June 02, 2008

Music Festival offers wide variety of performances

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A hallmark of the Southern Illinois Music Festival is its mobility, but the heart of the festival is Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The University, and several sites in the community surrounding it, host nearly two dozen musical performances -- ranging from orchestra to chamber music, jazz to ballet, children’s programs to opera -- during the three-week festival.

Orchestra concerts

The Southern Illinois Music Festival Orchestra, conducted by Music Festival founder Edward Benyas, presents several orchestra concerts during the festival as well as providing the music for a ballet performance and an opera.

The orchestra presents “Strings and Solos” beginning at 7:30 p.m. on June 13 at Shryock Auditorium on the University campus. The program includes Patrick Roux, “Latin Concerto for Four Guitars, “ Andrew Lowe Watson, “For the Fallen,” and Mozart, “Concerto for Two Pianos,” featuring Jennifer Maxwell and Svetlana Belsky. A highlight is soloist Jim Ryon playing Bach’s “Oboe d’amore concerto.”

Ryon is Principal Oboist with the Baton Rouge Symphony and an associate professor of oboe at the Louisiana State University School of Music. He performs with the Burle Marx Trio and the Timm Wind Quintet. Much of his career centered at the University of Akron in Ohio, where he performed and recorded with the Solaris Quintet and was Principal Oboist with the Akron Symphony, among others. Ryon’s tour credits include Pittsburgh Symphony, Canton Symphony, several ballet companies, the Bach Aria Group and even British rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He has a special interest in Brazilian music.

Chicagoans Belsky and Maxwell began playing piano duos together in 2005. Their schedule includes several festivals and classical music series throughout the Chicago area. They’ll play together half a dozen times during the festival.

The “Strings and Solos” performance encores at Rustle Hill Winery in Cobden in a free performance that begins at 7:30 p.m. on June 29. This time, the soloists are SIUC School of Music faculty Michael Barta and Meng-Chun Chi on violin and viola with Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, rather than a Mozart piano duo. Rustle Hill Winery is a brand new addition in the Shawnee Hills; call 618/893-2700 for directions.

Soloist Christine Brewer lends her voice to the orchestra during a performance beginning at 7:30 p.m. on June 17 at Shryock Auditorium. The program includes Schumann, Barber, Beethoven and Strauss. Brewer is a Southern Illinois native, hailing from Grand Tower. She’s gone from the small town to the big time, listing performances with orchestras in Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and St. Louis among her performance credits. Her beautiful voice also led her to Paris and London and frequently into the recording studio as well. She will attend a post-concert reception at Altgeld Hall following the June 17 performance. In addition, a special reception heralds her return to Grand Tower on June 16 at the First Southern Bank beginning at noon. Admission is free to the Grand Tower reception.

The orchestra welcomes guest soloist David Kim during a concert beginning at 7:30 p.m. on June 24 at Shryock Auditorium. Kim is concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, but he’s from Carbondale originally. He began playing violin at age 3 and he is the only American violinist to win a prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. He joins the orchestra for a program including Rossini, Haydn and Bruch.

On July 1, beginning at 7:30 p.m., the orchestra brings “A Night of Romance” to Shryock Auditorium. The program includes Brahms, “Symphony No. 3,” Debussy, “Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun,” and Tchaikovsky, “Capriccio Italiano.” Why romance? These selections show a change in orchestral music toward a form that is more modern and takes inspiration from nature. It is the musical equivalent of the Romantic Movement in literature that brought Wordsworth, Byron, Goethe and Poe.

The Festival Orchestra’s performances at Shryock Auditorium are $15 for general admission, $6 for students. Tickets are available at the SIU Arena or SIUC Student Center ticket offices, or from the Shryock Auditorium box office in advance, or the day of the performance at the auditorium.


A ballet performance is a tradition with the Music Festival. This year’s offering is “A Children’s Nutcracker,” performed by the Festival Orchestra and more than 80 local dancers. The Carbondale performance begins at 3 p.m. on June 22 at Shryock Auditorium. The ballet choreography is by Susan Barnes and Sydelle Fulk of Susan Barnes-Willow Street Dance Studios. SIUC alumna Susan Barnes has taught dance in the Carbondale area for nearly three decades. Fulk teaches ballet and Pointe at Willow Street Studios, and danced professionally with the Grand Ballet Classique de France. The orchestra and the dancers make this Christmas fantasy come alive, even in June.

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $6 for students of any age. Tickets are available at the SIU Arena or SIUC Student Center ticket offices in advance, or the day of the performance at the auditorium.

An art bazaar, sponsored by Carbondale Community Arts, precedes the ballet, taking place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Old Main Mall near Shryock Auditorium. There is no admission fee.


Opera is another Music Festival tradition. This year’s offering is Rossini’s “Barber of Seville.” The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. on June 28.

The opera, a comedy, premiered in Rome in 1816. Like virtually all Italian comic operas, it is a love story. The wealthy Count Almaviva, wishing to make the lovely Rosina fall in love with him and not with his money, disguises himself as Lindoro, a poor student. Figaro, the barber of Seville, helps Almaviva in his love quest. Of course, Rosina’s guardian, Dr. Bartolo, opposes the match because he himself plans to marry the girl. Several disguises later, Almaviva reveals his true identity to Rosina, the two admit their love for each other and, after a tense moment with Bartolo involving a missing escape ladder and a frantic Figaro, arrange their wedding. Figaro appears throughout the two-act opera -- including the funny, famous and often-parodied scene where he shaves Bartolo.

