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Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Concert - Evanston Symphony and ETHS Singers

Blues, funk, jazz and soul are the musical genres that I prefer, but I ventured into the world of light classics yesterday.

My 16-year old daughter began singing with the Evanston Township High School ("ETHS") a capella choir this fall. On Sunday, she was in her first public performance, singing Christmas carols at the Evanston Symphony's Christmas Concert at the ETHS Auditorium. The student singers entertained prior to the concert and at intermission, and they were terrific. A capella singing is not for sissies - intonation can be tough to maintain, getting voices to blend is a challenge (particularly adolescent voices). My daughter and her 30+ colleagues pulled it off. The leader of the choir, Ms. Reed, is very passionate about vocal music and her students love her.

I caught the first half of the Evanston Orchestra concert; had to split after intermission. The Evanston Orchestra is a very credible group - one of the best community orchestras I have ever heard. The musicians are all volunteers and they have day jobs (one of the trombonists is a parter in a large Chicago law firm, for example). The orchestra was established in 1945 by returning WWII veterans. As a community orchestra, it has wandered among venues in Evanston, settling into the Pick-Steiger concert hall at Northwestern for some concerts and the ETHS auditorium for others. The Evanston Orchestra does five concerts a year (including the Christmas show).

The group was all gussied up in formal attire at Sunday's show. I always thought that it was odd that classical musicians are forced to wear tuxes and formal dresses when performing. Don't these clothes constrict movement and breathing (two important activities for orchestral musicians)? In spite of their stiff attire, the orchestra sounded luxurious, laying out lush arrangements of "White Christmas," "Sleigh Ride," and a bunch of other traditional carols. The orchestra was joined by the Evanston Dance Ensemble for a medley of themes from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. The dancers were young folks - 12-18 years old, I would guess - and they were fun to watch.

I am ashamed to admit this is the first time I have heard my home-town community orchestra. It won't be the last.

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