The Civitas Ensemble and the Gipsy Way Ensemble do not have any form of vocal communication, but they can communicate through their music.
Civitas, a Chicago-based classical group in which a teacher from the Northwest performs, will create an album and documentary with the Gipsy Way, a folk music group from the Czech Republic.
Civitas will perform with the Gipsy Way Ensemble on May 21 at the Merit School of Music. The two groups performed together for the first time in January at the Czech Touches of Music International Music Festival in Prague. Civitas received a scholarship from the MacArthur Foundation to perform with the Gipsy Way in Chicago.
“We wanted to do something together, but we also wanted to have a meaningful project together, so it seems to have musical and cultural significance,” Civitas violinist Yuan-Qing Yu said. “It was a great opportunity for us to doing a cultural exchange was very appropriate. “
The collaboration was born out of a friendship between Yu and Gipsy Way violinist Pavel Šporcl. Yu says she hopes this performance can help challenge stereotypes about Gypsy culture and show that Gypsy musicians take their work as seriously as any other artist. After the concert there will be a reception where local Chicago gypsy groups will perform.
“I hope that from this project they don’t think at all (of the stigma associated with gypsy music),” Yu said. “We celebrate people and we celebrate their music, so nothing else only positive things will be seen and remembered from this project. “
Bienen Prof. Civitas clarinetist J. Lawrie Bloom said it was initially difficult to work with the Gipsy Way Ensemble due to the language barrier. However, bands were finally able to communicate through their music.
“It was very interesting,” Bloom said. “Of course, you have to adapt to learn how other people move. Good musicians on both sides can listen to each other and make adjustments to try to accommodate. It was interesting without common language with several of them seeing how you can communicate without words.
The album they are creating together will contain Romani-inspired music that they will perform live during the concert.
Winston Choi, Civitas pianist and Northwestern alumnus, said it was a rewarding experience to combine the classical style of Civitas with the Romani style music of Gipsy Way. Many composers have gypsy and folk influences in their works, he said.
“There are a lot of things that are similar between our musical languages, so it’s been exciting working with musicians of a different type of convention and highlighting our differences,” said Choi. “They have a different way of learning music, which opened our eyes and also a lot of fun for us to work with.”
Choi said that after this experience, the Civitas group wants to make more international connections with different styles of music, and working with the Czech group has changed their way of thinking.
“This is a chance to broaden the horizons of all of our audience,” Choi said. “It will be a pleasure for people to hear these amazing musicians and see our interactions with them.”
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