Arts

Arts and culture

Victor Yehling / WNIJ

The 34th Annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition is underway in Rockford.

The event is hosted by the Rockford Park District and allows high school students and adults to compete through an unusual artistic medium -- snow.

John Beck is an alderman and works for the Park District. He said the event is a big attraction for the community.

Sessions from Studio A - The Lone Canary

Jan 16, 2020
WNIJ

Join us for the music of The Lone Canary this week. This Rockford duo plays their own unique brand of folk/americana music, and we were lucky to catch them live at Prairie Street Brewing Co. this past summer. We also had them revisit Studio A, where they played a few songs from their upcoming album, Leave the Gray, which is out January 17.

State Of The Artist: What's In A Name?

Jan 15, 2020
Connie Kuntz

State of the Artist continues with a Rockford woman who makes decoupage. Decoupage involves gluing and arranging paper cutouts on a variety of surfaces. It's a form of expression that has special meaning for artist Valerie Gibbons. 

I met Valerie Gibbons at the Rockford White House that sits high on the hill at Spring Creek and Alpine in Rockford. It used to be someone's home, but now it's a professional office space, and it's where Valerie founded the nonprofit FootsieStools Ltd.

Guy Stephens

The Boone County Historical Society received the largest donation in its history -- an iconic Belvidere mansion and $1 million to help maintain it.  So what is the society’s vision for its new acquisition?

Jingle All the Way

Dec 24, 2019

American composer James Pierpont published "One Horse Open Sleigh" more than 160 years ago. Today, the song is known by most everyone as "Jingle Bells."

Every Christmas Eve at exactly 3 p.m., the Chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England plays A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. The tradition began in 1918, and for decades it's been broadcast on the BBC and around the world. A commemorative recording of last year's Centenary Service has just been released; it was the last one conducted by Sir Stephen Cleobury, the choir's music director for 37 years, who died just last month on Nov. 22.

Guy Stephens

The winter solstice arrives late Saturday. A community concert in Rockford invites everyone to come together for the longest night of the year.

 

David Stocker is a guitarist, percussionist, world musician and State of Illinois Artist-in-Residence. He organized the concert at Emmanuel Lutheran Church which will feature special guest Jim Scott. For many years, Scott played with the Paul Winter Consort. He’s also known as co-composer of the group’s “Missa Gaia” or “Earth Mass.” Stocker said Scott is a good friend. So he wasn’t afraid to take advantage of an opportunity.

Connie Kuntz

Christopher D. Sims, aka UniverSouLove, is a poet, spoken word artist, performer, and human rights activist. I followed him for a day in the city where he was born and raised: Rockford, Illinois. I picked him up on a Sunday morning in December at his home in the Jackson Oaks neighborhood. When he got into my car, he had C. L. Smooth playing on his phone.

He said, "He has a very fluid, poetic delivery. I grew up on his music in the late 80's and early 90's. He's very proximate to my musical knowledge, my understanding of rap, and how it's supposed to be done." 

Susan Stephens

The 25th and final "Hometown Holiday" variety show takes place this weekend in Rockford. Those onstage and in the audience are reflecting on what the show has meant for the city.

Ever since Beethoven's iconic Ninth Symphony premiered May 7, 1824 at the Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna, it has remained arguably the most popular composition in the classical music canon, thanks largely to its final movement, the "Ode to Joy," with a text by poet Friedrich Schiller.

But Beethoven's music has become something much more than popular. With its expansive length, mold-busting design, and the inclusion of solo singers and chorus, he was proposing nothing less than a philosophy for humanity.

A short documentary on The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Cecilia Bartoli isn't your average opera star. She doesn't sing many of the popular 19th century operas. Instead, she prefers to explore the dusty, little-known corners of the 18th century.

Bartoli's new album is devoted to music written for a single artist of the Baroque era named Farinelli. He was the most acclaimed opera singer of the mid-1700s, the rock star of his day, singing some of the most virtuosic music ever written for the human voice.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

A world-renowned printmaker and former Northern Illinois University art teacher has died. David Driesbach was known for his humorous, sometimes fantastic images, and his mastery of intaglio, or engraving, that helped produce those images.

At a retrospective exhibit of his work held at Rockford University in 2018, Driesbach offered words of encouragement to those who might follow.

“Feel free to expand your universe," he said. "If you’re an artist and you want to try intaglio, go all out for it. Give it a chance.”

Connie Kuntz

Printmaker and painter Manny Tang comes to Illinois by way of Taipei, Taiwan and New York, New York. Her art is displayed throughout the state in galleries and small businesses, but our interview began at her home in Loves Park. When her husband Don Foster invited me in, it took me a minute to find the woman whose artist name is China Cat. She was in another room, leaning out of a window feeding Gracie, a feral cat who stops by for food and attention.

"She was very skittish at first. It took her a full year before we earned her trust, but now she is here every day."

