“Chicago, Chicago”:  an annotated program list

Feb 28, 2011

Chicago, Chicago is a new concert program tracing the history of our great city through song.  Artistic Director Jonathan Miller provides this sneak preview of the songs included, along with some historical background for each:

Chicago, Chicago
April 2011


Traditional Fr. Canadian, arr. Miller: C'est l'aviron
This is a song of the French voyageurs who explored the Great Lakes, including what is now Chicago, and traded with Native Americans;  it was sung as early as the 1690s and was one of the most popular songs at the settlement of Michilimackinac, now Mackinac Island.  The song sings of "going up," which is what they called paddling from "Lower Canada" (Montreal and Toronto, along the St. Lawrence) to "Upper Canada" (points west).  Read more about the early fur trade around Chicago.

Traditional, arr. Bustin/Dalglish/Larsen/Miller:  Shawneetown
Before Chicago became a huge metropolis, the way most Anglos traveled to Illinois was down the Ohio River, where they would cross at Shawneetown or Shawnee Ferry.  This is a folksong from the Ohio Valley, telling people about life on the river, floating down and paddling back up to pursue trade, including the narrator's three women in different ports!

Traditional, arr. Zanzig: El-A-Noy
Like any area wanting to grow, Illinois had its early "boosters," who wrote this song painting an idyllic picture of the state's glories.  The verse about the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon visiting the state is hilarious.   Read the complete lyrics to El-a-Noy.


Barry Moore, arr. Nick Page: City of Chicago
The Irish immigrants came in waves following the Great Potato Famine.  This is a recent folksong about the Irish coming to Chicago and what they endured, both on the journey and when they got here.

Johannes Brahms: Die Wollust in den Maien
Germans were one of the major immigrant groups in Chicago's early history. This is a song that would likely have been performed by their many singing societies.  

Spiritual, arr. Allan Koepke: Follow the drinking gourd
The Chicago area, including Maywood and Graue Mill in what is now Hinsdale, were stops on the Underground Railroad. This is a slave song/spiritual that helped to tell runaway slaves how to get across the Ohio River to freedom.

Arr. Anne Heider: Lincoln and Liberty
Abe Lincoln's 1860 campaign featured this charming political song, which refers to Illinois residents as "suckers"—describing their migratory patterns of work, not calling them chumps!  See the Wigwam, site of the 1860 convention that nominated Lincoln.

George F. Root: Passing Through the Fire
Chicago became a center of music publishing even before the Great Fire, and George Root was both a composer and a hugely successful publisher. He wrote this sentimental ballad while the city was in mourning and recovering from the Fire of 1871.

Samuel Ward and Katharine Lee Bates, arr. Deke Sharon: America the Beautiful
As the city emerged into greatness, this song became an emblem of national pride;  the verse about "alabaster cities' gleam" refers to the White City in the Columbian Exposition of 1892-93.

Norworth and Von Tilzer, arr. Anne Heider: Take me out to the ballgame
People gotta have fun!  This jaunty setting by Anne Heider incorporates all of Jack Norworth's original lyrics.  Root for the Cubbies!


Jerry Troxell, text of Carl Sandburg:  Prayers of Steel
Carl Sandburg wrote odes to skyscrapers, and Jerry Troxell's haunting composition perfectly illuminates Sandburg's awe at beholding the stark urban beauty of Chicago's new downtown area.

Fred Fisher, arr. Miller: Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)
The great tune popularized by Sinatra gets a new a cappella setting here, including all of the original words.



Lovie Austin, arr. J. Miller: Chicago Bound Blues
Chicago has become synonymous with the blues.  This is a song made popular by Bessie Smith, in a new a cappella version, the lament of a woman left behind in Mississippi.

Thomas Dorsey, arr. Sevier: Precious Lord
In the 1930s, Thomas A. Dorsey created gospel music, and this is his most famous song, in a stunning arrangement by Chicago's own Arnold Sevier.

Traditional Mexican, arr. Deke Sharon: La Bamba
The large Mexican-American community in Chicago began to grow in earnest after 1910.  "La Bamba" is one of the songs that has been sung here since concerts by Mexicans in Chicago began.

Al Capone, arr. Sinozich: Madonna Mia
You won't find this anywhere else in town—the only song that Al Capone ever wrote!  He wrote it in Alcatraz, apparently as a love song to his wife.  A Chicago a cappella original arrangement!

Jerry Downs (Al Hoffman), arr. J. Miller: Bear Down, Chicago Bears
The great fight song, in celebration of the Bears' most recent success, making it to the playoffs in early 2011.

