Beginning at 6:30 p.m. on the evening of Saturday, October 6, the Chicago-based ensemble Bach + Beethoven Experience (BBE) is planning to host a locally-tailored and free night of music and community stories known as Chicago Stories at Armour Square Park, right down 33rd Street from the center of Illinois Tech’s Mies Campus. In the words of BBE Artistic Director Brandi Benson, this year’s installment of Chicago Stories “will be premiering pieces about the Bronzeville community,” more specifically those “who moved there as a result of the Great Migration, stories along the Bloomingdale (606) Trail, and stories about the Swedish immigrant community in Andersonville. Narratives, music, and more about these storied and local historical pieces can be expected to be heard at this free concert.
In describing the BBE’s history, Benson told TechNews how the organization was founded in 2009 “with one main goal: to play great music from hundreds of years ago with other great people in a fresh and young way. Since then, our mission has evolved into a bigger picture: to shatter the expectations of classical music concerts to make classical music more fun, accessible, and approachable. We do this in a variety of ways, from crossover genres, to collaborations with other artists in different mediums, and also writing our own brand new music. After all, Bach & Beethoven were writing their own music, too.”
The Chicago Stories event by the BBE “was conceived on that notion that classical music should also be at the cutting edge, always making new music hot off the press.” Thus, every year’s installment of Chicago Stories sees the three different composers selected by the BBE to share pieces sharing the stories of specific neighborhoods or communities. For example, Benson described how last year’s Chicago Stories composers chose to structure their performances around Assyrian-American immigrants, minority women in executive job positions, and Pilsen’s Latin Jazz community (specifically the influences of the Alvarez Brothers).
This year’s installment of Chicago Stories in Armour Square Park will see the three composers Regina Baiocchi, Ronnie Kuller, and Kurt Westerberg sharing pieces and stories about Bronzeville and the Great Migration, Bloomingdale Trail, and Swedish immigrant communities, respectively. Benson further explained how each composer’s personal background lends further credence to their chosen topics, such as how Baiocchi “grew up in Bronzeville right by the homes of many great African American women, activists, authors, writers, educators,” and how her “blues suite takes inspiration from the stories gathered by two African sisters, Essence McDowell and Mariame Kaba.” Similarly, “Kuller lived by the Bloomingdale Trail for the majority of her life here in Chicago and wrote pieces about those who bike, walk, and ride the trains along the 606,” which will be shared at this concert. Finally, “Westerberg's grandfather immigrated to Chicago from Sweden, worked on the trains lines and preached at a Swedish church in Andersonville. His music helps bring to the life the stories in his grandfather's diary entries of his experiences as an immigrant.”
The Chicago Stories event will be one of varied and richly storied pieces from a variety of cultural backgrounds, as Benson described to TechNews. “Baiocchi has composed a blues suite entitled ‘Wild Onion Blues’ that will sound very gospel and blues-style. Kuller’s pieces are very influenced by tango, and Westerberg’s music is more modern-sounding but includes some Swedish melodies in addition to some percussive sections to mimic the time his grandfather worked on the trains. In short, this concert will be as diverse as the neighborhoods in Chicago!”
The BBE will be presenting this year’s installment of Chicago Stories as a free concert in Armour Square Park (3309 S Shields Ave, Chicago, IL) beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 6. No registration is required and the event is being billed as “family, food and drink friendly.” Illinois Tech community members are more than welcome to attend.