Midwest Chamber Ensemble plays a free concert Friday at the Bell Cultural Events Center

The winter months can get a little scarce in terms of local shows and music options, unless you know where to look for the good stuff. Tomorrow night offers up one such gem, when Midwest Chamber Ensemble performs a free concert at the the Bell Cultural Events Center at MidAmerica Nazarene University. 

Now in its third season, MCE is a group of young professional performers – mostly recent conservatory graduates and students – ages 35 and younger.

“Basically, the idea with this group is to bridge the gap between what we’re doing at the conservatory or the university and what we’re expected to do in the professional world,” Music Director Steve Lewis says. “It’s very much like a professional ensemble, but without the faculty oversight we would have in school. It’s young performers standing without the shelter of academia.” 

The concert on Friday, January 16, features two compositions. “Carnival of the Animals,” a 25-minute masterpiece written by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886, will be led by MCE’s associate conductor, Ramiro Miranda. It will be followed by a new piece called “Flocks,” written by Kansas City composer Russell Thorpe. 

“The piece is based on a poem,” Lewis says. “The poem is talking about watching the flocks of birds, and they come to visit this kind old man in a park, and he feeds them, and then they fly away again. The piece starts off quietly, and as they fly away, all of a sudden there’s this flurry of activity. It’s for a small ensemble: three woodwinds, three bass, percussion and strings.”

Lewis, who will be conducting “Flocks,” says he has known Thorpe for many years, and is excited to have a piece by a local composer represented by MCE. Following “Flocks,” MCE Composer-in-Residence Joseph Kern will debut a trio for horn, violin and piano. 

“It’s a very challenging piece,” Lewis says. “There’s the ongoing thing of, ‘What piece do you pair with the concert program?’ And the trio that we’re doing – French horn, violin and piano – that instrumentation was really born with the Brahms Horn Trio, so it feels right here. And from working with Joey [Kern] for a couple of years, I was intrigued by what he could do, with the possibilities of writing for that ensemble.”

Midwest Chamber Ensemble performs at 7:30 p.m. at the Bell Cultural Events Center at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe. Admission is free, but tickets are required. Ticket information here

Categories: Music