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Chicago Symphony Orchestra


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Who'd have imagined Bobby McFerrin as the Arthur Fiedler of our time, a pops maestro par excellence? Six years after his debut with the San Francisco Symphony at the ripe old age of 40, McFerrin has conducted some of the most prestigious old-line orchestras in the land and now sits in the "creative chair" at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (with whom he's recorded an upcoming CD of Mozart piano concerti featuring Chick Corea as soloist). But his latest metamorphosis shouldn't come as a surprise considering his versatile career. Early on he toured with the Ice Follies as a pianist, then became a scat singer in 1977. His debut album as an a cappella soloist, The Voice (1984), turned him into a phenom skilled at captivating audiences with humble virtuosity and sonic purity. Shrewd collaborations with other celebrities resulted in best-selling (and Grammy nominated) CDs, enhancing McFerrin's crossover appeal. So far as a pops conductor McFerrin is a mixed bag: he's not a precise beater, yet there's no doubt that he can impart the excitement of classics lite to an appreciative crowd. In his previous outing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra he put the audience in the mood with an engaging, tuneful program. This time he's come up with a medley of selections by Bernstein, Gershwin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mendelssohn, and Vivaldi. A highlight could be his crooning to the graceful minuet from Boccherini's Quintet no. 1--an unprecedented stunt, to be sure. Of course, much of the potboiler music could be played by CSO members in their sleep. But the spectacle of the gentle, dreadlocked McFerrin at work should keep everyone awake. His next major venture, by the way, is an opera with a libretto by Ishmael Reed. Friday, 8 PM, Skyline Stage, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand; 595-7437. Saturday, 8 PM, Paramount Arts Center, 23 E. Galena, Aurora; 708-896-6666. TED SHEN

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