Tell us about Chicago Pro Musica; how did you form the group and some of your current projects?
Chicago Pro Musica began in 1979. I had been in the Chicago Symphony for a couple of years. A few members of my orchestra were interested in playing contemporary music written by living composers that we could interact with and create music together. I had been part of a group like this when I was a student at Juilliard — the New York New Music Ensemble. We played classics of the 20th century and played music of composers we knew who were writing for us. This is what I was trying to do with the Chicago Symphony because that group was gratifying for me. So I found some of my colleagues interested in that, forming the Chicago New Music Ensemble. Shortly after that, we realised we wanted to play classical music and music of all ages and eras and new music. We decided we couldn’t be just the Chicago New Music Ensemble. We would just be some ensemble that would promote music. We put together a program of Brahms and Reger 19th century chamber music. Someone in the Chicago Symphony administration coined “Chicago Pro Musica”, and we decided to stick with that. From that point on, we mixed our programs. There might be Brahms and Stravinsky and then Jim Stephenson on the same program. It would be all kinds of music that interested us.
Our most recent project has been some concerts but mostly recording. The recordings are more permanent than concerts; it’s great to have something you can refer to as a picture in a moment. In my recording — Liquid Melancholy: Clarinet Music of James M. Stephenson — half of it involves Chicago Pro Musica because it is written for chamber ensemble. And then we have another CD that came out in 2019 called Instruments of Revelation (Naxos). That CD contains the music of Victoria Bond; she’s a composer I’ve known since my Juilliard days. We are working on a French Wind quintet music program from the 19th and 20th centuries this year. We were supposed to present it at the beginning of April, but that’s been postponed. Hopefully, that’ll come to pass. We’ll do a TV series on that as well. I don’t know when it will all be realised with Coronavirus halting everything for the moment.
[External link: Cedille Records]
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