In a career – and personal life – loaded with enough drama to fuel an opera, Kanye West is finally presenting one. Or at least that's what he tweeted Sunday, announcing a performance of Nebuchadnezzar, "A Kanye West Opera" at the Hollywood Bowl on Nov. 24.

Guy Stephens

An exhibition in Rockford closes this Saturday with a live musical performance by the artist. She'll interpret animated images she created.  It’s part of an effort by a new gallery space to promote art that goes beyond the paintbrush.

New Genres Art Space co-founders Jason Judd and Iga Duchalska usher their visitor into a large, high-ceiling room on an upper floor of the Rockford Public Library’s Nordlof Center in downtown Rockford. It’s one result of a partnership between the institutions.

Caroline Shaw sings her own song, "And So," with the Attacca Quartet.

Ann Marsden / libbylarsen.com

A piece by acclaimed American composer Libby Larsen will be given its world premiere this weekend at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. The work is inspired by the true stories of migrants.

Sessions from Studio A - Remembering Carl Nelson

Oct 24, 2019

Join us for a very special Sessions from Studio A as we remember the life of Carl Nelson, host and creator of Sessions. Carl worked tirelessly to bring music into everyone's lives. He converted Studio A from an empty concrete room into a beautiful space worthy of bands and artists. He loved every genre from country to jazz, prog to pop, and always featured a wide range of artists on the show. Many have had their first radio airplay because of Carl.

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director says next season will be his last at the helm of the organization.

In an announcement Wednesday, Steven Larsen said he plans to retire after the 2020-2021 season. It will mark his 30th with the orchestra.

Orchestra Marketing Director Michelle McAffee says he’s provided the next level of growth the RSO board was hoping for when they hired him in 1991.

“He went from five concerts a year to -- now we’re over twelve," she said. "He’s built an orchestra of exceptional professionals.”

Sessions from Studio A - Brother Ryan

Sep 26, 2019
WNIJ

This week on Sessions from Studio A, we feature the music of Brother Ryan. Starting as a solo project for singer-songwriter Robby Ciganek, the band now includes a rotating lineup of musicians that join Robby live. Check out their performance in Studio A as well as an interview with host Carl Nelson, where they discuss the bands roots and the meaning behind their new album, Forest

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is back. Orchestra officials and musicians held a joint news conference Monday, on stage at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, to announce the ratification of a one-year contract that effectively ends a 16-week showdown between the two groups.

"I'm thrilled that an agreement has been reached," BSO music director Marin Alsop said in a statement announcing the new contract, "and that we will have our musicians back on stage to open our 104th season beginning on Friday night."

Composer Christopher Rouse, who once called himself a writer of "fast and furious" music and who taught courses in the history of rock, died Saturday of complications of renal cancer at age 70.

When the first enslaved Africans landed on American shores in 1619, their musical traditions landed with them. Four centuries later, the primacy of African American music is indisputable, not only in this country but in much of the world. How that music has evolved, blending with or giving rise to other traditions — from African songs and dances to field hollers and spirituals, from ragtime and blues to jazz, R&B and hip-hop — is a topic of endless discussion.

Guy Stephens

The fifth annual Rockford New Play Festival takes place Friday and Saturday at The West Side Show Room. This year’s edition features short works by established and aspiring playwrights on the theme “Over…The Edge.” 

Sessions from Studio A - Aaron Kamm & the One Drops

Sep 12, 2019
WNIJ

In this edition of Sessions from Studio A we feature Aaron Kamm & the One Drops performing live at The House Cafe in DeKalb. The band mixes many genres including reggae, dub, blues, and rock to create a unique sound.

Aaron Kamm & the One Drops performing "Don't Stay" live at The House Cafe.

Guy Stephens

The NIU Art Museum’s current exhibition explores aspects of war -- before, during and after. The subject is personal for some of the artists. 

Peter Olson, assistant director of the NIU Art Museum, showed me a room filled with photographs.  Arranged in groups of three, the larger-than-life closeups of young men -- British soldiers who had been deployed to Afghanistan -- stare straight out at you.  

With a season-opening concert slated for Saturday, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians and its management are still locking horns over details of a new contract agreement. A bargaining session ended Monday night with no resolution, only a set of last minute proposals from management which players will vote on Tuesday night.

State Of The Artist: A Generous Heart And All That

Sep 6, 2019
Connie Kuntz

Kim Schultz is an actor, writer, storyteller, and refugee advocate. She has lived in Chicago for six years.  I followed her to the places that are meaningful to her in and around Chicago. 

Sessions from Studio A - Taylor Rogers

Aug 29, 2019
WNIJ

Hear the music of Taylor Rogers on this week's Sessions from Studio A. Taylor Rogers is a singer/songwriter from Chicago who blew us away with her live looping of guitar and vocals to create rich and textured soundscapes. 

Taylor Rogers performing "8900" in WNIJ's Studio A.

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