Fifth House Ensemble coming soon at MCA Chicago

MCA logoChicago’s flourishing contemporary music scene is not simply growing and expanding in its impact on Chicago culture. It is also fertile ground for development of fundamentally new concepts. One such example is Fifth House Ensemble, which has carved out a unique niche with its season-long multi-episode narrative chamber music projects. The fourth of these projects, CAUGHT, debuted its first episode in November 2012. The next episode, Caught: The Wide Open, will be presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago on Saturday, March 9, 2013. The program features premieres of major new works commissioned by Fifth House from John Zorn and Caleb Burhans.

Fifth House Ensemble's "Real" String Quartet performs in Caught: The Woods (photo credit: Fifth House Ensemble)

Fifth House Ensemble’s “Real” String Quartet performs in Caught: The Woods (photo credit: Fifth House Ensemble)

We attended Caught: The Woods, on November 11, 2012, at the Chicago Cultural Center. The multi-media performance included silent acting, shadow puppetry, video projections, and dancing. Fifth House has crafted these works in collaboration with writers, actors, stage directors, graphic artists, and choreographers. The Caught project has added a new element, community input for the stories. Fifth House conducted workshops in schools and community centers and invited the public to submit stories online (disclaimer: Larry and Arlene both submitted stories). The musical  highlight of Caught: The Woods was composer Jason Charney Ocean Body, commissioned for and performed by Fifth House’s unique “Real” String Quartet, consisting of Andre Williams (violin), Clark Carruth (viola), Herine Koschak (cello), and Eric Snoza (bass).

With Caught: The Wide Open, Fifth House is making its debut appearance in the Eddlis Neeson Theater at MCA Chicago, a frequent venue for some of the city’s most adventurous contemporary music concerts by the likes of eighth blackbird and International Contemporary Ensemble. The ensemble could not pick more fitting repertoire for its MCA debut.

Fifth House Ensemble rehearsing John Zorn's The Temptations of St. Anthony (photo credit: Fifth House Ensemble)

Fifth House Ensemble rehearsing John Zorn’s The Temptations of St. Anthony (photo credit: Fifth House Ensemble)

Zorn’s new piece, The Temptations of St. Anthony, is a thirteen-episode tapestry that calls upon the virtuosic skills of all ten Fifth House Ensemble members. The music traces the ascetic monk’s wild supernatural temptations he faced during a sojourn in the desert, weaving together his visions, dreams, and nightmares.

Excelsior, Burhans’ new composition, relates the harrowing tale of U.S. Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger’s world-record setting free-fall sky dive from more than 19 miles high, in 1960. In playing the work, members of the ensemble will be augmented by Burhans’ violin/guitar duo itsnotyouitsme with guitarist/vocalist Grey McMurray, and the splendid soprano Martha Cluver.

The two premieres will be complemented by Dimitri Shostakovich’s modernist gem, String Quartet No. 9 in E flat Major (1964), played by Fifth House’s Real String Quartet.

Fifth House Ensemble — Caught: The Wide Open

Saturday, March 9, 2013, at 7:30 PM

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Arlene and Larry Dunn are pure amateurs of contemporary music. Visit their blog at Acornometrics and follow them on Twitter: @ICEfansArleneLD.