The Chicago Sinfonietta Review - Holiday Cheer and upcoming Martin Luther King Tribute

Harris Theater exterior

On the longest, coldest night of the year, I ventured out to warm myself with music at the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra’s Holiday Celebration Concert. The Chicago Sinfonietta is 21 years old and is diverse in its supporting membership, choice of programs, and audience. Recently named the official orchestra of the Joffrey Ballet, its mission is to serve as a national model for inclusiveness and innovation in classical music through the presentation of the highest quality orchestral concerts and related programs. The orchestra, the most diverse professional orchestra in the U.S, clearly enjoyed itself as it fulfilled that mission, presenting a program of works celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa. Chelsea Tipton II, resident conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor for the evening, connected with the audience through his expansive, active style and his humorous comments introducing the musical pieces.

The performance took place at the Joan and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, a 1500-seat theater that is almost completely underground to maintain the openness of Chicago’s lakefront Millennium Park. In the wide, spacious theater, which has superb acoustics and sight lines, the holiday mood was set by simple, airy winter scenes of snowflakes, snow-covered trees, and starry skies projected on screens surrounding the orchestra.

Inside the Harris Theater

The Chicago Sinfonietta is one of the Harris theatre’s founding groups. The Harris Theater, was built to fill a need identified in a study by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for a flexible, affordable, technically and physically modern downtown performance venue in Chicago, and is the first newly constructed space (2003) in Chicago dedicated to the performing arts since 1929. This non-profit Theater provides opportunities for Chicagoans to experience wide ranging and wonderful performances such as this one.

Chelsea Tipton II, guest conductor and Elizabeth Norman, soprano

Soprano Elizabeth Norman, who has appeared with the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, joined the Sinfonietta to sing “Rejoice,” from Handel’s Messiah, and "O Holy Night". Tipton invited the audience, which included many children, to sing along to a medley of familiar songs and carols.

The orchestra reprised the “Carol of the Bells,” and the hour-long concert was over. The audience clearly had enjoyed themselves. Cheered by the music, they went off into the icy night, singing the holiday songs they had just heard.

Chelsea Tipton II, guest conductor

On two nights, January 18 and 19, 2009, the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra will present The Dream Lives On, the orchestra’s annual tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A special guest will narrate from Dr. King’s famous 1965 speech in Selma, Alabama. The program will include Beethoven’s Leonore Overture, Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1; and Stefan L. Smith’s Symphony No.1, Movement 2 (Largo). The orchestra will be joined by Sphinx Competition-winning cellist, Patrice Jackson, as well as the 200-voice Apostolic Church of God’s Sanctuary Choir in a grand presentation of gospel and traditional songs. This is a concert not to be missed.  Information and tickets are available at:
312-236-3681 x2 or on line at

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