Our 2018/19 season launched with the world premiere of Tonia Ko’s Plain, Air, commissioned by Chamber Music America and presented in partnership with Chicago conservation organization Openlands…and it was easily one of the most enlivening events we’ve ever attempted.
Rather than simply being inspired musically by the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, Tonia literally made this landscape the stage. The performance took place outdoors, of course (and we couldn’t have been luckier with the weather), but the most unique aspect of this hyper-local piece is the 10-minute nature walk that launches it. Clara, Maeve, and Doyle formed the center of the cluster of hikers, performing from memory and interacting musically with the sixteen speakers chirping out Tonia’s field-recording-inspired sounds before meeting up with Russ at the open-air performance space to conclude the work.
Music, whether familiar or unfamiliar, takes on an entirely different hue when experienced in a context such as this, and we are still buzzing from the unbridled enthusiasm of our audience that day. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will not soon forget, and we are grateful to Tonia Ko for writing such a mesmeric piece, to Openlands president and CEO Jerry Adelmann for making this crazy idea possible (and the wonderful Openlands staff - particularly Jess Smasal), and to Chamber Music America, for supporting the creation of this brilliant new piece.
And thanks to our friend, photographer Daniel Kullman, who took these lustrous photos. Please check out his exceptional (and Emmy-award-winning) work here.