The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra (ICO) announced its 40th anniversary season Sept. 18.
The opening night concert of the season will feature Mary Lou Williams’ “Zodiac Suite” with Aaron Diehl, the 2011 American Pianists Association Jazz Winner. Diehl and his trio will join the ICO onstage for the first time for an evening of music Sept. 30. Matthew Kraemer, music director and principal conductor of the ICO, said this season is a major celebration and milestone for the orchestra.
“This orchestra began as ‘Musicians of the Cloister,’ which is what it was entitled 40 years ago,” Kraemer said. “It grew from a small organization now to one that I think is integral to the arts in Central Indiana. We’re one of the largest collaborating organizations with our partners, and we’re thrilled to be celebrating this anniversary season.”
Williams, considered one of the great jazz musicians and composers of her time, composed “Zodiac Suite” in 1942 and first premiered the piece in 1945. The piece was hailed as a masterful marriage between classical and jazz with some “boogie woogie” thrown in, Kraemer said.
“Zodiac Suite” is meant to represent all 12 zodiac signs and Williams’ friends who were born under each sign — including Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.
Kraemer said the ICO chose “Zodiac Suite” as the season opener because it is “a little bit out of the box.” He said the ICO looks forward to playing the piece with Diehl, as it is music he is intimately familiar with, and they most look forward to “discovering all of the complexities in the score and all of the many moods and style changes.”
Diehl, a Columbus, Ohio, native who is best known in Indiana as the Cole Porter Fellow for the American Pianists Association, said he tracked down the score during the pandemic and partnered with a local orchestra in New York to record a version of it.
Diehl said some movements of the “Zodiac Suite” are just the trio, while others include the orchestrated arrangement. However, he said each of the movements has a very unique mood.
“I often like to talk to people after the concert, and when they mention that they’re a Libra or Scorpio or whatever, somehow being able to identify their own star signs through the music and share a little bit about that, that’s always very nice,” Diehl said. “I think beyond the music itself a lot of people have an interest in astrology or in some of the characteristic traits of certain star signs, and it’s great when people share that on a very basic human level.”
Diehl, who is a Virgo, said the Virgo movement of the piece emphasizes the swing tradition that Williams came from and was known for. When playing that particular movement, he “likes to bring out some of my [his] unique idiosyncrasies.”
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” will precede “Zodiac Suite,” and following the performance, the ICO will host a reception for audience members in celebration of its monumental anniversary season, with an opportunity to meet the featured soloists.
The rest of the ICO’s 40th season will feature a mixture of traditional classical pieces in addition to some new and undiscovered works — such as the Indianapolis premier of the Latin-inspired “Concerto in Tempo” by the ICO’s 2023-24 composer in residence, Miguel Del Aguila. The ICO will also host its traditional Christmas repertoire of Handel’s “Messiah,” their feature film “Joan of Arc,” and their third collaboration with Dance Kaleidoscope, Kraemer said.
Tickets to the opening night of the ICO’s 40th anniversary season can be purchased online or through the ICO office at 317-940-9607 or email@example.com. Additionally, tickets to any performance of the season are available for free to students and children when tickets are reserved over the phone, email or requested at the door. For more information, visit icomusic.org.
Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848 or chloegm@indyrecorder. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.