Art Fusion Is Coming To Elgin Symphony Orchestra

Nov 5, 2020

Many musicians across the country are adapting to a new normal. A northern Illinois music ensemble is doing so by bringing other art forms into its repertoire.

The Elgin Symphony Orchestra’s “Quartet at the Café” combines spoken word poetry, visual art and classical music. 

Erik Malmquist is the executive director of the orchestra. He said the pandemic immobilized large mainstage programming.

“And so that's enormously frustrating for us. And it's also opened up a huge window for innovative collaboration with some of these partners that have sprung up during these last 15 years.” 

Malmquist said his interest was piqued by Elgin’s poet laureate program. Chasity Gunn, who is African American, became the city’s first poet laureate almost two years ago.  

“Chasity and I had an initial conversation about the idea of working together and putting together some kind of an intimate program,” he said. “And it kind of snowballed from there.” 

He mentioned that he wanted the orchestra to have a program with Dvořák’s American Quartet because he said it has an odd, checkered past. Malmquist shared that he wanted to compare a 19th century European perspective to a 21st century Black American woman's point of view.

“And we thought that the juxtaposition of these two and the kind of power of the collaboration between spoken word and page poetry,” he explained, “as well as classical music is a really interesting, it opens up this dialogue in just a really cool way.”

The program also features muralist Melina Scotte and the orchestra’s string quartet.  

Malmquist said the Nov. 8 show is sold out. But he mentioned that the public will be able to see the show via a free livestream Dec. 1 through the 15th on the symphony’s Facebook page. 

  • Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at