Archive for the ‘Past Performances’ Category

Make Music Chicago – June 21

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

UPDATE June 1, 2012

We’ve had to withdraw from the Make Music Chicago event. It’s only 20 days away and we have hardly any opportunities to rehearse. What’s more, we still haven’t been assigned a time and place by the organizers, so those of us who are trying to manage other commitments have been keeping things “on hold,” and we just can’t wait any longer.

I hope that circumstances will line up more favorably next year.

We’ve placed ourselves on the list of performers for Make Music Chicago, a “24-hour musical holiday for all ages and genres celebrated by over 110 countries and 460 cities around the world.”

The event is presented locally by Rush Hour Concerts. Performances take place at a variety of sites around the city.

As I’m posting this on April 26, I haven’t chosen repertoire yet, but there are a couple of pieces that I hope will be ready in time: Harrison’s Clocks and Rocket Man, both composed by Tony Osborne, under commission from a big group of bassists and Tony Osborne fans, among which I and the Chicago Bass Ensemble number.

So as before, I’ll update this post as more details become available (time, location, music). If you want to be on our mailing list, to which I occasionally send announcements, sign up for our mailing list!

Experimental Sound Studio: Check!

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

A very quick post, late Friday (really by now it’s early Saturday). Just got in from playing our concert at Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio. I am so pleased to say it went very well: a full house of appreciative listeners, a variety of performances from not only my colleagues in the Chicago Bass Ensemble but also Jeff Greene, Douglas Johnson and my good friend Mike Wittgraf and excellent hosting and concert-series-running from Lou Mallozzi and Alex Inglizian at the Experimental Sound Studio.

As the guy who’s been sending e-mails, scheduling rehearsals, attending rehearsals, practicing and generally worrying about as many details as I could handle for this whole thing, I’m super happy that it went so well tonight.

There’s a lot to say about how this was as an organizer — all the ‘-ing’ words in the previous sentence, what kind of plans I made, efforts in social media and in advertising, what plans I actually carried out, how much I spent (money and effort). But it’s late at night now, and I need to keep in shape for the climax of this several months work, our performance at the Chicago Bass Festival.

I also have to work out how I got two entire bars ahead in Ultra-Rondo tonight, and how I’m going to prevent that from happening on Sunday!

Cheers, everyone! Thanks to those of you who attended, and see you Sunday to everyone else!

Concert Wrap-up: January 15

Friday, January 20th, 2012

It’s been a few days since our concert on January 15. I’ve been meaning to write a “self-review,” but other needs have been pressing. So, a few days late, here are some thoughts on our performance at First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights.

I'm glad it's labeled "Double Bass Ensemble;" it's a better explanation of what we are, until we're world-famous.

I had a really great feeling of kind of “floating” through the performance. In the past, I’ve often felt that I had to be working really “hard” to perform successfully. I think that I didn’t really believe I was playing unless I was sweating bullets.

But I prepared a little differently for this performance. I spent a good deal of time, especially in the last week, practicing slowly. My goal for the week before the performance was to play each piece once each day at half tempo. The theory behind this is that if you can’t play a shift or a rhythm properly slowly, there’s no way you’ll be able to play it fast. Train your body to play accurately at a slow tempo and when the tempo is fast, muscle memory will take over for you.

I’m pleased at the outcome of the concert. I had worried that we hand’t truly had enough rehearsal time, and while there were a few slip-ups (you know who you are!), I think we played well. The concert was well-received by a good-sized audience. Ken Whitney, the Music Director and our contact at the church was pleased with our presentation and complimented us on Facebook. I was very happy to see work colleagues Vince Mease and Laura Claggett, and friends Ann Wilson and Dave Newcorn in the audience.

In an earlier post on this site, I discussed some of my thoughts on designing the concert experience. Here are a few reflections on what I set out to do about the design of the concert.

Understanding the Audience: I never did actually ask Ken what he considered to be the “demographic” of the audience for this concert. I played my hunch, and I think I got it right. I introduced most of the pieces with some anecdote or a bit of something to “hold on to” as the audience listened, and although I don’t have any proof, I believe that people appreciated that “softening” or “humanizing” of the concert experience.

