi crafts a work that captures the strum of a new instrument, the thrill of a new dance step and other quintessential experiences of the Old Town School.
Composer Tom Stevens presents String Quartet Number Four, a six movement work featuring the Lincoln String Quartet. String Quartet Number Four is a contemporary classical piece fashioned from folk songs that appear in the Old Town School songbook. Stevens uses seven traditional tunes as the thematic material, which sometimes appear in their original form while other times are transformed into expressive motifs that range from introspective to rousingly energetic.
The program including Akin’s Call and Response, Guglielmi’s Shuffling Through Snapshots and Stevens’ String Quartet Number Four takes place in the Myron R. Szold Music and Dance Hall of the Old Town School East Building, Sunday, February 26 at 7 pm. Tickets are $20 for the general public, $18 for Old Town School members or $16 for seniors and children, and are available online at www.oldtownschool.org or by phone at 773-728-6000.
Nomi Epstein presents A Human Sound Sculpture, a sound installation celebrating the Old Town School’s expansion and 55th anniversary, combining elements of the folk tradition and experimental music in a performance of live musicians with choreography and “spatialization” of sound. Taking the Old Town School’s new logo as its starting point, the performers will form a circle with three openings. The circle formation’s long history in the folk tradition, used for song, celebration, game-playing and dance, reflects a non-hierarchical sense of community. This unique work for 10 instrumentalists and vocalists takes place during the Old Town School’s Open House Friday in both buildings of the Lincoln Square Campus. A free event, the community is invited to participate in song circles, music and dance classes and ensemble performances throughout the evening, Friday, March 2 beginning at 6 pm.