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Chicago Philharmonic kicks off its 33rd Symphonic Season with a concert celebrating orchestral repertoire influenced by folk music

Centering on William Grant Still’s iconic “Afro-American Symphony,” the program also includes music by Chicago’s own Florence Price, Arturo Márquez, Heitor Villa-Lobos and a Chicago premiereby Chicago Philharmonic Composer in Residence Jonathan Bingham.

The Chicago Philharmonic Society proudly opens its 33rd Season with William Grant Still: “Afro-American Symphony” on October 13, 2022, at 7:30 p.m., at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Led by Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Scott Speck, the orchestra performs Still’s Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American Symphony) for the first time, as well as music by Price, Márquez, Villa-Lobos, and a Chicago premiere by Donna Milanovich Composer in Residence Jonathan Bingham. 

The concert centers on the early 20th century resurgence of folk influence in classical music. The headlining piece, Still’s Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American), combines the traditional symphonic form with blues patterns and melodies. Still is one of the most notable and prolific American composers of the last century; he broke barriers as the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, and the first to have his work performed by one. Also following the theme of folk-inspired classical music is Florence Price’s “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America,” which weaves folk idioms into a symphonic tone poem. 

Scott Speck
Scott Speck

There has been a recent resurgence in Price’s oeuvre, spurred in part by a 2009 discovery of Florence Price’s archives in her summer home in St. Anne, Illinois. Among the findings was Price’s orchestral arrangement of “Ethiopia’s Shadow,” which was originally written for solo piano. Musicologists believe this may have been Price’s first written orchestral piece. Donna Milanovich Composer in Residence Jonathan Bingham returns for his second year of the Composer in Residence program with the Chicago premiere of “Monograph.” Bingham’s Chicago Philharmonic debut came last year with the world premiere performance of his critically acclaimed “Tautology.”

Rounding out the program is Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, “Preludio,” which combines the composer’s love of his home country’s folk music with the J.S. Bach circle-of-fifths chord progressions; and Arturo Márquez’s homage to one of Mexico’s beloved dance traditions, Danzón No. 2. 

“I’m so proud to be part of an orchestra that makes space for innovative programs like this one,” said Maestro Scott Speck. “We’ve built a reputation for presenting ‘mixed rep’ programs that eschew the traditional concert structure of an overture, concerto, and major symphony. It allows us to explore, to be more creative, and I think the artistic result is thrilling.” 

This event is supported in part by Concert Sponsor U.S. Bank. Chicago Philharmonic’s 22/23 Symphonic Series is supported by Chicago DCASE and the Illinois Council for the Arts. Tickets start at $35 for adults and $10 for students. For tickets and further information, visit William Grant Still: Afro-American Symphony | Chicago Philharmonic.

Jonathan Bingham
Jonathan Bingham

Founded by musicians of the Lyric Opera Orchestra in 1979, The Chicago Philharmonic Society is a collaboration of over 250 of the highest-level classical musicians in the Midwest. The orchestra, known as the Chicago Philharmonic, has been called one of the country’s finest symphonic orchestras, and its unique chamber music ensembles perform as Chicago Phil Chamber. The brilliance of Chicago Philharmonic’s structure is in its versatility – the organization curates the best ensemble for each concert from an exceptional pool of musicians, be it classical, jazz, pops, movie concerts, outreach programming, and everything else. The Illinois Council of Orchestras has awarded Chicago Philharmonic “Orchestra of the Year” (2018), “Programming of the Year” (2019), “Community Relations of the Year” (2019), “Executive Director of the Year” (2020), and “Conductor of the Year” (2021).

With recent performances in London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, Scott Speck has inspired international acclaim as a conductor of passion, intelligence, and winning personality. Scott Speck was named Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Chicago Philharmonic in June of 2013 and has been Music Director of the Joffrey Ballet since 2010. He has become a frequent guest for the Chicago Symphony’s family concerts. His work with Chicago Philharmonic earned him the award “2021 Conductor of the Year” from the Illinois Council of Orchestras.

Over the last decade, composer Jonathan Bingham has been recognized for his use of electronic and acoustic instrumentation. He’s composed music for film, advertisements, and has received commissions to write for numerous ensembles. Bingham received the Vincent C. LaGuardia Award in composition leading to a residency with the Arapahoe Philharmonic in 2016. Over the following several years, he premiered five orchestral works and obtained a subsequent residency with the Boulder Symphony. In addition, he’s created original scores for over a dozen film productions, which have premiered in festivals such as the New York Film Festival, Rome International Film Festival, and BFI London Film Festival, among others.

Breaking movie
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago ( or email: [email protected].

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