Elevate Difference

Circle of Water Life Suite (2/27/2009)

Chicago, Illinois

There was a sparrow lose in Kovler Family hall. "Excuse me," I sotto-vocced to a worker. "Are you aware that there is a sparrow loose in here?" She nodded. "It's been here since five." The feathers fluttered overhead. It did not chirp, nor did it crap on the carp of bronze, or the verdigrised octopi that hold the chandeliers' lamps to their chains. 

Although the interloper did not follow us into the hall and improvise, the scheduled singing was splendid, particularly 21st Century Sharecropper's Blues—"Give me my money. Give me back my mind." Consuming culture recalibrates. Also, beforehand concertgoers can wander through the exhibit tanks to admire reef species, languid arms of kelp, hungry sea anemones, a range of liquid habitats. Plastic frogs and sea horses six feet long menace overhead, aquatic pinatas. An informative display contains dozens of invasive species. I once saw two score lampreys stuck to a sturgeon. More recently, a Chicago poet and I established how much is marketing: if we renamed the Asian Carp "Osakan Jadefish" and sold it for $17.50 a pound, we might create an insatiable demand.

The second concert in the series Circle of Life Suite was written expressly for the Shedd Aquarium by Chicago Sinfonietta's principal violist Reneé Baker. Featuring the Mantra Blue Free Orchestra, also directed by Baker, selections performed included the third and final movement from Ulysses Kay's Choral Triptych, "Alleluia" featuring the Chicago Community Chorus. The mission of the Community Chorus is to include all, and I experienced a moment of delusion that I might sing, but then they opened their mouths and vocalized. Slightly better odds than my ballet career, perhaps, but I have been asked not to sing when they roll out the office birthday sheetcake. Handel's "Water Music," "Caravan" by Duke Ellington, and other selections by Satie, Gershwin, and Sondheim were played. "Send in the Clowns" was stricken from the program, Baker explained, due to their inability to find a clown.

Apparently the Conductor also possesses a profound fear of fish: the Shedd provided a fish-free visual montage—lizards, frogs, birds, and assorted amphibians flew by. To me, the moments of personal digression are a positive in any performance, an additional facet of context. The music chosen is eclectic and accessible, the amenities adequate, and the species, charming. Recommended.

Written by: Erika Mikkalo, April 12th 2009

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