Best New Vocal-Oriented Contemporary Classical Ensemble

Fonema Consort

Critics' Picks

Forward-looking new-music ensembles dedicated to the work of living composers, especially young ones, seem to be proliferating unstoppably in Chicago these days. The likes of Ensemble dal Niente, Fifth House Ensemble, and Eighth Blackbird regularly perform pieces written for vocalists, but Fonema Consort has distinguished itself by focusing on vocal music. Costa Rican composer Pablo Santiago Chin and singer Nina Dante founded the group with composer Edward Hamel in 2011, and it's already become an important creative force in the city. All six works on Fonema's dazzling new album, Pasos en Otra Calle (New Focus), are by Chin or fellow Costa Rican Mauricio Pauly (now based in London), but the group's enthusiastic embrace of daring new music extends well beyond its founders and their associates: it's also performed music by Chicago-based composers such as Marcos Balter, Morgan Krauss, and Daniel Dehaan as well as rigorous pieces from the likes of Ferneyhough, Aperghis, and Webern. Fonema doesn't always feature voices, but Dante and French expat Nathalie Colas, the group's two imaginative singers, ensure that the pieces that do are highlights of its lively and varied concerts.


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