Cube | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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CUBE

Among the elder statesmen of the local classical scene, William Ferris--who died Tuesday night of a heart attack--was probably the most conservative. He worked almost exclusively with churches, and as director of the William Ferris Chorale, based at Our Lady of Mount Carmel since the mid-80s, he championed works by traditionalist 20th-century composers like Walton, Poulenc, and Ned Rorem. As an organist, he preferred the frank grandiloquence of Charles-Marie Widor and his disciples to the radiant otherworldliness of Messiaen. And as a composer, he was at his finest crafting dialogues between instruments or revitalizing the bland Anglican hymn tradition; his 1980 choral piece Snowcarols was nominated for a Pulitzer. One of Ferris's last compositions was a commission from the chamber ensemble CUBE--which worships Pierre Boulez and has over the years held up modernist iconoclasts like Elliott Carter, Ralph Shapey, and Stefan Wolpe, but also likes to support talented locals of any stripe. At these two concerts it will premiere the Ferris piece, Eden Garden, a musical interpretation of the biblical creation story for baritone voice, cello, piano, percussion, and winds. The vocal part draws on Renaissance liturgical chants, and the music sometimes imitates the sounds of animals. On the first night, CUBE has also programmed Kindred Spirits, a piece for guitar, mandolin, and harp by Northwestern professor M. William Karlins; though his music flirts with serialism, he says this particular number was inspired by Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing." Rounding out the bill are Chicagoan Robert Lombardo's vocal miniature Affreschi Caldi and Craig First's Contrapuntal Variations. On the second night, Eden Garden and Contrapuntal Variations are paired with Joan Tower's Wings, for solo clarinet, and Just After the Rain, a recent work by CUBE oboist Patricia Morehead for clarinet, cello, and mandolin. CUBE pianist Philip Morehead conducts both programs; members of the ensemble will be joined by mandolin virtuoso Dimitris Marinos, guitarist Paul Bowman, and others. Monday, 7 PM, Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E. Ontario, and Thursday, 7:30 PM, First Congregational Church of La Grange, 100 S. 6th Ave., La Grange; 312-554-1133. TED SHEN

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