Abels: Spectacular with a Jazzy Grooviness!

Harlem Quartet, courtesy: Chicago Sinfonietta

Did you know that Chicago is the place to be on June 16th? If not, and you’re in town then, you’re in luck—the Chicago Sinfonietta will perform Michael Abels’ Delights and Dances, joined by the acclaimed Harlem Quartet. Abels will be in residence as music director Mei-Ann Chen leads the performance at the Wentz Concert Hall, followed by the season finale on the 18th at the Symphony Center.

“It’s a great piece,” shares Ilmar Gavilan, first violin in the Harlem Quartet. “It’s very suitable for the Harlem Quartet. It has a jazzy grooviness to it which I’ve never seen for this instrumentation. It strikes a good balance between a quartet-sonority and each individual instrumental soloist’s qualities. We each get to play our own written out solo and it ends triumphal in a spectacular exchange between quartet and orchestra.”

Chicago Sinfonietta music director Mei-Ann Chen, courtesy: Chicago Sinfonietta

Delights and Dances was commissioned by the Sphinx Organization for the 10th anniversary of its Sphinx Competition, and to celebrate the organization’s dedicated mission to promote the works of Black and Latino composers. Abels, himself a Sphinx composer, originally scored Delights and Dances for full orchestra which accompanied a varied group of string soloists—all

previous Sphinx winners. The composer later revised the three-movement piece (played as a single movement) for string orchestra and for four Sphinx laureates who now perform as the Harlem Quartet, which premiered the revised version in 2007 as part of the Sphinx Laureates Concert at Carnegie Hall.

Delights and Dances reflects the composer’s own experiences as an African American growing up in Phoenix, AZ, and later studying at the University ofSouthern California inLos Angeles. The work culls the unique American musical traditions of jazz, blues, bluegrass and Latin dance idioms. After the season finale, the Harlem Quartet and Chicago Sinfonietta will record the work for future release on Cedille Records.

“The title—Delights and Dances—comes directly from the feeling one gets from watching and listening to talented young performers in a competition like the Sphinx—we ‘delight’ in their ability to move our emotions, to exceed our expectations, to surpass their personal bests. As for the ‘dances,’ just listen!”  — Michael Abels