The Civic Orchestra of Chicago celebrates its centennial in 2018-19, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has released details about performance dates, guest conductors and repertoire for the Civic’s 100th season, as well as news of a one-year contract extension for Yo-Yo Ma, the CSO’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant. To mark the historic occasion, guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen will join Ma and the Civic Orchestra for a centennial celebration benefit concert next April. In addition, the Civic has co-commissioned a concerto for percussion and orchestra by Christopher Cerrone, to be performed by the Grammy-winning, Chicago-based group Third Coast Percussion.
Joining Salonen on the Civic’s guest-conductor roster next season will be Michael Christie, Cliff Colnot, Edward Gardner, Nicholas Kraemer, Ken-David Masur, Bramwell Tovey, Erina Yashima and Nikolaj Znaider.
Next season also marks the centennial of the CSO’s children’s concerts series. Both the children’s series and the Civic Orchestra, the CSO’s professional training ensemble, are programs of the CSO’s Negaunee Music Institute. As part of its plans, the Institute intends to increase the frequency and variety of coaching of Civic members by CSO musicians, expand partnerships with school and community organizations, and offer free tickets and transportation for Chicago Public Schools students to attend the Orchestra Hall concerts. The season also will augment community service through music as part of the Initiative for a More Peaceful Chicago, including songwriting workshops at St. Sabina Church, Illinois Youth Centers and other social-service organizations.
Since his appointment in 2009 as creative consultant, Yo-Yo Ma has served as an adviser and a guiding force for Civic musicians. During his tenure, Ma has guided new programming to engage diverse communities in creative and innovative ways. Over 40 residencies, he has worked closely with the Institute to prepare Civic members for music careers. He has issued a number of “artistic challenges,” including a conductor-less performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, an annual marathon of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, numerous residencies at Chicago Public Schools, a self-directed performance of Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote, and two residencies at DePauw University School of Music in Greencastle, Ind. Ma also has guided the Civic Fellowship program, designed to build and diversify musicians’ creative, entrepreneurial and professional skills.
Along with his Civic commitments, Ma works closely with CSOA staff to oversee the Once Upon a Symphony concert series for pre-school children. He also serves as a national cultural adviser for the Chicago Public Schools Arts Education Plan. Under Ma’s leadership, the Institute created its Initiative for a More Peaceful Chicago, in response to the rising incidence of gun-related violence. Through a partnership with St. Sabina Church, Ma has led two Concerts for Peace and guided a songwriting project with the church’s Purpose Over Pain parent-support group.
The Civic’s 2018-19 centennial season consists of a seven-concert series at Symphony Center, along with a side-by-side concert with the CSO, led by Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti, in Millennium Park on Sept. 20. For the 12th consecutive year, Civic returns to the South Shore Cultural Center for a free concert on Oct. 21. The season also includes the fifth annual Bach Marathon on Wednesday, Nov. 14. This year’s Bach Marathon, led by conductor and guest harpsichordist Nicholas Kraemer, brings the Brandenburg Concertos to audiences in schools and neighborhood venues throughout the day, culminating concert at 7 p.m. at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut.
Founded in 1919 by the CSO’s second music director, Frederick Stock, the Civic has trained more than 5,000 musicians. Several former and 14 current members of the CSO are Civic alumni, and many other alumni are members of other leading orchestras.
As part of the centennial celebration, the Civic Orchestra will host an alumni weekend on March 29 to April 1. Activities will include performances in community venues by ensembles of Civic alumni and current members, as well as alumni-engagement events such as receptions and reading sessions.
The weekend culminates with a benefit concert at Symphony Center on April 1 featuring an ensemble of notable Civic alumni alongside current members with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist and Esa-Pekka Salonen as conductor in his own work, Pollux, which received its world premiere in 2018, and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto. Additional program and ticket information for this concert will be announced later.
The rest of the Civic season:
“The Ugly Duckling”: Saturday, Nov. 17 and Monday, Nov, 19; Saturday, Dec. 8 and Monday, Dec. 10; Saturday, Jan. 12.
“The Boy and the Violin,” a Brazilian folk tale: Saturday, March 23 and Monday, March 25; Saturday, April 13 and Monday, April 15; Saturday, May 11.
CSO Family Concerts (ages 5 years old and up)
“The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”: Saturday, Dec. 1, at 11 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by Edwin Outwater.
“Flash Back, Flash Forward”: Saturday, March 30, at 11 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., featuring members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by Scott Speck.
“Pictures from an Exhibition”: Saturday, May 18, 2019, at 11 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., featuring members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by Thomas Wilkins.
CSO School Concerts (for grades K-5 and 4-8)
The School Concerts for student groups in grades K-5 offer weekday performances of each of the CSO Family programs in the 2018-19 season. The concerts are on the Friday preceding each Family Concert, on Nov. 30, March 29 and May 17. Additionally, a set of concerts for older students, grades 4-8, will be offered on Nov. 28-29.
As part of the celebration of the 100th season of the CSO’s concert series for children, admission will be free for CPS student groups. The Institute also will provide free transportation for CPS schools to travel to and from Symphony Center.