Muti Conducts Beethoven at ACOG

I’ve been dealing with a bunch of computer issues lately (the motherboard in my old laptop broke last week, resulting in me spending a lot of time at the Apple store this weekend…), so I’ve been a bit slow in getting this up. Here’s what went down last Thursday at the Apostolic Church of God in the Woodlawn neighborhood – definitely a memorable experience 😀

As UChicago students, we have access to one of the greatest cities in the world, but we often don’t get the chance to explore the part of the city that lies south of the Midway, past 61st Street. I’m definitely guilty of that, as I’m usually either on campus or traveling back and forth to downtown or home in the suburbs. So, although it was only a 15 minute walk from my dorm, it was my first time in the Woodlawn neighborhood, specifically at the Apostolic Church of God (ACOG), for Maestro Muti’s free concert for the city. The church is a spectacular establishment to say the least: it comprises of 4 buildings that are connected together into one large complex. Despite the magnificence of the architecture, I really loved the church’s congregation, at least those of whom I got to meet. I arrived at the church a couple of hours before the concert started because I wanted a good seat (and plus, I thought it was going to be like the Millennium Park free concerts, where you usually have to line up many hours before if you want a seat). I wasn’t the only one who got there early though – there were a couple of other women in their 60s who were already waiting inside. They were all members of the church, and along with the staff, gave me a really warm welcome. We talked about Chicago sports, politics, music, stuff going on at school (including the homework I brought to pass some time…), and our backgrounds. I just couldn’t help but noticing the contrast in atmosphere from the (very limited number of) other churches I’ve been to in my life. They were definitely much friendlier and kinder, in my opinion, and really embodied what an (ideal) church ought to be. In fact, the pastor, Dr. Brazier, explained in his also welcoming introduction to Woodlawn and the ACOG, that his father built the church we were all sitting in, pointing out that the two large doves adorning each side of the wall behind the stage were not simply “on the wall,” but rather “part of the wall,” with the implication that the symbol of peace of the dove is a fundamental element of the church. (Indeed, the doves were built with the same brick that formed the structure of the building.) Although I’m not a religious person, it was quite fitting that this concert of Beethoven, free for the entire community, was held in this church – the warm atmosphere, the special occasion, and Beethoven’s music, just seemed to all gel together into a really good combination. I wouldn’t mind at all if concerts were held here on a more regular basis (in fact, there was definitely much less coughing/other noises here than at Symphony Center).

To start off, Maestro Muti conducted Lift Every Voice and Sing sung by a small, but very powerful, chorus that did make it feel like we were in an opera house with Maestro Muti at the helm, making it the highlight of the concert (sorry Beethoven!). The song is considered to be the “Black National Anthem,” and as he explained in his speech after the concert, Maestro Muti first conducted this piece in Philadelphia for a tribute concert to Martin Luther King Jr in ’91. With protests against the “Star-Spangled Banner” getting a lot of attention lately, this specific anthem (in this specific context of a free community concert) was a good reminder that despite the struggles and divides the US is still facing today, there still remains the power of song and music to bring us together (no matter how cliché this sounds).

There were two Beethoven works programmed for the concert: Leonore Overture No. 3 and the universally, well-known Symphony No. 5, which were both well-enjoyed by the audience. With regards to the 5th, whose opening of pop-culture status earned a round of applause (prompting Maestro Muti to humorously restart), this is actually only the third symphony of Beethoven that I’ve heard live in concert (the other two being the 7th and 8th). The orchestra was great as usual, and Alex Klein’s oboe cadenza in the first movement was definitely my favorite part.

Also, I know I said in an earlier post that the absolute coolest thing happened to me, but maybe this night might have to top that 🙂 After the concert ended, I, along with many other individuals, were waiting outside of Maestro Muti’s dressing room, hoping to get a chance to speak to him. Lo and behold, after some waiting around, he actually spots me in the crowd and motions for me to come in! Like seriously, what are the odds of this happening?!! Anyways, I go in and am happily greeted by the Maestro (and if I may add, with his double cheek kiss greeting!! 😀 😀 …I might be a little too excited here, but then again, he is my favorite conductor!)  We talked for a bit, and then I was on my way back to my dorm – what a great way to conclude a pretty bad week at school (considering that on Wednesday, my computer died just a couple of hours before my EA homework was due – causing me to frantically rush to Crerar to get all my Matlab/Excel code printed out – yeah, not fun at all).

In other news, it was just announced that Maestro Muti’s next iteration of his Opera Academy will take place in September of 2017, with the focus being on Verdi’s Aida (which I just so happened to be listening to a couple of days ago). The full cast for the Salzburg Aida he’s doing next summer has also been released I believe, with Anna Netrebko in the lead role!! Maybe, if I can save up some money from work for next summer, I can make the trip back to Salzburg (or maybe to Italy for the Academy?) because I still haven’t gotten the chance to see a staged opera conducted by Muti live, which is on my bucket list of things to do! But those tickets are definitely going to be expensive and will probably sell out fast (plus my parents keep harping on the fact that I should be saving money for grad school instead)…we’ll see how things pan out.

Maestro Muti’s last concert in Chicago for 2016 is this coming Tuesday night, so I’ll be headed to that this week. If my homework/studying for Friday’s transport midterm doesn’t get the best of me, I’ll also try and head to Lyric for Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. As for what’s left of this weekend, I’ve got to get this quantum problem set finished (cause it’s due tomorrow at 9:30AM!).



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