The opera’s fame makes it easily referenced in pop culture -- which means many people have heard sections of the music or know parts of the story even if they don’t realize it. One of the most famous pop culture uses of The Barber of Seville is surely Warner Bros. 1949 Looney Tunes episode, “The Rabbit of Seville,” in which Bugs Bunny uses an over-the-top slapstick version of the shaving scene to humiliate Elmer Fudd. Bugs used the song “Largo al factotum” from the opera in a 1948 episode as well -- wherein he poses as Leopold (Stokowski) to humiliate a cranky opera singer with the famous, “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro” sequence. A 2007 episode of The Simpsons, guest-starring Placido Domingo, cashed in on the opera’s fame by using it in the episode’s title, “The Homer of Seville.” The overture -- without any parody -- plays during the closing credits for the Beatles’ movie, “Help.”

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $6 for students.

A pre-concert dinner, featuring the New Arts Jazztet and a Festival String Quartet, is from 5 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 for this elegant fundraiser -- a perfect way to begin an evening that ends with opera. Call 618/451-5100 for reservations.

Chamber music

Chamber music performances offer a cozier atmosphere, as the musical ensemble is smaller and generally also the venue. Mélange plays host to several free chamber music performances during the Music Festival. A woodwind quintet plays beginning at 2 p.m. on June 15. An evening performance begins at 7 p.m. with string quartets on June 22, and on June 29, beginning at 1 p.m., brass quintets come to the coffee house. All Mélange performances are free.

Other chamber performances include a showcase of Ravel, Martinu, Poulenc, Puccini and Hummel beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall on the SIUC campus. That performance is $12 for general admission, with students of any age getting tickets at $5.

An outdoor performance is set for 1 p.m. on June 28 at the Old Main Mall near Shryock Auditorium. The rain location is the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall. The event coincides with an art bazaar sponsored by Carbondale Community Arts that will be in the same area.

A chamber concert is also on the menu at Blue Sky Vineyard at 3150 S. Rocky Comfort Road in Makanda on June 29. The performance is a musical potpourri of music for strings, winds and mixed ensembles by Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Puccini, Ravel, Gershwin and more. An art fair is on the site from 2 to 5 p.m. Admission to both the music and the art fair is free.

Brown Bag Lunch Piano Recital Series

Still another Music Festival tradition is the musical lunch. Jennifer Maxwell and Svetlana Belsky offer a duo piano recital at noon in the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall on June 13. It is a sneak-peek of what music lovers might expect from the orchestra concert that night. Belsky returns for a second lunchtime piano recital beginning at noon on June 20 in the Old Baptist Recital Hall. The final brown bag performance at the Old Baptist Foundation begins at noon on June 27, and features pianists Sunyoung Lee and Jacob Sievers.

The noon performances are free, and listeners may bring their lunches.

Klassics for Kids and Jive with Jazz

The Music Festival remembers the needs of young listeners with free programs specifically formatted for them. The performances often relate to a concert set for the same evening. The jazz programs are for children ages 3 to 12, while the classics programs are for newborn babies to about age 8.

Jive with Jazz, featuring the New Arts Jazztet, begins at 10 a.m. on June 13 at the Eurma C. Hayes Center. The Jazztet features SIUC professors from the School of Music, all notable on their own and really something together in this ensemble.

Klassics for Kids concerts begin at 10 a.m. in Altgeld Hall on the SIUC campus. On June 14, there is a wind quintet, and on June 24, a brass quintet. Ron Coulter brings his percussion magic on July 1.

Band Concerts

That’s right -- it’s band camp time! Beginning at 1:30 p.m. on June 21, the High School Band Camp Concert takes to Shryock Auditorium for a free performance. On June 27, beginning at 7:30 p.m. the Junior High Band Camp Concert is at Shryock Auditorium for its free performance. The band camps are two of several music camps that take place during the Southern Illinois Music Festival. Students who play in the camp concert must master their performance selections in a short time to be able to present a concert to the public.

Finally, the Southern Illinois Music Festival offers its own “Best of” concert, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on July 2 at Shryock Auditorium. If you had to miss some performances, hit this one for the highlights. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $6 for students of all ages. A post-concert reception is set for Altgeld Hall.

More information, a complete schedule and any late changes are at www.SIFest.com.

Sponsors include: SIUC, Illinois Arts Council, The Southern Illinoisan newspaper, WSIL-TV Channel 3 ABC, WSIU Public Broadcasting, Peoples National Bank, Laborers’ Union International-Local 773, Southern Illinois Miners, the City of Marion, Mélange, the Harrison, Hastings, Moore-Corpora, Southern and Garwin Family Foundations, Drs. Hal and Susan Pearlman, Dr. Samuel Goldman, First Southern Bank, Crawford County Arts, Lebanon Fine Arts, BoundlessGallery.com, Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, Carbondale Community Arts, and the Southern Illinois Symphony Patrons Committee.