Arts

Arts and culture

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I've watched a lot of Tiny Desk concerts over the years. It's good to see musicians in the raw, away from stage lighting and backing tracks — as if they've just stopped by an office to play over a lunch break, with desk-bound employees watching on. The performances should expose flaws, but instead they tend to expose musicians being casually brilliant, like the members of Ensemble Signal, who certainly play these pieces beautifully.

Sessions from Studio A - Andrew Jacob Holm

May 16, 2019
WNIJ

We packed up our gear and hit the road this week to record a set from Andrew Jacob Holm, who grew up playing blues and country in the Rockford area. Andrew performed at Prairie Street Brewing Co. in Rockford to kick off their Dockside Live series. Catch live music on the dock all Spring and Summer long... you might see us there as well!

Guy Stephens

Beverly Garcia ushered me into her studio in Grand Detour. Lots of space – she converted it from a three car garage – but full with art everywhere: flowers, still life, portraits. Mostly oils. She used to do pastels but storage became an issue.

Garcia didn't start out wanting to be an artist. When she was 50, she wanted to learn how to decorate a cedar chest for a wedding present. As time when on, she got in deeper and deeper.

"And then I took, oh, a gazillion classes and workshops," she said. 

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When the intrepid string quartet known as Brooklyn Rider first visited the Tiny Desk nine years ago, no one knew what the musicians might play. They're as likely to trot out an Asian folk tune as they are a string quartet by Beethoven, or one of their own compositions.

Sessions from Studio A - Orlando Peña

May 9, 2019
WNIJ

Rochelle native Orlando Peña recently made the move up to Madison, Wis., and went from a solo act to performing with a full band, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Catch their performance in Studio A here!   

Orlando and his band performing "For Once" in WNIJ's Studio A. 

With a reverence for classics and an experimental spirit, Kelsey Lu is broadening the scope of how strings fit into contemporary pop. Lu's debut album, Blood, out now, is a mash-up of disco, R&B, pop and more that's rooted in her adoration of strings.

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Franz von Suppé was born on 200 years ago — April 18, 1819 — in what is now Croatia, but he went to Vienna a

Anime Fans Meet At 'Karoshi-Con'

Apr 26, 2019
Mia Pidlaoan

Last weekend, Northern Illinois University’s Anime Association hosted its annual Karoshi-Con. Karoshi-Con is a free, public anime convention. It is the only one of its kind in the DeKalb area.  Some of its features included a vendor hall, a traditional gaming room, a video game room, and various panels.

Randy Sager

During World War II, Jewish prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin learned Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem and performed it 16 times. This weekend at Northern Illinois University, that story of affirmation and defiance toward their captors will be commemorated through Verdi's music, historic film footage, testimonials from camp survivors, and narration. The program, Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin, will be led by its creator, conductor Murry Sidlin. He's conducted it close to fifty times around the world.

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the leading symphony orchestra in the Netherlands, and its former chief conductor, Daniele Gatti, have come to a mutual agreement over the conductor's dismissal last August.

Tuesday the orchestra issued a statement on its website, claiming that "matters between the two parties have been resolved following extensive discussions."

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If just one thing can be confirmed from these compelling Tiny Desk performances by the Calidore String Quartet, it should be that the centuries-old formula – two violins, a viola and a cello – is still very much alive and evolving. Indeed, an impromptu show of hands in the audience before the concert began revealed that almost everyone had seen a string quartet perform live.

Olivier Latry, one of the chief organists at Notre Dame Cathedral, was the last artist to record on the famous instrument before the catastrophic fire on April 15 that damaged the church and caused its spire to collapse. This pipe organ is the largest in France and dates back centuries. Though it was spared from the flames, it will still require extensive renovation.

Caroline Shaw's new album, Orange, is a love letter to the string quartet. The North Carolina native burst onto the music scene in 2013, when she was the youngest composer to win a Pulitzer Prize. She's still in her 30s and now, for the first time, there's a recording devoted entirely to her work.

WNIJ

Sessions from Studio A is back on the road this week with a performance from Name the Moon live at Mary's Place in Rockford. The band recently released their latest full length album, Space Force, which won a RAMI award for Album of the Year.

Mia Pidlaoan

Back in February, Red Candle Games, a Taiwanese video game developer, released Devotion. It was played by gamers around the world until it was quickly taken off the market. Someone found a reference in the game that compared the current Chinese president to Winnie the Pooh.