Pacing: Good, but not great pacing, I think. The motets were possibly too lugubrious and softly played. rather than a chance to cleanse one’s sonic palette, they might have been a bit solemn. I didn’t get any specific reaction, but as we played Ultra-Rondo I wondered if I had kept my word that even the modern pieces we played wouldn’t be jarring. I certainly don’t consider that piece jarring–after all, it’s not atonal or serial music–but did it take the audience too far? Maybe someone will let me know.

Peak-End Effect: Here, I think I got it just right. Both halves of the program ended with exciting, upbeat pieces. A few people remarked to me that A Night in Compostela was their favorite piece, and in that case, they left the hall with it fully in their ears.

The bottom line? Success. I’m very pleased with the way this turned out, and I’m looking forward to our next two engagements. I offer my thanks to my colleagues Anton Hatwich, Julian Romane and Dan Thatcher as well as to Ken Whitney and the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights.

If you missed us January 15, First Presbyterian did record the performance, and has made it available on through a webcast: Chicago Bass Ensemble performance part 1 and part 2. (Regrettably, the microphones were not well-positioned for our performance, so the volume is low, but you can at least get a sense of the performance.)

Experimental Sound Studio, February 3, 2012

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Chicago Bass Ensemble and friends Jeff Greene and Doug Johnson will play a set of music and Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio.

February 3, 2012, 8 pm.
5925 North Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660

Admission $10/$8 ESS members and students.

Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1986, dedicated to the promotion, production, presentation, and preservation of innovative and diverse approaches to the sonic arts, and to the integration of these art forms into the public. They host a great diversity of artists of all kinds, and we’re honored to be able to premiere Mike Wittgraf’s Autogenous Mining at ESS.

We’ll be joined by friends Jeff Greene and Doug Johnson. Doug is a former member of CBE (ha! once a member, always a member!), and a founder of Gunnelpumpers and Spiritflake Records. Jeff is a bassist, composer and winner of the 2010 composition contest of the International Society of Bassists.


  • Russell, Ultra-Rondo, Chicago Bass Ensemble
  • Greene, Jeff, The Range of Their Vision, Jeff Greene
  • Guy, Barry, Anaklasis, Jeff Greene and Dan Thatcher
  • Johnson, Clevenjourney N71, Douglas Johnson
  • Wittgraf, Autogenous Mining for double bass quartet and interactive electronics, Chicago Bass Ensemble [premiere]


  • Jacque Harper
  • Anton Hatwich
  • Julian Pat Romane
  • Dan Thatcher
  • Jeff Greene
  • Doug Johnson


Ultra-Rondo for double bass quartet was composed in 2002 and revised in 2011. The first bass part is given more prominence than the other parts in a, in addition to being more active, it employs a higher range. Occasionally the other three parts are given prominence, however, and from time to time the participate in various duets and trios, and sub-groupings of the ensemble.

The pieces is in three broad sections (fast-slow-fast) in which a rondo pattern is embedded. The first part has three sections (ABA), the middle slow part has three sections (BCB) and the final part has four sections (CACA).

The Range of Their Vision

The Range of Their Vision, a composition for solo acoustic bass and electronics, received the 2010 ISB/David Walter Composition Competition and was premiered at San Francisco State University during the 2011 International Society of Bassists’ convention.


Written by Barry Guy for himself and Stefano Scodanibbio, 2002. The score is a graphic representation of extended techniques for the double bass. Lines of demarcation separate different domains with distinct musical material. Of the instrumentation, Guy says “There could be a version for cellos, but it wouldn’t work for violins, for instance, because they’re not resonant enough. The point of the title is a reflection of sound re-echoing to resound and reverberate. In this early domain [a section of the graphical score] I indicate that paintbrushes are to be put through the strings and used as an oscillator. Because of the length of the bass strings, it gives a certain effect that would be lost on other instruments.”

