As part of the Chicago World Music Festival, the Elmhurst College and Community Philharmonic Orchestra and Singers will perform the world premiere of a specially commissioned symphony on September 9 in Millennium Park.
Under the direction of Joanne May, assistant professor of music at Elmhurst College, the orchestra will perform the Bharath Symphony, which celebrates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence from Great Britain. Commissioned by the Indian government, the work was composed by Indian violinist Lakshminarayana Subramaniam, who also will perform as a soloist during the concert.
A champion of global music, Subramaniam was searching last year for an orchestra to premiere the Bharath Symphony in the United States. The president of the Kalapriya Foundation, a Chicago-based Indian arts organization, contacted Elmhurst College music professor Mark Harbold, a longtime scholar of Indian music who recently won a Fulbright-Nehru U.S. Scholar Award that will enable him to teach in Chennai, India, this fall.
Elmhurst College was a strong candidate because of its track record in world music—it has presented its own annual World Music Festival since 2011. May brought video clips of the philharmonic orchestra’s concerts to a meeting with Subramaniam at the Chicago Cultural Center, and a few weeks later the orchestra was invited to perform the piece.
Subramaniam’s composition opens as a traditional Western symphony, paced by interludes in which soloists transport the listener to ancient India.
“The music is like nothing ever heard before – ancient Indian folk music is layered over the sound of the traditional Western classical symphony and choir, sending the message that, whatever our cultural background, we can participate together in creating a common understanding through music,” May said.
The orchestra and choir will perform the symphony and two other works at Millennium Park, in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, on Saturday, September 9 beginning at 3:00 p.m.; admission is free. Subramaniam’s wife, acclaimed Bollywood singer Kavita Krishnamurthy, is the vocal soloist.
The concert is part of Chicago’s 19th annual World Music Festival, produced by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, with events scheduled from September 8-24.
“Our students and community members are very excited to have the opportunity to perform with Dr. Subramaniam and his wife, Kavita,” May said. “We are honored to meet and work with such humble and highly revered musicians.”
The Bharath Symphony also will be presented at the Elmhurst College World Music Festival on Saturday, October 28, in Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Subramaniam’s son Ambi will be the violin soloist. Tickets are $10 and will be available after September 9 at elmhurst.edu/worldmusic.