Friday, June 08, 2007

S.I. Music Festival Kicks Off Next Week

From the SIU News Service ... (Also check out our Calendar of Events for the local concerts in Williamson County.)

By Andrea Hahn
CARBONDALE, Ill. — Bach is back – and so are Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and the sounds of a classical music summer.

The Third Annual Southern Illinois Music Festival, a nearly three-week long, multi-site celebration of classical, jazz and chamber music organized by the School of Music at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, begins June 15, with a preview chamber music performance on June 10.

A special feature of the festival is its mobility. More than 50 performances are set for nearly two-dozen different venues all over Southern Illinois. Music lovers can hear chamber music at a café, quintets at a winery, quartets at community buildings and brown bag concerts in a recital hall. There will be jazz at an art show, concerts just for children at libraries and recreation centers, patriotic music in a city park and orchestras at music auditoriums and halls from Mount Vernon to Cairo, Marion to Murphysboro. An abridged version of Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" ballet and an English-language comic opera bring a beautiful visual component to the festival as well.

Edward Benyas, SIUC music professor, conductor of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and the festival's founder and artistic director, said the heart of the festival is the beautiful, neoclassic Shryock Auditorium on the SIUC campus. The elegance of the setting and the richness of the music are enhanced during the festival by wine tasting from Shawnee Hills Wine Trail wineries before, during intermission, and after each performance.

This year, an All-American program featuring Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" literally takes to the field. The new Rent One Park in Marion will swap out the crack of the bat for an orchestra concert highlighted by a fireworks display. And Marvin Hamlisch, the Broadway and motion picture musical score composer who brought us "The Way We Were," "A Chorus Line" and "The Sting" as well as music for movies such as "Sophie's Choice," "Ordinary People," and "Three Men and a Baby," comes to the Herrin Civic Center as part of the Southern Illinois Music Festival.

Several performances will feature original compositions by Festival Composer-in-Residence James Stephenson, III. Stephenson's music has been performed by dozens of orchestras around the country and his commissions include work with Branford Marsalis and Rodney Mack, the Houston Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He is known particularly for his work with young musicians.

This year's festival continues the tradition of including an opera selection. This year's offering, sponsored by the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, is Gaetano Donizetti's "Elixir of Love," a comic Italian opera that will be sung in English. Lighting, scenery and costume combine with the music to tell the light-hearted, romantic and yet inspiring story of how the peasant Nemorino wins the hand of the hand of the wealthy beauty Adina aided by what he believes to be a love potion. Instead, it turns out to be simply a bottle of Southern Illinois wine. Local opera afficiandos should look for a familiar face among the opera performers. Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole will play the part of the Notary during the Carbondale performance; there also will be a performance in Sesser.

Benyas said this year's festival is the biggest yet. He said the variety of venues and the free or low admission price make the festival widely accessible. Most concerts are indoor events, but several events will take place outdoors and casual dress is welcome at all performances.

"The festival coincides with a two-week summer music camp for high school students, a 40-year tradition at SIUC," he said. "Members of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra are in residence during the festival – and that is a huge benefit for the camp participants." Summer Music Camp participants in music theater, concert band, jazz improvisation and high school choir have opportunities to perform during the festival.

In addition to SIUC, major sponsors include the Illinois Arts Council, the City of Carbondale, The Southern Illinoisan, WSIL-TV, WSIU Public Broadcasting, Carbondale Community Arts, Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, Southern Illinois Miners, Mélange, Boundless, Dr. Samuel Goldman, the Julia Harrison Bruce Foundation-Bank of Herrin Trustee, the Garwin Family Foundation, Hastings Foundation, Moore-Corpora Foundation, SISO Patrons Committee and Southern Foundation.

More information is available at or by calling 618-53-MUSIC or 618/453-2776.

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