In its most ambitious undertaking to date, Chicago’s enterprising early-music ensemble Third Coast Baroque will present Beyond Baroque, a four-day music festival from August 31-September 3, 2023, featuring a multi-genre lineup of artists and ensembles.
“For our inaugural annual festival, we’re placing European Baroque music in a global context by charting its African and Latin American sources, while connecting its spiritual and contemplative expressions with African American folk songs and contemporary music,” according to mezzo-soprano Angela Young Smucker, Third Coast Baroque’s co-founder and executive director. “This goes to the heart of our mission, which is to reframe early music in a way that reveals how everyone can find a personal connection to this global musical heritage.”
Third Coast Baroque will headline the festival’s opening and closing concerts, both led by Rubén Dubrovsky, the ensemble’s Argentina-born, Vienna-based artistic director and co-founder. On opening night, the ensemble will reprise its critically acclaimed 2016 debut program, “¡Sarabanda!” which traces the African and Latin American origins of the sarabande, a dance that found its way into secular and sacred music across Baroque Europe.
The Afro-Cuban Gavilán Brothers, Havana-born virtuosos Ilmar Gavilán, violin, and Aldo Lopez-Gavilán, composer and pianist, will make their Chicago debut performing original music from their album “Brothers” and the documentary feature film “Los Hemanos/The Brothers.” The film, released theatrically in 2021 and seen on PBS TV stations nationwide, centers on the brothers’ heartfelt reunion and joint performances after a long, painful separation due to geopolitics. “Their approach to music aligns with TCB’s philosophy in that both ensembles recognize and highlight the entangled music history of sacred and secular, folk and classical music,” Smucker says.
Third Coast Baroque will return to the spotlight for the festival finale: the world-premiere performance of a groundbreaking period-instrument presentation of J. S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor, with traditional Spirituals sung between sections of the mass by Chicago mezzo-soprano and actress Tierra Whetstone-Christian. The program, conducted by Dubrovsky, is titled “Bach & Beyond: A Pilgrimage of Faith Through Spirituals and the B-Minor Mass.” “Musical dialogue between cultures is one of the main topics in our programming,” Dubrovsky says. “The influence of African music in European religious music can’t be overlooked and is very clear in musical dance forms heard in the B-Minor Mass.”
Third Coast Baroque’s remounting of its “¡Sarabanda!” program at 7:30 p.m. on August 31 will unveil “the fascinating back-and-forth dialogue between the indigenous and neo-African worlds of the Americas and the musical world of Europe,” according to the program notes. The program juxtaposes music from illustrious early Italian Baroque composer Claudio Monteverdi’s collection of sacred works, “Selve morale e spirituale,” and pieces by his far lesser-known contemporary Gaspar Fernández, a Portuguese-born composer working in Mexico and Central America. Fernández lived in a racially complex culture, where he absorbed the music and language of the Spanish colonial empire’s enslaved Africans and native Central and South Americans. The concert charts the path of those rhythms and dances from the New World to the studios of European composers.
For their Chicago debut program, “Brothers,” violinist Ilmar Gavilán and pianist-composer Aldo López-Gavilán will perform the local premieres of 10 original works written by Aldo and edited for violin and piano by Ilmar. Aldo’s music has a sound rooted in European classical traditions, Latin jazz, and Afro-Cuban rhythms and draws from a range of colors associated with Robert Schumann and Maurice Ravel. The duo will play “Eclipse,” “Caipiriñame,” “Hermanos,” “Momo’s Tale,” “Epilogue,” “Arboles en el aire,” “Waltz,” “Quick Tune,” “Viernes de Ciudad,” and “Pan con Timba.”
Third Coast Percussion will perform music from its forthcoming album, “Between Breaths,” at 7:30 p.m. September 2. The program of works written for the quartet includes Tyondai Braxton’s “Sunny X,” which the ensemble describes as “a meditation on small phrases of non-pitched percussion and electronics that takes the audience on a riveting sonic journey.” Missy Mazzoli’s “Millennium Canticles” “imagines the musicians as a post-apocalyptic group of survivors who struggle to remember the rituals and stories that once made them human.”
Third Coast Baroque’s “Bach & Beyond” presentation of J. S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor, BWV 232, at 3 p.m. September 3 will be the largest production in the organization’s history, with a roster of 20 singers and 25 instrumentalists in the Third Coast Baroque Voices and Orchestra. Third Coast Baroque is going beyond Bach by collaborating with Chicago mezzo-soprano Tierra Whetstone-Christian, who has curated and will sing four Spirituals. “The first piece will act as a prelude to the Mass, while the others are presented as ‘meditations’ between movements, similar to how Bach treated arias in his Passions,” Smucker says.
All events will take place at the Epiphany Center for the Arts, 201 S. Ashland Avenue, Chicago. Tickets and information are available.at https://www.thirdcoastbaroque.org/2023-festival-overview. Epiphany Center for the Arts box office phone is 313-744-6359. For general information, call 872-216-1859, or email [email protected].