The Orion Ensemble at Music Institute of Chicago Review-A Voice from Heaven

On Sunday, March 17th, The Music Institute of Chicago’s Evanston location welcomed Chicago’s own Orion Ensemble, featuring the angelic voice of guest soprano Patrice Michaels.The program included a selection from Franz Schubert's Der Hirt Auf Dem Felsen for clarinet and piano as well as Three Vocalises for Soprano and Clarinet by Ralph Vaughn Williams. In addition, the audience was treated to several rarely performed pieces: W.A. Mozart’s Vado, ma dove, Vincenzo Righini’s Per pieta’, ben mio core from L’incontro inaspettato, and Sereno raggio by Vincente Martin y Soler.


Patrice Michaels

The second half of the performance featured the twentieth century Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich. The Orion Ensemble performed his music from Seven Romances on verses by Alexander Blok for Soprano, Violin, Cello, and Piano.


This concert, billed as “A Voice From Heaven”, marked Women’s History Month by welcoming guest soprano Patrice Michaels. It can be stated without reservation that Ms. Michaels’ voice is unequivocally “A Voice From Heaven.” Her technical brilliance and vocal dexterity were particularly apparent during her performance of Vaughn Williams’ Three Vocalises for Soprano. Later in the program, Ms. Michaels’ brilliance once again became evident during her performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s dark and foreboding Seven Romances on Verses by Alexander Blok for Voice, Violin, Cello and Piano.


As a side note, as I previously stated, Sunday’s program offered several infrequently performed selections. In the musical canon, these pieces are highly specialized technical compositions. To her credit, Patrice Michaels did an excellent job of explaining each piece of music, offering insightful historical perspective and background which made the overall performance that much more enjoyable.


Baking up Ms. Michaels was the formidable Orion Ensemble boasting a roster which includes Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmuck (piano), and Judy Stone (cello). The Orion Ensemble, founded in 1992 is acknowledged as one of the Chicago area’s finest chamber music groups. It has won numerous awards including a Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. In Chicago, Orion presents an annual four-concert series in three venues,  is heard regularly on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT”, and appears frequently on the Chicago Cultural Center’s Lunchbreak Series, “Classical Mondays.” The ensemble’s next concert dates are the: fifth, eighth, and twelfth of May, 2013. The program is entitled “Folk Inspirations with a Mexican Flair.” The concert venues are respectively: Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva, Ganz Memorial Hall at Roosevelt University, and the Nichols Concert Hall at the Music Institute in Evanston.


Diana Schmuck


Florentina Ramniceanu


Kathryne Pirtle


Judy Stone


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Regarding the venue, the Music Institute of Chicago is truly a Chicago treasure. The Nichols Concert Hall at the MIC Evanston campus boasts a 550 seat performance space as well as classroom space. Although the space appears to be relatively large, the setting is really quite intimate.  The MIC was founded in 1931 and now has campuses in: Evanston, Downers Grove, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire and Winnetka. In addition to outstanding music education, The Institute for Therapy Through the Arts (ITA) division of MIC offers comprehensive community based arts therapy in four creative arts treatment modalities – Music Therapy, Drama Therapy, Art Therapy, and Dance Therapy.




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