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A Maestro's Farewell Season

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The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra has been in town as long as the Indianapolis Colts and gone a long way since it debuted in 1984 as the Musicians of the Cloister at Trinity Episcopal Church.

The 34-member chamber orchestra, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in November, has performed pieces that span four centuries, scored silent films and commissioned new work to add to the body of classical music. The ICO has showcased contemporary compositions and shared the stage with internationally renowned concert artists, as well as up-and-coming soloists.

Craig Gigax says Indianapolis is a small market with a major symphony orchestra, which is a tribute to the management and the quality of the musicians and programming. - COURTESY OF INDIANAPOLIS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
  • Courtesy of Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra
  • Craig Gigax says Indianapolis is a small market with a major symphony orchestra, which is a tribute to the management and the quality of the musicians and programming.

"We've been maturing as an organization that has enriched the arts scene in Indianapolis for 30 seasons," says Elaine Eckhart, who's been executive director for nine years. "There's a real statement in that. It says that we're here to stay, and that we're established. We appreciate the community support that made it possible."

Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow Sean Chen opens the ICO's 30th season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the 450-seat Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University, which the orchestra adopted as its home base last year. The seven-concert season kicks off with Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto, Copeland's Music for Movies, Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony No. 4 and the world premiere of the first excerpt of Composer-in-Residence James Aikman's Peacemakers.

"First of all, the 30th anniversary is a big milestone," says Craig Gigax, who's been a board member for 11 years. "It's a small market with a major symphony orchestra, and to have persevered and prospered in this market is a tribute to the management, the quality of the musicians and the programming."

Maestro Kirk Trevor has shaped the ICO's programming for most of its existence. He has guided the ICO as Music Director and Principal Conductor for 27 years, but he's retiring at the end of the season, after which he'll take on a more limited role as conductor emeritus.

"Maestro Trevor has brought us terrific music and been a terrific interpreter of musical scores," Gigax says. "He's recorded extensively with many orchestras from around the world. Indianapolis already has one of the few full-time symphonies in the United States, and he's helped us remain artistically relevant and visible in this marketplace."

Trevor has been a strong, dedicated leader who leaves a legacy of varied, exciting programming, Eckhart said. His knowledge of the repertoire enabled him to pack a wide variety of music from the Baroque period to the present day in seasons that typically have six to eight concerts.

A new music director will take the helm next year, and concert-goers can get a sneak peek of who that will be during the 2014-2015 season. A search committee sorted through 157 applications, listening to CDs, watching YouTube clips and perusing curricula vitae to whittle it down to three finalists, who will all program and conduct a concert this season.

The ICO will play a mix of pop and masterworks, with six masterworks scheduled, including the popular Handel's Messiah.
  • The ICO will play a mix of pop and masterworks, with six masterworks scheduled, including the popular Handel's Messiah.

Nashville Symphony Conductor Kelly Corcoran will conduct the ICO's season-opening concert Friday. Next up, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra Conductor MischaSantora will serve as conductor of the Nov. 22 show that includes a performance of Mozart's Paris Symphony No. 31, and then Matthew Kraemer, the music director of the Butler County Symphony and the Erie Chamber Orchestra, both in Pennsylvania, will conduct a Jan. 30 concert that features Stravinsky's Danses Concertantesand Ravel's Mother Goose Suite.

"What we're looking for is someone who will engage the community," Eckhart explains. "There are very technical things we require musically, and in conducting style and ability and time management and rehearsals. But what we're looking for is the person who will set the tone for the next few decades and carry us out into the community. We're looking for someone to lead, to be creative, and to keep classical music relevant in today's world and for today's audiences."

Concert-goers have a lot to look forward to in the 2014-2015 ICO season, even beyond the inherent drama in the new music director auditions, the passing of the baton, and a long-time maestro's farewell finale, according to Elkhart.

The ICO will play a mix of pop and masterworks, with six masterworks scheduled, including the popular Handel's Messiah on Dec. 13 and 14. Excerpts of Peacemakers, an ambitious multimedia piece that celebrates historically influential figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, will debut during the concerts with guest conductors.

The chamber orchestra will score the 1924 film version of Peter Pan at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on Feb. 20 and conclude the season with Mendelssohn's Midsummer's Night Dream on May 16.

"We have got a stellar lineup of young artists," Eckhart says. "There are young artistic talents and rising stars in the piano world."

Fortunately, the ICO will bring them to the stage here for the Circle City to see.

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