Ellen Reid, a 36-year-old composer, won the Pulitzer Prize in Music on Monday for her opera p r i s m. The Pulitzer jury described the winning piece as a "bold new operatic work that uses sophisticated vocal writing and striking instrumental timbres to confront difficult subject matter: the effects of sexual and emotional abuse." The two other finalists were Sustain, an orchestral work by Andrew Norman, and Still for solo piano by James Romig. Reid is the fourth woman to earn the prize since 2013.

In January 2018, the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest was widely criticized for staging the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess — whose story wrestles with racism, drug abuse and poverty — with a predominantly white cast, despite the fact that the Gershwin estate requires performances to feature an all-black cast.

Now, the Hungarian production is back for another series of performances of Porgy this month — and its nearly all-white cast was reportedly asked to sign testimonials saying that they were African-American.

Sessions from Studio A - Taboo Blah Blah

Apr 11, 2019
WNIJ

Sessions from Studio A is back on the road this week with Taboo Blah Blah from Rockford. Some of you may remember Taboo Blah Blah as our first ever band we recorded for Sessions back in 2016! The band (and our show) has changed a lot since then, but they don' t show any signs of slowing down.

Check out their newest release "Bleeding Hearts In Bloom" on their bandcamp page. 

Martin Cherry

Violinist, composer, and educator Tracy Silverman comes to Rockford next week to perform at the Rockford Area Music Industry or RAMI Awards. He'll also lead a free workshop on his Strum Bowing Method. Silverman is the leading exponent of the six-string electric violin, performing rock, jazz, and more. He's been a member of the Turtle Island String Quartet and premiered works by Terry Reilly and John Adams.

Ever since he was a little boy, Yannick Nézet-Séguin knew he wanted to be a conductor. He likens the feeling to something "almost like a religious call."

"Making music in the group is what animates me," he says.

No composition seems too difficult for pianist Lang Lang. But on his latest solo record, Piano Book, the 36-year-old known for his finger-twisting virtuosity is exploring something simpler: Beethoven's "Fur Elise," Debussy's "Clair de Lune" and other pieces that accompanied him in the first few years of a lifelong love-affair with the instrument.

Christine Goerke is focused on endurance. The dramatic soprano is tackling one of the most challenging roles in opera: singing Brünnhilde, the Valkyrie maiden warrior, in Richard Wagner's epic, Der Ring des Nibelungen, at New York's Metropolitan Opera. Otherwise known as the Ring cycle, the 16-hour saga spans four operas and tells the story of gods, monsters, humans and an insatiable urge to own an all-powerful golden ring.

Sessions from Studio A - Pelafina

Mar 28, 2019
WNIJ

Chicago band Pelafina joined us in Studio A this week and gave an explosive performance. Hear their full set and interview here on Sessions from Studio A.

Hear more from Pelafina at their Bandcamp and Facebook pages.

On Tuesday, a New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed most of conductor James Levine's claims in a defamation suit the former music director of the Metropolitan Opera filed against his former employer and its general manager, Peter Gelb.

Sessions from Studio A - The Perrilles Project

Mar 21, 2019
WNIJ

The Perrilles Project was formed by jazz musicians who met while attending NIU School of Music. Check out their live set, recorded at The House Cafe in DeKalb, as well as an interview with drummer and bandleader Paul Perrilles. 

Pianist Jeremy Denk's latest album is a musical odyssey. Starting with the austere tones of medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut, Denk travels in time across the keyboard all the way to the 20th Century landing on the atonality of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the minimalism of Philip Glass.

WNIJ


Katie Belle & The Belle Rangers perform live at Uptown Grill in LaSalle, IL.

Katie Belle & The Belle Rangers (or KBBR) is a roots-rock band whose big sound is making them heard across Illinois. Find out more about the band at their website and Facebook page.

Guy Stephens

This weekend, families in Freeport will have the opportunity to share their American story at the Freeport Art Museum. It's part of a collaboration that includes the Freeport Public Library and the museum's current show, "I Am American."

Standing in a gallery at the Freeport Art Museum, guest curator Sergio Gomez talked about one of the striking displays in the exhibit – a row of decorated animal skulls, each set against, and covered by, a bullseye. They're by Mexican-born Chicago artist Salvador Jimenez-Flores.

In Chicago, musicians have gone on strike. The players in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the country's top orchestras, let their contract expire on Sunday, March 10, and performances scheduled for this week have already been canceled.

Fans of Hector Berlioz — and record companies, it appears — need no excuse to celebrate the music of the pioneering French composer and quick-witted music critic. The sesquicentennial of Berlioz's death falls on March 8, and to mark the occasion, Warner Classics has released a 27-CD box containing, purportedly, every forward-thinking note the composer ever wrote.

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