Chicago Sinfonietta Celebrates Día de los Muertos

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Chicago Sinfonietta captures the duality of grief and joy intrinsic to the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead in its annual Día de los Muertos concert. Colombia-born guest conductor Andrés Franco, making his Sinfonietta podium debut, and Waubonsie Valley High School Varsity Choir join the orchestra this year. The Chicago Sinfonietta performs Día de los Muertos twice—first in Naperville at Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Ave., on Nov. 1 at 3 p.m., and then again in downtown Chicago at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., on Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m.

The Dia de los Muertos celebration provides an expansive canvas on which to mix and compare sounds, emotions, cultures and beliefs. The journey begins in the dark moments of despair and loss as depicted by Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Fauré’s choral masterwork, Requiem, performed by the Varsity Choirs of Waubonsie Valley High School. The first half ends with the first hints of light and salvation as Chicago-based composer Elbio Barilari’s Ofrendas receives its World Premiere performance. This work is dedicated to the Sinfonietta’s Founder, Paul Freeman, who passed away in late July of this year and is a part of the Sinfonietta’s season-long tribute, “Paul Freeman: A Season of Celebration.” The concert resumes with Gabriela Lena Frank’s enchanting Three Latin American Dances for Orchestra. Moments of transcendence further the musical experience with Faure’s In Paridisum followed by the expansive melodies of Wagner’s Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries, and concludes with the irrepressible and bright symphonic melodies of Moncayo’s Huapango.

“I am very excited about making my Chicago Sinfonietta debut conducting the [annual] Día de los Muertos concert,” stated Franco. “This holiday illustrates the wonderful amalgam of cultures that makes up the Americas, mixing elements from European, Native Indian and Afro-American traditions. A striking aspect of Día de los Muertos is its celebratory atmosphere. Instead of just mourning the dead, the holiday celebrates lives through food, parties and activities. It is very fitting that we will be performing the World Premiere of Offrendas by Elbio Barilari, a piece dedicated to the memory of Maestro Paul Freeman. We will celebrate his life and legacy as we make our journey from darkness to light.”

Exclusively for the Wentz Concert Hall performance, the West Suburban Friends of the Chicago Sinfonietta are hosting a Día de los Muertos brunch to raise critical funds for the Sinfonietta’s concert season and education programs. This exciting “Party to Celebrate the Dearly Departed” will feature a lavish spread of Mexican and American brunch fare, mariachi music, an incredible dance performance by the Mexican Folkloric Dance Company of Chicago, kid-friendly activities, a Day of the Dead costume contest, an exciting silent auction, and will finish up with a Marigold Procession into Wentz Concert Hall.

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