On May 26, 2019, the Chicago Philharmonic (CP) conducted by Scott Speck combined with the athletes of Cirque de la Symphonie to present a wildly entertaining program of film scores and circus acrobats at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, Chicago. The event opened with the presentation by Perry Fisher of 2 awards from the Illinois Council of Orchestras, the first for “Programming of the Year” for the 2017-2018 season Glorious Earth, and the second for “Community Relations of the Year”, for CP’s ceaseless partnership and outreach programs in that calendar year.
The concert event itself was a breathtaking display of awe-inspiring cirque acts onstage with the virtuoso CP musicians performing classic movie music from Superman, Star Wars, Chicago, Harry Potter, and more, largely the work of superstar American composer John Williams, 87. Maestro Scott Speck was- as always- a sight to behold, his infectious enthusiasm abounding at the helm. Watching him wielding the baton, trial lawyer Mary Sweeney spontaneously cried out, “You can actually see the music coursing through his body!” The Orchestra was at the top of its game, brasses clear, strings crisp, woodwinds resonant, all in sync.
Cirque de la Symphonie’s cast of Olympians and world record-holders includes seven-time consecutive acrobatic gymnastics National Champion and Olympic athlete Christine Van Loo; hula hoop expert/third-generation circus whiz Alina Sergeeva; hilarious mime and juggler Vladimir Tsarkov; amazing gymnast/aerialist Vitalii Buza; and strength/ balancing titans Vitaly Pridhodko and Pavel Korshunov.
Antonín Dvorák Interlude Carnival Overture; John Williams Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Harry’s Wondrous World; John Williams The Witches of Eastwick Devil’s Dance; Carlos Gardel arr. Robert Wendel Scent of a Woman Por una cabeza (Tango); Whiting/Berlin/Schwartz arr. John Williams Hooray for Hollywood (medley); John Barry Out of Africa (medley); John Williams Superman Superman March; John Williams The Cowboys Overture; John Kander Chicago (selections); John Williams Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope The Throne Room End Title Medley; John Williams Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones Across the Stars; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Tsar Salton Flight of the Bumblebee; Hans Zimmer / arr. John Wasson Gladiator (main theme).
The musical selections were perfectly curated to enhance and set off the cirque company of 6 Russian performers, who repeatedly delighted and astounded the sold-out crowd with aerialist feats, clever mime coupled with swift, deft juggling, strongmen, and complex multiple hula hoop twirling. The pieces, composed as anthems to bravery and feats of daring, formed a triumphant backdrop to the display of exceptional human skill exhibited physically by the performers, both in front of and in the orchestra. The deep, wide stage of the Harris and its sublime acoustics framed the talent on the stage. As the juggler cleverly pantomimed, as the aerialists climbed and flew with unimagined grace, as the strongmen balanced on the edges of their selves, the CP sent wave after wave of gorgeous melodies into the enthralled audience, who responded with cheers and standing ovations.
This concert brings to a close CP’s extraordinary 2018-2019 concert season, Heroes and Legends, which began with the impressive Celebrate Polonia festival. However, the summer will be packed with free events for all to enjoy. For information and tickets to all the great programming out in the parks and elsewhere, and to get a jump on next season’s concerts, go to www.chicagophilharmonic.org
All photos by Elliot Mandel