Lamm, arr. Herberg: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
The band Chicago was a huge success in the 1970s, and this is one of their most famous songs, in a new a cappella arrangement.

Mancini/Bricusse, arr. Sinozich: “Chicago, Illinois” (from Victor/Victoria)
The film (and later stage) musical starring Julie Andrews featured this boisterous celebration of the city "Chic."


Join us April 1-10, 2011, for this remarkable musical tour of The Windy City!  Tickets and information.

Are you creative?  Take the survey!

Feb 7, 2011

We know Chicago a cappella audiences and friends are creative folks:  singers, artists, chefs, designers, arts professionals, and architects.  If you engage in a creative activity for as a job or a hobby, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events wants to hear from you.  Take this brief survey, and help them learn more about what the City can do to foster creativity. Your participation will provide a crucial benchmark with which to measure the future growth of our creative economy and community.

They’d like to hear from every creative Chicagoan, so pass the word on to your friends and colleagues. But hurry, the suvey is open only until February 28.

Take the Creative Chicago Survey.

In Memoriam

Dec 14, 2010

Friend of the Year: Bob Fashingbauer

We sadly bid farewell to our dear friend Bob Fashingbauer, who passed away December 5 in Chicago.  We were lucky to be one of the many organizations that benefited from Bob's tireless work as a volunteer usher for the Saints and the classical music coordinator for that organization.  This past May, we honored Bob and the Saints with our Friend of the Year award.  Read our tribute.

Thank you, friend.

Your Favorite Sinatra Song

Nov 16, 2010

We have selected the theme for next spring’s benefit event, and it’s one you won’t want to miss: Simply Sinatra.  Chicago a cappella will sing great a cappella arrangements of standards made famous by Ol’ Blue Eyes.  And you’ll enjoy wine, hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and the glory of the Chicago Cultural Center’s Tiffany dome and fabulous mosaic. It all takes place Thursday, May 12, 2011.  Save the date!

Tickets will be available soon, and we’ll let you know when they go on sale.  In the meantime, we’re planning the set list!  Post a comment below to let us know your favorite Sinatra tune.

Help us choose our encore!

Oct 27, 2010

Holidays a cappella will include music from around the world and from many different styles and traditions.  We like all of it so much, it’s hard to choose an encore!  Something fun and upbeat?  Meditative and inspiring?  A new showpiece?  An old favorite?

Help us out by giving us your ideas…you just might have a hand in programming the concert! 

For some ideas, you can listen to some audio samples here, and read more details about the program in the press release.  Then post a comment below with your suggestion for the encore!

New Program Development and Recording Fund is seeded by quarter million dollar gift

Sep 22, 2010

Chicago a cappella has launched a new Program Development and Recording Fund, a project that will support the ensemble’s concert productions, new recordings, and commissions of new works.  We have received a lead gift of $250,000 from the Klaff Family Foundation, as the major step toward our goal of raising $500,000 by end of our 20th season in 2013.  We are thrilled by this opportunity to secure our organization's future.  Read more about it in this press release.

New logo, new look

Jun 11, 2010

Chicago a cappella unveiled its new logo on May 20, the day before its brand new website was launched.  Together, the logo and website mark a new chapter for the ensemble, providing a fresh look and a clean, easy-to-use online experience.  The site features dozens of free audio samples as well as video, online ticketing and donation functions.  The entire project was supported by a grant from the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development and carried out by the team at Mightybytes, Inc.  Special thanks to ensemble member Kathryn Kamp and website manager Chris Baer, whose expertise guided the project.   We hope you enjoy our new look and have fun exploring our new site!

Some Enchanted Evening

May 21, 2010

Thank you to everyone who made our gala benefit event on May 20, Some Enchanted Evening, such a wonderful success.  Our guests enjoyed beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, along with hors d'oeuvres from Whole Foods, wines from House Red, desserts from Give Me Some Sugah, and a fabulous silent auction and raffle, all under the Tiffany dome of the Chicago Cultural Center.  It was truly a grand night for singing!

Live performance from WFMT

Apr 23, 2010

On April 20, Chicago a cappella gave an "Impromptu" performance from the studios of 98.7 WFMT Radio.  The live broadcast featured highlights from the group's spring concert, The Birds and The Bees.

2010-2011 season announced

Apr 16, 2010

Chicago a cappella's 2010-2011 season will hold four new concerts, each performed in all four community locations. Subscribers get four tickets which they may use in any combination among these 16 performances, plus a guest voucher good for one additional free ticket to any performance.  Subscribers also have free exchange privileges and receive invitations to Behind the Scenes events and other special programs. 

Read more about next season's concerts, and subscribe today!

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