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University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra Warns Disobedient Children to Beware

Witches from Slavic and Russian folklore convene in Mandel Hall for this year’s USO Halloween concert.

Chicago, IL, October 24, 2010 --( The University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Hyde Park School of Dance are proud to present their 7th annual Halloween Concert collaboration, “Witches of Yore” conducted by Barbara Schubert. This year’s performance will feature works of Dvořák, Liadov, Mussorgsky, and Humperdinck to relay tales of Slavic and Russian folklore witches, along with works by Berlioz and Verdi that portray other famous Halloween hags. Two performances will be presented on Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 7 PM and 9 PM in Mandel Hall.

Hyde Park School of Dance’s new Executive Director Mariam Thiam is thrilled to continue this annual collaboration with the University Symphony. “Not every young aspiring dancer gets the opportunity to dance with a live symphony orchestra.” Unlike the ensemble’s annual ‘Nutcracker’ performance, this Halloween showcase gives the young dancers a chance to contribute their own creative ideas and improvised movements to the performance. The collaboration also provides an opportunity for the Hyde Park School of Dance to reach a larger audience consisting of members of the Hyde Park as well as the University of Chicago community. “The performers are looking forward to really having fun and literally letting their hair down.” The evening’s dancers are part of the Hyde Park School of Dance and are also members of the youth ensemble Tyego Next Generation.

HPSD will highlight the evening’s witchy motivation: the infamous Baba-Yaga, as portrayed in works by Liadov and Mussorgsky, who flies around in a mortar using a silver broom for guidance. This Slavic witch lives in a windowless hut, found deep in the forest, which stands on large chicken legs that can move around or even dance. The dancers will perform to Liadov’s brief tone poem, ‘Baba Yaga,’ which is considered one of the composer’s most successful works for its scintillating orchestral tone color. Baba-Yaga’s Hut also appears prominently in Mussorgsky’s well-known masterpiece, ‘Pictures at an Exhibition,’ composed in 1874 as a ten-movement suite for piano and later orchestrated by a variety of composers. Inspired by paintings by the contemporary artist Viktor Hartmann, Mussorgsky's music depicts the witch in her mortar as she flies into a forest, followed by her hut on the ground. The music is both menacing and suggestive.

“The Noonday Witch,” a symphonic poem composed in 1896 by Dvořák, was inspired by Karel Erben’s literary poem “The Noon Witch,” or “Polednice,” from the collection ‘Kytice.’ The Noon Witch herself is based on the demon ‘Lady Midday’ of Slavic mythology. Erben’s poem tells the horrific tale of a terribly unfortunate child who misbehaves. Ignoring his mother’s warning that his actions will result in the Noon Witch’s arrival, the child continues to act up. Then at the stroke of noon, the Witch arrives to demand the child. This late tone poem is considered one of Dvorak’s finest creations: he needed only three days to sketch the work and another two weeks to orchestrate it.

The “Munching Witch” from Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel” may seem less frightening than the Slavic witches, but she is nonetheless hungry. Humperdinck’s opera was adapted from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s version of the fairy tale, which was itself derived from German folklore. The well-known story tells of a brother and sister who are sent outside to gather berries (after spilling the milk that was supposed to furnish supper); the duo wanders into the woods, leaving a trail of bread crumbs behind, and then find a house made of candy and cake which they begin to eat. There’s just one problem: a child-eating witch inhabits the delicious house. Considered “a masterpiece of the first rank” by Richard Strauss, Humperdinck’s charming opera began as a set of songs composed for his younger sister, and later was expanded into a full-fledged opera in 1893. Influenced by Wagner, Humperdinck’s creation incorporates folk-like melodies and vivid orchestration to reflect the juxtaposition between innocent children and the gruesome witch.

Other musical selections in the concert include the final movement of Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique,” entitled “Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath,” and the ballet music from Act III of Verdi’s Macbeth. Overall, the three witches portrayed in the program are characters who essentially teach children a lesson on how to behave, whether that means appropriate behavior throughout the day or behavior of character, as a good, earthly person. Therefore, all well-behaved children should come in their costumes to the evening’s performance. They may even be rewarded.

Admission for “Witches of Yore” is collected at the door ($8 adults/$4 students and children). Children under 12 years must be accompanied by an adult. Audiences are encouraged to come in costume.

Quick Facts
“Witches of Yore”
University Symphony Orchestra Annual Halloween Concert
Barbara Schubert, conductor

Joined by the Hyde Park School of Dance

Saturday, October 30, 2010
7:00 and 9:00 PM

Mandel Hall
on The University of Chicago campus
1131 E. 57th Street

Music of Berlioz, Dvorak, Humperdinck, Liadov, Mussorgsky, and Verdi

Donations accepted at the door; $8 adults/$4 students and children under 12.

Photographs and extended conductor biographies are available upon request.

Event Hotline: 773.702.8069

Contact Information
University of Chicago Department of Music
Rashida N. Black

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