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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

42nd Parallel Orchestra

42nd Parallel Orchestra at Unity Lutheran Church, Chicago

We had the pleasure of attending a concert of the new chamber orchestra, the 42nd Parallel, this past Saturday. This was only the second concert of this group, based in Chicago. They are a conductorless orchestra. We found out about the ensemble because our daughter was playing horn in this concert. The members are all young musicians, many of whom are members or former members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Civic members have been able to work with Yo-Yo Ma the last few years, and one of his techniques with the orchestra is to have rehearsal without a conductor. This sets the musicians up to listen more to each other and to discuss musical issues. We were told by a member of the 42nd Parallel that this was the impetus for starting a conductorless orchestra.

We really enjoyed the concert, which included the Overture to the Magic Flute, Haydn "Bear" Symphony, and Prokofiev's Classical Symphony. The theme of the program was classicism. The playing was energetic and enthusiastic. The players are very good and the group had an audience-friendly format with several members talking about the pieces. Unfortunately, sitting in the balcony we couldn't hear these introductions very well, but the downstairs audience was appreciative.

These musicians deserve credit for creating their own opportunities for music-making. As established orchestras continue to struggle to keep and grow audiences, and orchestra jobs are so difficult to find, new groups like the 42nd Parallel may be part of the future of classical music - musician-run and audience friendly, but still playing the great composers and pieces of our cultural history. I look forward to seeing what this orchestra does in future concerts.

If you are interested in learning more about the 42nd Parallel, the best place seems to be their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/42ndParallelOrchestra?ref=br_tf

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