An orchestra is playing instruments

The 20th season of the Southern Illinois Music Festival will give audiences in six communities an opportunity to enjoy the finest professional singers and instrumentalists from the United States and Europe. (Photo provided)

May 17, 2024

SIFest’s 20th season features D-Day concert, opera, ballet and more

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The nationally recognized Southern Illinois Music Festival (SIFest) will start its 20th season this week by providing the region an opportunity to enjoy the finest professional singers and instrumentalists from the United States and Europe, along with a mix of select Southern Illinois University Carbondale faculty and students. From Saturday, May 25, to June 9, the festival will once again feature orchestral and chamber music, opera, jazz, ballet and educational programs that promote the region’s cultural activity on a national scale.

This year’s SIFest will feature a D-Day commemoration concert at Carterville High School at 7 p.m. June 6, the 80th anniversary of the invasion that led to the end of World War II. Edward Benyas, SIFest artistic director and founder, and professor emeritus with the SIU School of Music, said he’s especially excited about the performance.

“We will play music from each of the liberating countries — Georges Bizet’s ‘Carmen Suite’ from France, Godfrey Ridout’s ‘Fall Fair’ from Canada, George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ from the United States and Edward Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’ from the United Kingdom,” he said.

Media availability

Reporters, photographers and news crews interested in covering the Southern Illinois Music Festival may arrange interviews with Edward Benyas, SIFest artistic director, founder and conductor, at or 312-560-2094.

Festival highlights

Benyas noted that highlights of this year’s festival also include:

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s masterpiece opera “The Marriage of Figaro” sung in Italian with English narration and subtitles — performances are set for 7 p.m. June 7 and 2 p.m. June 9, both at SIU’s Shryock Auditorium.
  • Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s fully staged ballet “Swan Lake,” with dancers from Arabesque Dance Studio in Carbondale and Carterville — performances are set for 7 p.m. May 31 and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at Shryock Auditorium.
  • An orchestral program featuring Felix Mendelssohn’s popular Violin Concerto with Kiril Laskarov as soloist, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, along with some of the festival’s young opera artists singing a Verdi quartet – the performance is at 7 p.m. June 1 at Carterville High School.

The festival kicks off Saturday, May 25, at 7 p.m. at ArtSpace304 in Carbondale with “French Serenade,” featuring drinks, hors d’oeuvres and music from the Poor People of Paris and SIFest musicians. The cost is $75, and reservations are required. For more information, contact Benyas at

Artist biographies, ensembles and the full schedule of concerts are available on the festival website,

Performances throughout the region

Audiences both young and old will have myriad opportunities to be immersed in classics performed by wind trios, string quartets, wind and brass quintets, and more. The Klassics for Kids and Jive with Jazz performances, which features multiple events in Anna, Carbondale, Marion and Murphysboro for children of all ages are free, and reservations are not needed. There also will be numerous chamber music and string quartet events at ArtSpace304, First United Methodist Church of Carbondale, SIU’s Morris Library, Anna Arts Center, the Harold Jones Fine Arts Center in Cairo and other venues.  

Tickets available now

Tickets to many festival events are $25 for general admission and $10 for students of any age. A season pass is available for $150 (excludes the May 25 French Serenade event) and includes an SIFest program booklet. Tickets and festival passes will be available at the door.

Benyas said he is grateful for the continued support of sponsors for contributing to the festival’s success through the years.

For more information, contact Benyas at  or 312-560-2094.