Chicago–Sitting on a dimly lit stage and facing a crowded auditorium, members from the Ensemble Dal Niente forcefully pluck away the strings, gently hit the keys, valiantly blow the woodwinds, and gently vocalize stories situated somewhere between the baritone and alto range as they embark on a journey through time and space.
This presentation marks the ensemble’s debut at The Latino Music Festival in a setting that had its fair share of emotional as well as eccentric moments through an act that journeyed through the classic as well as the contemporary in an attempt to spread awareness of the diverse background of Latino music.
Dal Niente’s performance at The Harold Washington Library’s Cindy Pritzker Auditorium on November 14th was both traditional and innovative in its delivery.
Along with some classical Spanish pieces such as the baroque “Con que la lavare”, the ensemble also performed more contemporary pieces such as “Apartamento Polsen Apartamento” Peterson by Mauricio Pauly, which had never been played in the United States before, and “Who Cares if She Cries I” by Jocy de Oliveira.
Austin Wulliman, Dal Niente violinist and program director said “ the programming (of the performance) is meant to represent a wide array of musical styles and diverse voices.”
“We hope the audience comes away with an appreciation for the wide array of musical styles and poignant voices of the composers highlighted for this festival,” Wulliman said.
Both of the modern pieces were chosen because of the composers’ Latino background and their significance in the contemporary art world.
“Apartamento Polsen Apartamento,” written by Mauricio Pauly (b. 1974), a Costa Rican composer based in the UK who is co-director and founder of the Distractfold Ensemble and the Altavoz Composers, is an avant-garde piece that features saxophone, cello, and piano.
The production, which runs approximately nine minutes, is spatially performed as the instruments are sporadically played, thus reflecting a wide spectrum of themes including passion, violence, and peace through bursts of distorted notes. The most interesting feature of “Apartamento Polsen Apartamento” is the constant and at times menacing presence of silence, as if it was being played just like any other ordinary instrument would.
It was originally debuted at the Premiered at the Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporáneo (Galician Centre for Contemporary Art) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain on November 2011 and was revised by Pauly himself for the Ensemble DalNiente performance at the Latino Music Festival.
“Who Cares if She Cries I,” written by Brazilian composer Jocy de Oliveira (b. 1936), whose work has been featured in prestigious musical festival such as the Berliner Festspiele in Germany and the International festival of Campos de Jordao in Brazil, is a simple yet haunting piece that features the cello and a soprano vocal performance.
This contemporary orchestra piece, which debuted in 2000 and was revised for smaller ensembles such as Dal Niente in 2003, plays out like an emotional rollercoaster by featuring haunting multi-scale string performance ranging from an ever present hum to an exalted jump in notes as the piece progresses.
The other half of the song comes in the shape of an unusual and daring vocal performance, which invocates the wide array of human emotions through spoken word, chirping, and aphonic chants. In this case the magnificent vocal performance was delivered by 2010 Mcknight Artist Fellow and baroque soprano Carry Henneman Shaw.
According to Wulliman, Henneman Shaw as chosen for this piece because “ she is a truly magical and versatile musician, with an incredibly flexible voice.”
“Her musical talents show in full with music ranging from early Spanish music (Carrie is a well-respected early music expert) to the newest of the new (music written for Dal Niente this year),” Wulliman said.
For the Ensemble Dal Niente the show has a special significance as it marks their first collaboration with The Chicago Latino Music Festival.
Founded in 2004 at Northwestern University by composer Kristen Broberg, the ensemble consists of young artists and international virtuosos. The ensemble is well known for “presenting the best of music being written today by established, emerging, and as-yet-undiscovered composers.”
Now an established institution, Ensemble Dal Niente will often hold residencies at different schools and universities.
The ensemble also includes in its ranks “faculty from DePaul University, conducting staff and members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, former participants in the Lucerne Festival and International Ensemble Modern Academies, and past fellows of the Aspen Music Festival’s Contemporary Ensemble.”
Dal Niente’s program for the show was chosen in conjunction with the festival organizers in an attempt to promote awareness of music from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, ranging from the baroque period to the modern composers in the 21st century.
The performance is meant to reach audience members like Carelia Drake, 62, who may come from more traditional music backgrounds but are looking to expand their musical horizons.
“I listen to all kinds of music because music is language,” Drake said. “I am here because I want to be versatile and learn, whether it’s Latino, Chinese , old, new,etc.”
Dal Niente violinist Austin Wulliman said that their participation in the festival is exciting because the festival, “is a very respected and (an) established part of the musical landscape in Chicago.”
Thanks to events like The Latino Music festival and their organizing institutions, Chicago has seen an increase in awareness of the influence of Latino music culminating in more pro-active performances including a recent performance by Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, 35, with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
This year’s acts mark the 8th edition of The Latino Music Festival.
The festival was created by Latino musicians and composers Elbio Rodriguez Barilari and Gustavo Leone in an attempt to bring Latino music to broader audiences in the city and beyond.
“The purpose of the festival is to create awareness,” Leone said. “We want to create awareness of different music that comes from a Hispanic heritage.”
Presented by the International Latino Cultural Center, the festival includes an impressive roster of internationally acclaimed artists while emphasizing local talent.
The festival is possible by generous grants and donations from the Joyce Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust, along with 18 different supporting institutions.
The festival runs from September 20th until December 15th, and includes 23 shows by 22 different artists, at 10 different venues all across the city including The Harold Washington Library and The University of Chicago and one theatre in Peoria.