Music lovers will have two opportunities to hear and see The Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra and First Folio Theater in performance together when they collaborate for the first time during two different concerts in January, offering their audiences an exciting theatrical presentation of Igor Stravinsky’s “A Soldier’s Tale,” the age-old story of a soldier, the devil, and a mysterious violin. Performances, under the baton of ESO Music Director Stephen Alltop, take place at Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 31st Street in Oak Brook on Saturday, January 18, 2014, at 2:30 p.m. and at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church at 149 W. Brush Hill Rd. in Elmhurst on Sunday, January 26, at 3:00 p.m.
The program at Mayslake also features three virtuosic solo performances by members of the Elmhurst Symphony. Concertmaster Rika Seko will shine in Sergei Prokofiev’s “Sonata for Violin, Op. 115,” and Principal Bass Alison Gaines will delight the audience with an unaccompanied piece by Tom Johnson, “Failing: A Very Difficult Piece for Bass,” that involves speaking and singing. Clarinetist Andrea D'Iorio rounds out the program with “Three Pieces for Clarinet” by Stravinsky, also unaccompanied.
At the ECRC concert, “A Soldier’s Tale” is paired with Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings”. This piece for traditional string orchestra was a great success when it premiered in 1881. Its second movement waltz has been called “prime Tchaikovsky, and one of his best melodies.”
Soldier's Tale” is described as a new kind of theater piece "to be read,
played, and danced," with actors portraying the narrator, the soldier and
the devil, and a score that sparkles with memorable solos for each ensemble
work was first conceived during World War I, inspired by Russian stories about a soldier who tricks the devil into drinking too
much vodka, and then deserts the devil, who inevitably comes to claim his soul.
In Stravinsky’s take on the stories, a soldier
trades his fiddle
to the devil in return for unlimited economic gain. The range of Stravinsky's music is remarkable—the eleven musical numbers range from stately processional to café music, from the church to the fairgrounds, using just seven orchestral players, a small ensemble that resembles some American jazz bands of the period. Stravinsky first learned about ragtime and jazz when the conductor Ernest Ansermet came back to Paris from the U.S. in 1917 with his suitcase full of sheet music, and the composer borrowed its snappy rhythmic style. The influence of jazz and ragtime in the score and the manner in which Stravinsky allowed the character of popular music to infuse his music, including the important and busy percussion parts, pointed classical music in a new direction when “A Soldier’s Tale” was first performed in 1918. The small size of the instrumental ensemble was in part determined by the lack of musical instruments and musicians to play them following the devastation of World War I in Europe.
Lydia Berger Gray (Narrator), Aaron Christensen (Soldier), and Alan Ball (Devil), the actors who will perform in “The Soldier’s Tale,” are members of First Folio Theatre, a professional not-for-profit theater company affiliated with Actors’ Equity Association. Currently in its 17th year, First Folio has produced more than 50 productions at its home at the historic Mayslake Peabody Estate, ranging from Shakespeare on its outdoor summer stage to world classics and original adaptations on its indoor stage. These include 6 world premiers and 6 Chicago premiers. To date, First Folio has won 5 Jeff Awards for Theater Excellence and 2 After Dark Awards. First Folio’s educational outreach program has played to more than 125,000 students throughout Illinois.
Both Mayslake Peabody Estate and Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church are handicapped-accessible and offer free parking. The ECRC concert experience is enhanced by the informative and lively discussions led by audience favorite Ted Hatmaker, which take place 1 hour and 15 minutes before each concert. Prices for Mayslake are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, and $7 for students. For the ECRC concert, tickets purchased before the day of the event are $32 for adults, $30 for seniors, $9 for students, and $65 for families (up to 2 adults and three students.) Premium prices at the door are an additional $5 per ticket. Subscription packages of three concerts are still available for $75. For more information visit www.elmhurstsymphony.org or call the ESO Box Office at 630-941-0202. For tickets call the ESO Box Office or visit http://www.esosubscriptions.org/ for ECRC tickets or http://www.elmhurstsymphony.org/Concert-Seasons/MayslakeSeries.aspx for Mayslake tickets.
The Mayslake concert is sponsored by Allied Waste/Republic Services and an anonymous donor. The ECRC concert is made possible in part by grants from the City of Elmhurst Tourism Fund, the Illinois Arts Council (a state agency), and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.