The score and in interview with Barry Guy can be found at


Throughout human history, shamans have used rhythm and sound to help travel to nonordinary reality in altered states of consciousness. Such journeys enable the shaman to seek the guidance of spirit helpers, and are usually performed for the healing of others and to help their communities. While ancient, time-tested methods are still common practice, many modern-day shamans have adapted these concepts for more contemporary settings as well. “Clevinjourneys” are long-form, mostly improvised works for 6-string Clevinger bass and effects pedals. They first came about as a collaboration with the shamans in my life who expressed interest in using music of the spirit as a vehicle for shamanic journeys. As the performer, I, too, am on a journey, taking care to keep the music interesting while maintaining a seamless flow.

Autogenous Mining

Written by Michael Wittgraf for the Chicago Bass Ensemble, 2011. The piece calls for all four basses to have a separate microphone, which are processed (via an Apogee Ensemble and Pacarana sound processor) using KYMA software. The computer operator follows a score and interacts live with the performers, manipulating the sounds with a Wii remote and other hardware. Composer Mike Wittgraf will join the Chicago Bass Ensemble for the premiere of this work.

Chicago Bass Festival, February 5, 2012

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

We’re on tap for a performance at the Chicago Bass Festival (link still showing 2011 information–visit the Facebook page instead).

February 5, 2012, 2:00 pm.
On the grounds of Ravinia Festival Park
Highland Park, IL

Admission included in Bass Festival registration.

(If you’re interested in hearing us perform, but don’t want to register for the entire Bass Festival, please contact me. Perhaps I can arrange something!)

For the Bass Festival, we’ll take on a somewhat more challenging (musically/for the listener) program than for our January performance. It includes a world-premiere of a piece for double bass quartet and interactive electronics.

Program (mostly for certain*):

  • Wittgraf, Autogenous Mining for double bass quartet and interactive electronics
  • Russell, Ultra-Rondo
  • deVictoria arr. Cameron, Three Spanish Motets
  • Garcia, A Night in Compostela
  • perhaps some amusing selections from Miloslav Gajdos
  • Jacque Harper
  • Anton Hatwich
  • Julian Pat Romane
  • Dan Thatcher

Links for the Bass Festival:

* in the spirit of blogging, I will update this list as plans firm up!

First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights, January 15, 2012

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Sunday, January 15, 2012, 4:00 pm
First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights (link to music series)
302 North Dunton Ave, Arlington Heights 60004

Free admission with a free-will offering taken.

For this concert, we’ll be taking an old music/new music approach. There is a lot of great music being written NOW! for double basses, and we’ll play some of the nicest and most recent examples. Note: this does NOT mean the atonal or extremely challenging to the listener of so-called “modern” music! We will make two U.S. premieres of works by living composers.

Music from earlier times also adapts very well to the double bass quartet, so we will mix things up and do some of that music as well.

Program consists of:

  • Henry Purcell, arr. K. Stoll, Air and Dance
  • Tomas Luis de Victoria, arr. M. Cameron, Three Spanish Motets:
    O magnum mysterium, O quam gloriosum est regnum, O vos homnes
  • Hadyn, arr. A. Hatwich Adagio, for solo double bass with bass trio accompaniment.
  • Jan Alm, Quartet #1
  • Armand Russell, Ultra-Rondo (U.S. premiere)
  • Simón García, A Night in Compostela (U.S. premiere)
  • Jacque Harper
  • Anton Hatwich
  • Julian Pat Romane
  • Dan Thatcher
* in the spirit of blogging, I will update this list as plans firm up!
–program updated 7 and 8 December 2011
–confirmed U.S. premiere status on 12 December 2011
–program updated 27 December 2011
–order of program updated 14 January 2012

Colleen Plumb Book Signing, May 2011

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

On Sunday May 1, Anton Hatwich and I will be playing at the book signing for Colleen Plumb’s new photography monograph:

Animals Are Outside Today

We’ll be playing:

  • David Anderson’s Seven Double Bass Duets
  • Patrick Neher’s Five Vignettes for two double basses

You could see this event as being a little like our performance at the opening of Cheri Reif Naselli’s Beneath, but there isn’t quite as much theater involved in this performance. There are some animal themes in Dave Anderson’s duets: Kibbles & Kibitz is said to be inspired by dogs barking, there is a movement called Parade of the Politically Prudent Pigs and Gustav’s 11 O’clock Dance is said to be inspired by the crazy antics of a cat at night. One of the Neher vignettes is called “The Snake.” But mostly we’re happy to provide some additional entertainment for Colleen’s book signing.

