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Sonic Divergence Festival Unites Artists Who Break the Mold

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March 4, 2008 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Highlights of the spring 2008 music festival at Northwestern University will include the Chicago debut of the Princeton (PLOrk) Laptop Orchestra; Bang on a Can All-Stars, an award-winning contemporary ensemble with guest drummer Glenn Kotche of the rock band Wilco; Lura, a young Portuguese diva of Cape Verdean music; and Grammy Award-winning Cuban-born clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera and his trio with special guest harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy.

The Northwestern University School of Music's "Sonic Divergence: A Confluence of Musical Originals" festival begins Saturday, April 5, and runs through Saturday, April 12. Festival events will take place at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, or Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place, on the University's Evanston campus, as noted below.

Featuring artists who approach music in non-traditional ways, the festival will include a celebration of the music of American contemporary composers Steven Mackey and John Mackey; a performance of "The Juliet Letters," a chamber musical by Elvis Costello and Paul Cassidy; and a concert focusing on the Hammond B-3 organ. It is made possible in part through the generous support of Alex and Liz Rorke.

The festival gets underway with the Chicago-area debut of PLOrk (the Princeton Laptop Orchestra) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. The 20-member ensemble of computer-based musical meta-instruments was co-founded by Dan Trueman and Perry Cook. Each "instrument" consists of a laptop, a multi-channel hemispherical speaker and a variety of control devices (keyboards, graphics tablets, sensors, etc.) to create the sound of a symphony orchestra, a jazz combo or an electronica band. The PLOrk program includes two world premieres, works with solo acoustic violin and a piece featuring a dancing conductor covered with electronic sensor pads. Tickets are $12 for the general public; $7 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $5 for students.

Northwestern will welcome the Bang on a Can All-Stars with special guest drummer Glenn Kotche at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 6, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. The ensemble, winner of Musical America's 2005 Ensemble of the Year award, combines "the power and punch of a rock band with the precision and clarity of a chamber ensemble." Kotche, the drummer for the critically-acclaimed rock band Wilco, will join the group. Tickets are $15 for the general public; $10 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $6 for students.

"Mack Attack! A Celebration of the Music of Steven Mackey and John Mackey," will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 7, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. The compositional wizardry of the two contemporary American composers will feature a high-energy performance by Northwestern's Contemporary Music Ensemble, conducted by Ryan T. Nelson. Guest percussionist Matthew Coley, a Northwestern School of Music alumnus, will be featured on the program playing traditional percussion instruments and an arsenal of toys and kitchen gadgets. Tickets are $7 for the general public; $5 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $4 for students.

Portuguese vocalist Lura will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Born in Lisbon to parents from the Republic of Cape Verde, she has created an exhilarating new musical style that blends French Afro-pop, traditional African music, Cape Verdean song styles, jazz and Brazilian rhythms. Her instrumental ensemble will accompany her powerful voice and scintillating dancing. Tickets are $15 for the general public; $10 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $6 for students.

Tenor Devin DeSantis and the Mercutio String Quartet will perform "The Juliet Letters," a chamber musical by Elvis Costello and Paul Cassidy, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in Lutkin Hall. The score, a 1993 collaboration between Costello, Cassidy and England's Brodsky String Quartet, was inspired by reports of a Verona professor who took it upon himself to answer letters he found addressed to Juliet Capulet. The resulting critically-acclaimed series of 20 dramatic ballads, influenced by the songs of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, depicts male and female characters of varying ages and degrees of sanity and their stories of love, betrayal and death. Tickets are $9 for the general public; $7 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $4 for students.

The "In Praise of the Hammond B-3 Organ" concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 11, will take place at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Although initially intended as a less costly alternative to church pipe organs, the Hammond B-3, with its distinctive whirling "tone cabinet" sounds, quickly found a home in various other venues and musical styles, including jazz, blues, soul, pop, gospel and rock. Featured performers will include Chris "Hambone" Cameron and Friends, the Who's Your Daddy? Trio featuring Dan Trudell, and the Greater Harvest Missionary Baptist Church Gospel Choir. Tickets are $14 for the general public, $10 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff, and $5 for students.

The festival will conclude with a performance by the Paquito D'Rivera Trio with special guest harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Cuban-born D'Rivera is a Grammy Award-winning classical and jazz clarinetist and saxophonist. His many honors include the National Medal for the Arts, a 2005 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award and a 2007 Living Jazz Legend Award. D'Rivera will be joined by fellow trio members -- pianist Alex Brown and cellist Dana Leong -- as well as Levy, a longtime collaborator. Tickets are $20 for the general public; $16 for senior citizens and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for students. This concert is sponsored by Oxford Financial Group. D'Rivera's appearance is made possible by the Evelyn Dunbar Visiting Artist Fund.

To purchase tickets by phone, call (847) 467-4000. To buy tickets and view other concert information online visit http://www.pickstaiger.org. Tickets also are available for purchase at the Pick-Staiger Ticket Office at 50 Arts Circle Drive. For more information, phone (847) 491-5441.
Topics: Campus Life