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Lyric’s Renée Fleming joined Yo-Yo Ma for surprise concert in Chicago today

CHICAGO, MARCH 19 – Hundreds of lunchtime diners in downtown Chicago were treated to a surprise performance today by soprano Renée Fleming, creative consultant to Lyric Opera of Chicago, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, creative consultant to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In a joyful celebration of the value of the arts in our daily lives, Fleming and Ma collaborated with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a Lyric Opera of Chicago pianist, and 100 high-school chorus members from Chicago-area schools with prominent arts education programs. As both star artists were in the city at the same time for their ongoing work with Chicago’s two world-class cultural institutions, they seized the opportunity for this impromptu collaboration.
The surprise concert took place on the lower level of the James R. Thompson Center (formerly the State of Illinois Center). High-school singers under the direction of Lake View High School music teacher Catherine Mascari began with a call-and-response South African folksong, “Tshotsholoza,” that drew the students from around the food court to the center of the rotunda.
Then Fleming, Ma, and Lyric pianist Matthew Piatt walked in, to perform Rachmaninoff’s beautiful “Vocalise.” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn introduced and thanked the assembled artists, and invited all present to sing along for the grand finale, an arrangement of “America the Beautiful” by Cliff Colnot. Governor Quinn also joined in the singing as Fleming led the finale. CSO musicians Jennifer Gunn (flute), Xiomara Mass (oboe), J. Lawrie Bloom (clarinet), William Buchman (bassoon), Susanna Gaunt (horn), and David Griffin (horn) joined in for the participatory selection of the surprise performance.
Earlier in the day, Fleming and Ma visited Lake View High School, a Chicago public school known for its excellence in arts education. They visited three classrooms and participated in a school-wide assembly led by Damian Woetzel, director of the Aspen Institute’s Arts Program and former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. Choral students from Merit School of Music and Chicago High School for the Arts also attended the assembly, performed with choral students from Lake View High School, and participated in the surprise lunchtime concert at the Thompson Center.
These events are part of ongoing initiatives by both Lyric and the Chicago Symphony. The goals of Lyric’s Renée Fleming Initiative, announced in December 2010, include collaborating with other Chicago arts institutions to champion the city as a center of culture, as well as increasing opera audiences and awareness of the art form through new educational partnerships, innovative marketing, and expanded programming (
The Chicago Symphony’s Citizen Musician initiative, launched in January 2011 by the Institute for Learning, Access and Training at the CSO, calls on all musicians (professional, young, and amateur), music lovers, music teachers, and music institutions to use the art form to bridge gulfs between people, to create community, and to inspire and transform lives (
About Lyric Opera of Chicago
Founded in 1954, Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the world’s great opera companies, renowned internationally for its artistic excellence and financial strength. In October 2011 Lyric entered a new era of leadership under incoming general director Anthony Freud. The company’s artistic team also includes music director Sir Andrew Davis and creative consultant Renée Fleming.
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For information, images and footage relating to today’s events, please contact:
Alexandra Day: [email protected]; (312) 827-5939
Magda Krance: [email protected]; (312) 827-5924; (312) 206-5342
Jack Zimmerman: [email protected]; (312) 827-5925; (312) 498-2945
Maggie Berndt: [email protected]; ph: 312-294-3092; day of: 773-802-1014
Erin Dennis: [email protected]; ph: 312-294-3089
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