It’s a pleasure working with Anton again, and I’m looking forward to the event. Also it’s being hosted by good friends of ours in Evanston, Steve and Valerie Hartmann.

About the Book
Published with essays by Lisa Hostetler, curator of photographs at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Animals are embedded within core human history—evident in our stories, rituals and symbols. At the same time, we eat, wear and cage them with seeming indifference, consuming them in countless ways. Our connection to animals today is often developed through assimilation and appropriation; we absorb them into our lives, yet we no longer know of their origin. Most people are cut off from the steps involved in their processing or acquisition, shielded from witnessing their death or decay. This book moves within these contradictions, always questioning if the notion of sacred will survive alongside our evolution.

About the Artist
Colleen Plumb is an award-winning photographer whose work is held in several photography collections including the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Milwaukee Art Museum, the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida, Fidelity Investments, in Boston and Beijing Natural Cultural Center, China. Her photographs have been exhibited nationwide in many one person and group exhibits, and have been widely showcased in books and publications such as PDN and Hotshoe International. Plumb currently teaches in the Photography Department at Columbia College Chicago.

For more information please visit:

ARC Gallery, June 25, 2010

Friday, May 28th, 2010

June 25, we performed at the exhibition opening of artist Cheri Reif Naselli.

Cheri Reif Naselli in foreground, Chicago Bass Ensemble in the background

Cheri Reif Naselli and the Chicago Bass Ensemble at ARC Gallery

ARC Gallery and Educational Foundation
832 W. Superior St. #204
Chicago, IL 60622
Phone: 312.733.2787

Cheri Reif Naselli’s work “investigates the reality below the surface” and for the opening of the exhibit, we will explore how the presence or absence of sound, particularly music, affects your perception of the visual artwork on display. By alternating performances of some of our repertoire with silence–i.e. not music, since a gallery opening is likely to be filled with human conversation–the attendees (that’s you) can gauge how their experiences of the works differ in the presence of music vs. silence.

The Chicago Bass Ensemble, Jacque introducing the next piece

Introducing the next piece


  • Arboreal Muscle by Lou Mallozi
  • The Open Sea by Doug Johnson
  • Quartet 1987 by David Anderson
  • Quartet for Double Basses by Joseph Lauber
  • Rise by Bjorn Berkhout
  • Enambered by Michael G. Miller

postcard image for the exhibit "Beneath" at ARC Gallery

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audience members are sitting on the floor near the musicians

Audience members seated to watch the group

photos: Kina Bagovska

Relevant Tones WLUW, April 18, 2010

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Relevant Tones – Chicago Bass Ensemble on the radio.
Chicago Bass Ensemble Founder Jacque Harper was a guest on Seth Boustead’s Relevant Tones radio program. 6:00 pm Central Time, 88.7 FM. Also available on the internet at

Chicago Bass Festival, February 7, 2010

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

February 7, 2010

Chicago Bass Festival
Bennett-Gordon Hall, on the grounds of the Ravinia Festival.

Onstage in Bennett-Gordon Hall

  • The Open Sea, by Doug Johnson
  • Enambered, by Michael Miller
  • Rise, by Bjorn Berkhout
  • Sawtooth Hammer, by Seth Boustead
  • 2d Movement from 2d Quartet, by Jan Alm

Jacque Harper, Doug Johnson, Michael Hovnanian, John Floeter.

(TiVO’d the Super Bowl so as not to miss any of the good commercials.)