June 05, 2008

Music Festival coming to McKendree College

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- McKendree College alumna Christine Brewer returns to her alma mater during the multi-site Southern Illinois Music Festival, headquartered at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The festival, now in its fourth year, began as a way to bring award-winning musicians and a wide variety of classical and jazz music to Southern Illinois. Since then, the popularity of the festival inspired Edward Benyas, festival founder and artistic director, to add sites to the festival’s mobile concert list. This year, new venues include not only McKendree College in Lebanon, but also venues at Southeast Missouri State University, St. Louis, and Lincoln Trail College in Crawford County.

The McKendree performance begins at 7:30 p.m. on June 18 at The Hett, otherwise known as the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts, on McKendree’s campus. Emmy-winning soprano Christine Brewer lends her voice to the Festival Orchestra -- itself composed largely of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, during a performance featuring Schumann, Barber, Beethoven and Strauss.

Brewer is a Southern Illinois native, hailing from the Mississippi River village of Grand Tower. And she’s a 1976 McKendree graduate. She’s gone from the small town to the big time, listing performances with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Philadelphia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra among her performance credits in this country. Her beautiful voice also led her to Carnegie Hall, to Paris and Leipzig, to London and Florence. She has performed Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs, which is the finale for this concert, to great critical acclaim, with some of the finest orchestras and conductors in North America and Europe.

Brewer’s recording credits include the Hyperion Strauss series and the Grammy Award-winning Bolcom Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. She recently recorded Strauss’ Four Last Songs and selections by Wagner and Mozart with the Atlanta Symphony for Telarc. And, just weeks ago, Brewer won the BBC Radio 3 Listeners Award, which is one of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards, the most prestigious in Great Britain.

Tickets for the Southern Illinois Music Festival offering at The Hett are $12 for general admission and $5 for students of any age. Call 618/537-6863 for tickets or go to theHett@mckendree.edu.

The Festival is the largest of its kind south of Springfield in Illinois, and has plenty to offer to lure Metro-East residents to some of the other events in Southern Illinois. Highlights include performances of Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville” at the Sesser Opera House and at Shryock Auditorium on the SIUC campus; chamber music on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail; the Festival Orchestra performing a patriotic music concert on the infield at Rent One Park, home to the Frontier League baseball team, the Southern Illinois Miners; and programming for children at more than a dozen different sites.

More information about the entire Southern Illinois Music Festival, including a complete schedule and performer biographies, are at www.SIFest.com. While you are there, check out the orchestra concert slated for St. Louis on June 27.