Civitas Ensemble coaching Valpo music students

As chamber-ensemble-in-residence, Civitas Ensemble gives Valpo students the opportunity to engage with top-level musicians.

Civitas will perform its annual winter concert on Monday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. in the Duesenberg Recital Hall at Valparaiso University.

Civitas is made up of three members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Yuan‐Qing Yu, violin and assistant concertmaster; Kenneth Olsen, assistant principal cello; and J. Lawrie Bloom, clarinet and bass clarinet. The fourth member is Winston Choi, head of the piano department at Roosevelt University’s College of the Performing Arts. Two guest artists will be joining the ensemble at the Feb. 27 concert: violinist Kozue Funakoshi and violist Wei-Ting Kuo, both members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Civitas’ residency began in 2011, when Yuan-Qing was approached to come teach at Valpo. She suggested that her new chamber group might also be involved, as a resident chamber group

Yu is assistant concertmaster at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where she has been performing since 1995. A native of Shanghai, Yu won the Chinese Nationwide Violin Competition at age 17 and earned an artist's certificate in violin and a master of music degree from Southern Methodist University.

Bloom was born in Buf­falo, N.Y., and grew up in Bethesda, Md., and Prince­ton, N.J. He has been play­ing clar­inet since the age of 9 and per­form­ing with the Chicago Sym­phony Orches­tra since 1980. In addi­tion to per­form­ing with Civ­i­tas, he is also the artistic co-director of the Chesapeake Cham­ber Music Festival and a faculty member at Northwestern University.

Olsen is a native of Albany, N.Y., who stud­ied at the Cleve­land Insti­tute of Music, Bard Col­lege and the Juil­liard School of Music before join­ing the Chicago Sym­phony Orches­tra in 2005. Olsen won first place at the Nakamichi Cello Com­pe­ti­tion at the Aspen Music Fes­ti­val and second prize at the 2002 Holland-America Music Soci­ety Com­pe­ti­tion.

Choi is asso­ciate pro­fes­sor and the head of the piano pro­gram at Roo­sevelt University’s Chicago Col­lege of Per­form­ing Arts. His pro­fes­sional career was launched when he was named the Lau­re­ate of the 2003 Honens Inter­na­tional Piano Com­pe­ti­tion and win­ner of France’s 2002 Con­cours Inter­na­tional de Piano 20e siè­cle d’Orléans. Choi has recently appeared in recital at the National Arts Cen­tre of Canada, Carnegie-Weill Recital Hall, the Kennedy Cen­ter, the Kravis Cen­ter, the Library of Con­gress and Merkin Recital Hall.

Civitas recently toured Prague, where they worked intensely with musicians from the Gipsy Way Ensemble, a Czech ensemble that specializes in traditional gypsy music.  The purpose of this project was to connect musicians from diverse cultural backgrounds to achieve an artistic goal that bridges classical music and gypsy music. The ensembles performed two concerts featuring arrangements of standard repertoire as well as newly commissioned works from the Romani tradition.

The Feb. 27 concert will feature a never-recorded piece by Chicago composer Stacy Garrop, an associate professor of composition at Roosevelt’s College of the Performing Arts whose works have been performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra and Albany Symphony Orchestra.

Garrop wrote this piece for clarinet, violin, cello and piano in the summer of 2000 while she was in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. The piece is comprised of three short movements, each focusing on a specific set of parameters, colors and textures; one of the movements is a tribute to American composer George Crumb.

Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975) was famous as a film composer who wrote the scores for major motion pictures including Citizen Kane, Taxi Driver and Cape Fear, and for his work with Alfred Hitchcock in films Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Vertigo. He also wrote a number of important concert, operatic and chamber works. Civitas will perform his clarinet quintet Souvenirs de Voyage. The piece is colorful and offers rich harmonic sonority.

Composer, musician, author, satirist, Peter Schickele (born 1937) has been internationally recognized as one of the most versatile artists in the field of music. Schickele’s Quartet for clarinet (in A), violin, violoncello, and piano premiered July 17, 1982 at the Oregon Chamber Music Northwest in Portland, Ore. The first movement has a main melody that begins in the clarinet and is passed eagerly through the other instruments in solos and duets. The second movement is in a repetitive da capo form that guides the listener from jazz-inspired licks to dance-like rhythms. The third movement offers a still, almost static, atmosphere derivative of French impressionism. The final movement contains fast scale passages in all instruments, the chaos ending on a dramatic, conclusive chord.

Aaron Copland's name is synonymous with American music. It was his pioneering achievement to break free from Europe and create concert music that is characteristically American.  In addition to writing such well-loved works as Fanfare for the Common Man, Rodeo and Appalachian Spring, Copland conducted, organized concerts, wrote books on music and served as an American cultural ambassador to the world. He was one of the most honored cultural figures in the history of the United States.

Copland’s Sextet was first conceived and written as the Short Symphony, which received its world premiere on November 23, 1934, in Mexico City with the National Orchestra of Mexico conducted by Carlos Chavez. Copland's declared intent was to write as "perfect" a piece as his skills would allow. Even though it is only 15 minutes in duration, it took him two years, working intermittently, to complete.

Civitas has held impressive performances in conjunction with Valparaiso University for many years. In addition to the concert, Civitas is proud to hold a number of masterclasses. These classes are open to students and community members and are an excellent way of gaining access and experience with top musicians. Some of the potential classes may include a clarinet studio class, a chamber music class, as well as a class dedicated to a full ensemble.

Look for Civitas’ performance on Feb. 27 in Duesenberg Recital Hall in the Valparaiso University Center of the Arts. The concert is free. Contact the box office at or 219-464-6950 for more information. Information on Civitas members was provided by Lauren Carrane, Civitas Marketing.

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