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Chicago Composers Debuting 54 New Pieces For Ear Taxi Festival

By Sam Cholke | August 17, 2016 5:51am
Ear Taxi Festival - Third Coast Percussion World Premiere
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Ear Taxi Festival

HYDE PARK — A University of Chicago professor has spent three years planning the largest new music festival in the country featuring Chicago artists and composers premiering 54 new works.

The Ear Taxi Festival, scheduled for Oct. 5 through Oct. 10, is the brainchild of Augusta Read Thomas, a professor of composition at U. of C. who is bringing together more than 300 Chicago musicians and composers at performances at the Harris Theater and Chicago Cultural Center Downtown and around Hyde Park.

Thomas said she was walking through Millennium Park three years ago thinking about Chicago’s classical and new music scene when she got the idea for the festival, imagining a bunch of short aural "taxi rides" with world-class musicians.

Ear Taxi Festival - Rockefeller Chapel Carillon
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Ear Taxi Festival

“I thought I should put together a new music festival because there is so much happening here,” Thomas said Tuesday. “At that point I probably should have shot myself in the head and said, ‘Stop! Don’t do that.’ ”

She said it’s been an enormous task to commission 54 new works for the one-time festival.

“For this to happen, each of these groups are going to have at least four rehearsals and a dress rehearsal and the composer has already been working for a year,” Thomas said.

She said she’s seen some of the scores already and is really excited about some of the works that will be heard for the first time.

Third Coast Production’s members have composed their first piece together to be performed by the group through a commission by Glenn D. Prestwich and the Sounds of Science Commissioning Club. “Reaction Yield” was inspired the methods of synthetic chemists combining elements from “a phonebook of molecules.”

Drew Baker has composed a new work that will be performed by 100 musicians where the audience will be seated among the performers.

Joey Brink will premiere three new works for the carillon in Rockefeller Chapel on U. of C.’s campus, the second largest instrument in the world. Savvy Hyde Park listeners will hear Brink recording some of the compositions on Tuesday evening so recordings will be available at the festival.

Patients at La Rabida Children’s Hospital will also get a private performance with the premiere of a new work by composer Parisa Sabet.

Thomas said it is more about bringing together musicians in Chicago than highlighting one area of the new music or classical world.

“Every person in this festival is in Chicago and everyone on stage is in Chicago,” Thomas said. “You can come and meet all of these people, they’re all going to be there.”

She said the new music scene is not as stodgy as some classical concerts and people should expect to come in jeans have a beer and hear new work that is a lot shorter than some of the well-worn 40-minute pieces of the classical canon.

Tickets are on sale now on the festival’s website and are $150 for a full festival pass and $36 for a pass for three of the main stage performances at the Harris Theater or the Chicago Cultural Center.

VIP passes are available for $200, and provide reserved seating and access to an opening night performance with Patricia Barber.

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