I recently attended two concerts at Unity Temple, one by Lincoln Trio and the other by Cellissimo. These were my first experiences of hearing music in this venue and both were wonderful. Combining two art forms heightens the senses and increases the appreciation of both the music and the incomparable architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Lincoln Trio is a group of professional musicians that takes its name from their home in Illinois, the land of Lincoln. The trio, formed in 2003, includes Violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, cellist David Cunliffe and pianist Marta Aznavoorian. They have performed across the country and around the world, won international music competitions and recorded Grammy nominated CDs. While their performance at Unity Temple did not include any pieces that I was familiar with, each one was beautiful and the talent of the musicians was obvious. With the amazing acoustics of the sanctuary, the music from the three unamplified instruments soared to the coffered ceiling and sounded as good in the top balcony as it did on the main floor (I discreetly walked around during the performance to take a few photos from different perspectives).
Cellissimo is a group of student musicians, formed in 2009, from the western suburbs. They have toured in the Midwest and Canada and performed at Suzuki Association and music educator conferences. Twelve young cellists performed, accompanied by a pianist. My daughter had been a Suzuki cello student and also played the oboe. My son played trombone. Both of them played in their high school band and my son became a music teacher, so I have had plenty of personal experience enjoying performances by student musicians. Being a grandfather now, I have even more appreciation for young people devoting their time to nurturing their artistic abilities. The students in Cellissimo were very accomplished and did a wonderful job performing holiday music, classical pieces and even, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. The mellow sound of twelve cellos playing together was truly marvelous.
As I sat there enjoying the performances, I kept looking around and taking in the building in ways I never had before during the many times I had been in it as a tour guide and at Frank Lloyd Wright Trust volunteer events. While I had always found it beautiful and inspiring, I had never really taken the time to just sit for this long and absorb every detail. On top of that, the beautiful music just seemed to be coming from the room itself, oozing out of the nooks and crannies. Being in the building after dark is a different experience than during the day. Instead of the natural light pouring in from the skylights and clerestory windows surrounding the sanctuary, the room glows from within. All the beautiful wood and the textured surfaces of yellows and greens appear even warmer in the soft light of the distinctive light fixtures.
UTRF has a full lineup of music, dance and lecture events scheduled through the first half of next year. I highly recommend taking advantage of these opportunities to spend some quality time in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
By Ken Simpson, UTRF member