Season Finale

Musicians of the Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra

Jeremy Black, violin*Concertmaster

Ying Chai, violin

Terri Van Valkinburgh, viola

Walter Haman, cello


GPMF Project Inclusion String Fellows

Allison Lovera and Audrey Lee, violins

Edwardo Rios, viola

Cole Randolph, cello

August 17, 2021

Rush Hour Concerts

Robbie Ellis, pre-concert talk host


Bruce A. Russell – Linea Nigra (9′)

Felix Mendelssohn – String Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 (33′)

I. Allegro moderato con fuoco

II. Andante

III. Scherzo. Allegro leggerissimo

IV. Presto

Jeremy Black, violin

  • Concertmaster of the Grant Park Orchestra since 2005
  • Principal Second Violin of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since 2017 after performing in the section of the First Violins for 15 years
  • Has performed as a guest Concertmaster with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and Buffalo Philharmonic


Ying Chai, violin

  • Received degrees from The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music
  • Currently, she teaches at Merit School of Music and plays with the Grant Park Music Festival, Ars Viva and Chicago Philharmonic. She frequently plays with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicago


Terri Van Valkinburgh, viola

  • Assistant Principal Viola with the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra and Principal Viola with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra
  • She attended the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Juilliard School


Walter Haman, cello

  • Principal Cellist with the Grant Park Orchestra since 2008 and a member of the cello section of the Utah Symphony since 2003
  • A native of Fresno, California, has played with the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, is a former member of the Honolulu Symphony, and has been a guest cellist for Pink Martini

Allison Lovera, violin

  • Originally from Venezuela and moved to Chicago to attend Roosevelt University, was recently appointed to a one-year violin position with the Minnesota Orchestra 
  • In addition to being a 2021 GPMF Project Inclusion String Fellow, she is a member of Sphinx Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago and more


    Audrey Lee, violin

    • Audrey is a violinist in the Austin Opera, first violinist of the Kahlo String Quartet and an adjunct faculty member at Southeastern Oklahoma State University
    • In addition to being a 2021 GPMF Project Inclusion String Fellow, Audrey has performed at many international music festivals including Aspen Music Festival and School, National Repertory Orchestra, Castleton Festival, and more


    Edwardo Rios, viola

    • A Texas native, he began the viola at age 11 and was self-taught until the age of 17
    • In addition to being a 2021 GPMF Project Inclusion String Fellow, he studied at University of North Texas under Susan Dubois and was the winner of the UNT Concerto Competition

    Cole Randolph, Cello

    • Recently graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison where he studied both mathematics and cello performance, studying with Uri Vardi
    • In addition to being a 2021 GPMF Project Inclusion String Fellow, during the year he will be serving his second year as an African-American Fellow with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

    Bruce A. Russell (b. 1968)

    Linea Nigra (2015) (9′) 

    Bruce A. Russell aka Ibrahim El Mahboob (he/him) is a composer and self-taught pianist living and working in Toronto (Tkarón:to, the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat). He studied at York University with James Tenney and Phillip Werren.

    His early years were spent playing in bands and releasing DIY cassettes of music that is adjacent to pop and classical or of an experimental nature, as well as composing predominantly electronic scores for dance, theatre and interdisciplinary productions. Frustrated by systemic racism, personal struggles and a lack of interest in his work, he stopped seeking a career in music. He continued composing in private, sometimes sharing his work through social media. 

    Since then, he has composed music for Gryphon Trio and the Madawaska String Quartet. Interest in his work increased in 2020, with performances by Second Note Duo, Prism Percussion, San Juan Symphony and Idaho Falls Symphony. Arraymusic presented the first full concert of his music in November 2020. He was host of Radio Music Gallery, and has written for Musicworks and I Care if You Listen. His interests are in 20th and 21st century concert music especially postminimalism, and music of the African diaspora including notated and non-notated forms. He has three children and is employed in financial services.

    Linea Nigra (2015) began as an orchestration of my piano piece Canon Chorale (2005). It is scored for string octet, in this case the same configuration as a double string quartet. Most of the structure and content of the earlier work are retained as a kind of continuo, to which newly devised material adds range and contrapuntal detail.

    The general technique is a variation of first species counterpoint. A set of short melodies in each of the modes of C major are heard in two- to six-voice, note-on-note canons at the unison and octave, creating a sequence of block chords, or a chorale. The resulting harmonic progressions may have a cloud-like feel to them especially as melodic lengths and part density increase, and chord roots become ambiguous. Towards the end, faster melodic lines develop out of a recurring triplet pattern.

    The title of the piece reflects my own quest for my biological and cultural roots. Linea nigra (“black line”) thus references the vertical line that appears on a woman’s belly in some pregnancies, while it also suggests Black lineage and survival. It could also stand in the sense of a melodic line, printed or otherwise.

    Notes by Bruce A. Russell


    Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

    String Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 (1825) (33′) 

    What were you doing when you were 16 years-old? Procrastinating doing your homework? Having those quintessential high school experiences? Well at just 16 years-old Felix Mendelssohn was busy finishing his monumental String Octet in E-flat Major. In addition to being an extraordinary child prodigy-composer, he was said to be an absolutely complete musician and person, well beyond his years.

    This instrumentation, while common now, was anything but in 1825. Few composers had written for similar instrumentations, but never treating all members equally and as a unit as he did. This was such a new endeavour that Mendelssohn felt obligated to include the following in the score: 

    “This Octet must be played by all the instruments in symphonic orchestral style. Pianos [softs] and fortes [louds] must be strictly observed and more strongly emphasized than is usual in pieces of this character.”

    The first two movements are filled with virtuosic violin writing, foreshadowing the writing of his upcoming Violin Concertos. The opening Allegro moderato con fuoco is full of ferocious youthful energy while the second movement is the opposite, being much more relaxed and emotionally felt. It’s hard to not hear the similarities between the Octet’s Scherzo and the Scherzo from his Midsummer Night’s Dream, both light and whimsical in nature and character. The final Presto movement, revisits the material from the Scherzo briefly but the movement on a whole is a giant fugue, a process in which themes are introduced by each instrument one at a time until they combine. This is a form that Bach and many others spent a lifetime perfecting and championing, while Mendelssohn mastered this wickedly complex technique at just 16 years-old also infusing grace, brilliance and humor. 

     Notes by Ashley Ertz

    The Clare is the exclusive media sponsor for Rush Hour Concerts.

    The Rush Hour Concerts series is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Rush Hour Concerts are produced in partnership with St. James Cathedral and WFMT.

    Thank you for joining us this summer!

    Watch our website to stay up-to-date on all of our music series and events. We can’t wait for you to join us again next year. Stay safe and healthy!

    – International Music Foundation 

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