Symphony Sounds String Quartet returns to Wicker Park for 4th year


This year’s Symphony Sounds String Quartet begins their fourth season in Wicker Park, Sunday, June 9, which includes a very special piece by a contemporary composer Marc Mellits.

This will be the Quartet's first of three themed concerts in the Wicker Park Schiller Grove at the corner of Damen and Schiller starting at 11 a.m. (Inside the Wicker Park Field House if raining.) 

Whimsy will be the first of the free concert themes, followed by Death in July and Jazz in August. Playing compositions from all periods of musical history and from numerous musical genres the Symphony Sounds String Quartet will present these themes. They will deliver the three concerts showing the diversity found in the expression of the themes by numerous composers and, at the same time, they will demonstrate their expert artistry and their diverse palette. 

Whimsy will be explored in selected works written by four composers in the years listed after the composer’s name:  Haydn (1781), Mozart (1791), Strauss (1874) and Mellits (2004). In August, we will hear examples of how jazz has influenced all genres of music in the 20th and 21st centuries. 

This Sunday the quartet will play Mozart’s The Magic Flute Overture (1791), Haydn’s String Quartet, Op. 33 #2 "The Joke" (1781), Johann Strauss’ "The Laughing Song" from Die Fledermaus (1874) and will feature Marc Mellits’ String Quartet #2 Revolution (2004) in four movements: "I: Groove," "Canon II: Mara's Toys," "III. December 1989" and "IV: Groove Machine."


Photo of Mark Mellits by Ruth Grigorov

Mellits provided these program notes for Sunday’s performance:

My “String Quartet No. 2: Revolution” was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, the Kronos Quartet. It was completed in late 2004. It’s four movements each explore ideas and processes that embrace the idea of each voice working together to create a whole far better than just the sum of its parts.

I spend significant time in Romania each year and have developed a love affair for its people, culture, food, and way of life. Each movement of “Revolution” has direct connections to the country that has adopted me as one of its own. The first and last movements (Groove Canon & Groove Machine) are both inspired by machinery, something I am fascinated with. In Romania, I have found some of the most beautiful, old, and still working pieces of machinery that I have ever seen. The trains are particularly amazing, quite large and heavy, and almost entirely metal. They feel very “real” to me and are inspiring. Some of the music contained in these movements was written for imaginary machines similar to, and inspired by, these trains.

I found myself writing much of this work with my infant daughter either in my arms, or playing nearby. She was completely fascinated by any toy that made a musical sound, as most children are, and therefore my working environment was often filled with the sound of lullabies, cute melodies, and repetitive short musical ideas. These toys were mini machines of their own and provided the thematic material for the entire second movement, “Mara’s Toys.”

The third movement, “December 1989” is a direct response to the Romanian Revolution of Christmas, 1989. I once met a man who fought vigorously in this bloody and tragic outbreak of freedom. We talked all night long as he told me stories of the people who risked their lives and died so that their country could be free. I learned first-hand of the ultimately tragic but victorious event that changed Romania forever, and composed this music as a direct response. The central melody is based on a communist patriotic song written for Romania’s ruthless leader Nicolae Ceaucescu, that I warped and changed to find the beauty within the ugly. 

On the music faculty of the University of Illinois-Chicago, Mellits teaches Composition and Theory. His website states “His unique musical style is an eclectic combination of driving rhythms, soaring lyricism, and colorful orchestrations that all combine to communicate directly with the listener. Mellits' music is often described as being visceral, making a deep connection with the audience. ‘This was music as sensual as it was intelligent; I saw audience members swaying, nodding, making little motions with their hands’.” (New York Press). 

The Concerts are presented by the Wicker Park Advisory Council and Wicker Park Garden Club with support from WPB SSA#33, Friends of Saint Paul's Community Church, Wicker Park Apartments, Cat and Mouse Game Store, Friends of the Parks, Wicker Park and Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, Trust for Public Land, Littlerock Remodeling Consultants, Our Urban Times, Mosaic Church Chicago and Urban Encounter for their support in funding and presenting this series in partnership with the Chicago Park District.


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