Wheaton College Artist Series inspires audiences with amazing live events

Wheaton College Artist Series presented The Four Seasons of Vivaldi

The Wheaton College Artist Series is the oldest performing arts presenter in DuPage County. The reason it’s been around for so long is because Wheaton College’s Artist Series presents inspiring live events that continue to draw in audiences by featuring top-notch artists.

The Wheaton College Artist Series returned last fall. The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi was performed on Saturday January 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Edman Chapel in Wheaton.

This breathtakingly spacious chapel was perhaps three quarters full of people, proving once again that we are all hungry for live music events. In other words, we want to live fully, and attending classical music events is one of the elements of a full and happy life.

As the Artist Series newsletter said of its 2021-2022 concert season, “It will be a year of unusually bounty, as the Wheaton College Artist Series will be joined by many other programs from campus celebrating the Year of the Arts, Faith and Imagination.” The Four Seasons concert program has become one of the greatest examples of celebrating the arts, faith and imagination, and I I would have missed that night a lot if I had chosen not to attend.

The concert program featured Camerata Chicago, a chamber orchestra founded in 2003 by British conductor Drostan Hall. The orchestra serves Chicago and its surrounding communities with performances of great music featuring world-renowned musicians. Maestro Hall is a world-renowned conductor with incredible energy, unbeatable charisma and extreme musicality. Attending performances under his direction means not only listening to music, but also learning about composers and their compositions.


“We are committed to providing an unparalleled concert experience that enriches the community and inspires the next generation of musicians and audiences,” states the Camerata Chicago website. The Four Seasons concert program proved this message by demonstrating the talent of the young musicians who took part.

The first half of the program included two concertos written by Antonio Vivaldi around 300 years ago. Interestingly, Vivaldi’s music still sounds fresh and up to date after three centuries of human evolution. Maestro Hall and the musicians of Camerata Chicago had to find a way to demonstrate the elegance and virtuosity of the music of the time, and the young soloists had to do the same. They did a great job reflecting the composer’s musical intentions, his feelings and the mood he chose for these compositions.

The first concerto played that evening was the Concerto in G minor for two cellos, strings and continuo, RV 531. It consists of Allegro, Largo and Allegro. The first part, Allegro, featured two young cellists: Grade 7 student Wren Page and senior Drake Strutzel. Page studied cello at Wheaton College Community School of the Arts (CSA) with Carol Ourada. She performs with the CSA Cello Choir, Vivaldi Strings and chamber groups, has participated in the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of the Americas and is a member of the Naperville Youth Symphony Encore Orchestra.

Drake Strutzel has been studying the cello with Carol Ourada since the age of 5. He participates in the Wheaton North High School Orchestra, CSA ensembles, cello choir, Naperville Young Symphony Orchestra, St. John Winds and Strings, and performs solo and group concerts in the area. Page and Strutzel both masterfully presented their solo parts in this flamboyant movement.

Largo, the second movement, featured two other young cellists: Lauren Gabis and Gerrit Vanderschoot. Gabis is a senior student who started playing the cello at age 7 and has studied with Carol Ourada at CSA since grade 7. She has performed with the Barrington High School Orchestra, Barrington Youth Symphony Orchestra, CSA Cello Choir, chamber ensembles and an international touring orchestra.

Gerrit Vanderschoot is a junior student who started studying cello at CSA in 1st year with Jesse McAdoo and studied 9 years with Diane Chou. At the CSA, he performed with a cello choir, Vivaldi Strings and chamber ensembles. In 2020 and 2021 it was selected for the ILMEA District Festival and the All-State Festival in 2020. Both Gabis and Vanderschoot wowed audiences with their touching solo performances of this thoughtful movement.

The third movement, Allegro, featured Ariyo Akinyemi and Wren Page. Akinyemi has been studying the cello since the age of 6 with Carol Ourada at the CSA. He is a member of the Naperville Youth Symphony Encore Orchestra and the CSA Cello Choir. He has participated with the Vivaldi Strings, chamber groups and the Chicago Music Pathways Initiative. Akinyemi and Page have found the best way to present their solo parts of this expressive and elegant movement.

Next, Camerata Chicago presented Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor for violins, strings and basso continuo, op. 3. No. 6 The estro armonico. It featured the talented violinist Rika Seko. Seko graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts. She began her professional career in Bogota, Colombia in 1986, first as guest concertmaster of the Colombian Symphony Orchestra, then as assistant concertmaster of the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra. Since arriving in Chicago in 1994, Rika has performed with numerous orchestras in the Chicago area, including the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Camerata Chicago. As a soloist, she has performed with the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra and the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra. Currently, she is concertmaster at Elmhurst Symphony and a member of the Grant Park Music Festival Symphony, Music of the Baroque, Fulcrum Point New Music Project and associate concertmaster of Camerata Chicago.

This touching composition consists of three parts: Allegro, Largo, Presto. Seko masterfully presented his solo in all three – elegant Allegro, thoughtful Largo and fast and well-structured Presto. She found the best way to demonstrate the composer’s feelings and musical ideas that he imprinted in this immortal masterpiece of the Baroque era.

The second part of this concert program featured Les Quatre Saisons. Maestro Hall has found a way to demonstrate this musical gem by combining it with the poetry created by the composer, as this composition is based on four poems written by Antonio Vivaldi. Each “Season” consists of a concerto in three movements. As in other concertos written by Vivaldi, two fast-tempo outer movements frame a slow-tempo central movement. Each sonnet provides a specific description of each movement.

Actress Kailey Bell read verses created by Vivaldi before each part of this composition with great skill and expression. Bell is a professional actress based in Chicago with a large number of diverse roles she has performed in her career. She also worked as an adjunct professor at Wheaton College. In The Four Seasons, Bell helped demonstrate the full range of the composer’s feelings and senses related to the seasons and their reflection in music. Each of the four sonnets is in turn divided into three phrases or ideas, reflected in the three movements of each concerto.

After attending this great event, I look forward to attending other events hosted by Wheaton College Artist Series. The next event is called “The Armerdings in Armerding: An Evening of Folk, Bluegrass & Gospel”. It will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 1 at the Armerding Center for the Arts Concert Hall.

Taylor Armerding has been a fan of the New England bluegrass/roots/Americana scene for more decades than he admits today. A founding member of the Boston-based progressive bluegrass band Northern Lights, which recorded nine albums, won a Boston Music Award and a nomination for Song of the Year from the International Bluegrass Music Association, he rose to national prominence, including appearances at major festivals and tours with Peter Rowan and Vassar Clements.

Another event organized by the Wheaton College Artist Series will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19 at the Armerding Center for Music and the Arts Concert Hall. It’s called “Ken Medema Live: Songs and Stories of Your Life”.

Inspirational vocalist, keyboardist, on-site makeup musical genius, Ken Medema will return to the Artist Series for an evening of songs and stories. For four decades, Ken Medema has inspired people through storytelling and music. Although born blind, Ken sees and hears with heart and mind. His ability to capture the spirit in words and songs is unparalleled.

General admission tickets are $35 for all adults and $10 for children or students with ID. Pre-concert talks for both shows begin at 6:30 p.m.

For more information on these shows and tickets, please call 630-752-5010 or go to https://www.wheaton.edu/life-at-wheaton/arts/artist-series/performances/.

Natalia Dagenhart

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