Clef Notes

Bring your love of classical music into your inbox with Clef Notes. Join us each month as we check in with local music makers, share information about upcoming concerts, and expand our musical horizons together.

Meet Matthew Sheppard, Danville Symphony Orchestra’s Next MD

After a year-long search process, the Danville Symphony Orchestra has just announced its next music director. Conductor Matthew Sheppard was selected from over 60 highly qualified applicants to lead the local professional orchestra. He takes over for Jeremy Swerling, who held the position for 27 years before retiring in 2023. Read on to learn more about Maestro Sheppard and his goals for the Danville ensemble.

Krannert Center Announces 2024–25 Season

Local hub of music, theatre, and dance, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts has just announced its forthcoming 2024–25 season. We’ll take you through the classical music highlights to gear you up for another year of world-class artistry in central Illinois. With so much on offer, we're bringing you our top-10 picks so you can make the most of this cultural gem of the prairie.

Harpsichordist Lillian Gordis Opens Five Cities Baroque Festival with All-Bach Recital

Hailed by ResMusica as the “Martha Argerich of the harpsichord,” Lillian Gordis is one of the world’s preeminent harpsichordists. A dual French and American citizen, Lillian regularly performs as a soloist in festivals across Europe and the United States. This month, she opens the 2024 Five Cities Baroque Festival with a recital at the Chapel of St. John the Divine in Champaign. Read on to learn more about Lillian and her all-Bach program on Sunday, June 16.

Book Review: “Music and Mind”

Soprano Renée Fleming may be best known as “The People’s Diva,” but in recent years, she has developed an interest in the connection between music and health. In her latest book, Music and Mind: Harnessing the Arts for Health and Wellness, Fleming has curated an anthology of essays from experts in the fields of science, medicine, and the performing arts. Each chapter offers unique insight into music’s power to heal, connect, and shape us and the new areas of research examining why this is.

Bridging the Worlds of Classical and Pop on “Bridgerton”

The hit Netflix show Bridgerton shattered streaming records when it debuted in December 2020. With the release of the show’s third season this month, we’re taking a look at how it has sparked new interest in classical music among younger and more diverse audiences through its use of extant classical pieces and arrangements of contemporary pop songs by the Vitamin String Quartet.

“Classics of the Phonograph” Turns 20

June 2024 marks the 20th anniversary of Classics of the Phonograph, hosted and produced by longtime fixture of WILL-FM, John Frayne. We chatted with John to discuss how Classics of the Phonograph came to be, how he approaches programming, and the importance of historical recordings in the digital age.

Clarinetist Julian Bliss to Play with Illinois Wind Symphony

We sat down with British clarinetist Julian Bliss ahead of his appearance with the Illinois Wind Symphony at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on May 1. Bliss will play Divine Mischief, a clarinet concerto written for him by composer John Mackey. While in the area, Bliss will also lead a masterclass for the clarinet studio at the University of Illinois School of Music and conduct educational outreach and workshops at area elementary, middle, and high schools. Read on to learn more about Bliss and Divine Mischief.

Klaus Mäkelä: Is He the Right Person to Lead the CSO?

One of the biggest stories in classical music this month was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s announcement that 28-year-old Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä would be the storied ensemble’s next music director. Mäkelä will take the reins in 2027 from the 82-year-old Italian conductor Riccardo Muti, who led the ensemble from 2010 to 2023. When Mäkelä’s contract begins, he will be only 31—the youngest conductor in the CSO’s history to hold the position. This 50-year gap in experience between the outgoing and incoming music director has led many to ask, is Mäkelä too green for the job, or is his youth an asset?

Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” Nods to 18th-Century Italian Art Song

When Beyoncé’s latest single, “Texas Hold ’Em,” was released on Superbowl Sunday, it set the world abuzz in anticipation of a “country album” from the influential pop artist. But when Cowboy Carter was released on March 29, it became clear that it was much more than that. The record’s 27 tracks demonstrate an impressive array of stylistic influences and collaborators, perhaps the most unexpected of which is an 18th-century Italian art song. “Caro mio ben” is one of the most popular Italian art songs of all time, made famous through its inclusion in the collection of Twenty-Four Italian Songs & Arias that sits on every voice teacher’s shelf.

Six Lesser-Known Female Composers of the 19th Century

Women make up over 50% of the world's population. Why should the celebration of women's history be confined to just one month? Building on last month's article introducing you to five contemporary female composers, we have a guest blog from John Frayne Classical Music Fellow Julia Escobar. For her doctoral project, Escobar is transcribing works for piccolo by ten female composers—some of them well known, like Florence Price and Lili Boulanger, others less so. Here, Escobar introduces us to six lesser-known female composers of the 19th century.

Illinois Public Media Clef Notes

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Illinois Arts Council Agency

These programs are partially sponsored by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.