MusicIC Festival to celebrate Inspiration and Hommage during June 15-18 events

Music IC 512 wide

 The MusicIC festival returns for a sixth season from June 15-18, 2016, to present four programs that explore the theme of Inspiration and Hommage with work that explores the connections between literature and chamber music.

The festival program, assembled by MusicIC Artistic Director Tricia Park, features great string quartets of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. In addition, this summer’s programming will feature a recent work by the Pulitzer prize-winning composer, Caroline Shaw, as well as an innovative evening of storytelling and live music at the Englert Theatre that will bring MusicIC’s 2016 summer programming to an exciting and inventive finale.

MusicIC moves to a new home with the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature after three years under the banner of Summer of the Arts. City of Literature Executive Director John Kenyon said the festival is a good fit for the organization, because it helps to push the boundaries of what can be considered literature.

“Too often we are constrained by the thought of literature being static words on the page,” he said. “With this festival, we can explore the way words and ideas can come alive and be used as inspiration in other art forms, and how those forms – in this case, music – can inspire the written word.”

Music during the festival will be performed by the Solera Quartet, with Tricia Park and Miki-Sophia Cloud on violin, Molly Carr on viola, and Andrew Janss on cello.

The festival begins on Wednesday, June 15, with a free concert at Trinity Episcopal Church. The program, “An Hommage to Haydn,” will feature both Haydn’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 77 No. 2, but also Caroline Shaw’s 2011 composition, Entr’acte for String Quartet, which draws direct inspiration from a performance of the Haydn piece. The program closes with Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465 “Dissonance,” which is itself an hommage, or artistic tribute, to Haydn.

The festival’s second night, Thursday, June 16, returns to Trinity for a second free concert. This program, “Beethoven’s Brilliance: The Difficult Resolution,” features two string quartets by the master. The first, String Quartet in F Major, Op. 18, No. 1, is said to have been inspired by the tomb scene from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This program will feature an actor reciting Juliet’s final words from the play. Beethoven also took inspiration from the work of Haydn.

The second piece is String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135. Here, in the fourth and final movement, is the vague musical and textual inscription: “Der schwer gefasste Entschluss,” or “The Difficult Resolution.” The slow introduction is marked “Muss es sein” — must it be? This question offers a prelude to the festival’s Friday program.

That program, on Friday, June 17, Mendelssohn as Muse: A Storytelling Event, will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Englert Theatre. Tickets are $12.50, and go on sale Friday, May 20, at the Englert Box Office ( Writers Robin Hemley, Daniel Khalastchi, Amy Margolis, and Sabrina Orah Mark, will read short first-person stories inspired by the Mendelssohn’s magnificent Op. 13 String Quartet, with performance of that piece by the Solera Quartet interspersed between the stories.

Mendelssohn wrote this quartet several months after the death of Ludwig van Beethoven, and the influence of Beethoven’s late string quartets is evident in this work. As a unifying motif, Mendelssohn included a quotation from his song “Ist es wahr?” (‘Is it true?’, op. 9 no. 1) – “Is it true that you wait for me in the arbour by the vineyard wall?” – composed a few months earlier. Mendelssohn includes the title of the song in the score of the quartet, recalling the title Beethoven wrote on the last movement of his Op. 135 string quartet “Muss es sein?” (Must it be?). The original inspiration, “Ist es wahr?” will be performed by singer and Iowa City native Meagan Brus during the performance.

The festival concludes on Saturday, June 18, with a free family concert at the Iowa City Public Library at 10:30 a.m. in Meeting Room A. “What Dvorak did on his Summer Vacation: How Iowa Inspired Dvorak’s American Quartet,” will feature the Solera Quartet as they explore and perform Dvorak’s ever popular “American” string quartet, which was written while the composer was on vacation in Spillville, Iowa. Learn about how the beauty and serenity of the Iowa countryside inspired Dvorak to write this gloriously joyful music.

Festival sponsors are the University of Iowa, Dunn Investments, West Music, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, Knutson Construction, Iowa Public Radio, and Toyota-Scion of Iowa City.

New downtown banners celebrate the City of Literature

Our new City of Literature street-pole banners are up throughout downtown Iowa City, reminding residents to celebrate our designation as the third UNESCO City of Literature in the world.

The banners, based on our new logo design, were created by Mara Cole with the Iowa City Public Library, and were funded by the Community Foundation of Johnson County. Our friends at TruArt Color Graphics printed the banners, completing this local celebration of the arts.

Thanks to the above-mentioned, as well as the Iowa City Streets crew that hung them for us.

April 30 International Jazz Day event celebrates ‘Art of Improvisation’

IJD poster 2

In celebration of UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature presents “The Art of Improvisation,” an event that celebrates and explores the unique role that improvisation plays in jazz.

Steve Grismore, a full-time jazz instructor at the University of Iowa and a familiar face in jazz performance in the area for decades, will lead a group that will perform songs and explain how improvisation plays a part in the performance.

Grismore will be joined by bassist Danny Oline, saxophonist Jim Buennig, and drummer Paul Cunliffe. All three have extensive experience playing jazz in Iowa and beyond.

The official program will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library. Music will be performed for 15 minutes before and after the program.

The program will be aired live on the Library Channel, Iowa City cable channel 20, and will be broadcast live on KCCK Jazz 88.3 or at

The event is co-presented by the University of Iowa School of Music, the Iowa City Public Library, and KCCK. Additional support is provided by Hancher.

Chicana: Memories of Life in the Barrio and and Readings in Latino Poetry


Celebrate National Poetry Month on April 16th with readings in Latino/Chicano poetry and biographical recitations about life in the 18th Street Chicago barrio in the 1960′s. Biography is based on the life of Maria del Rosario (Rose) Flores-Curry, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant who fought in the Cristero War. This event is co-sponsored by the Senior Center’s poetry Reading Aloud group and the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

Saturday, April 16, 1 – 2:30 p.m. at the Iowa City Senior Center.



“Story Hour” events bring laughs in the City of Literature

The City of Literature’s first annual “Story Hour” events were held on Saturday, March 31; and Friday, April 1, and both offered plenty of laughs.

The first event, “Made in Iowa,” was held at the Iowa City Brewlab and featured Iowa Nice Guy Scott Siepker. The star of the popular series of “Iowa Nice” videos shared his thoughts about the amazing things happening in Iowa, and encouraged attendees to be proud of their state, while making them laugh throughout.

The second event, “What’s So Funny?” was held at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville. Hosted by Siepker, the event featured local storytellers sharing humorous stories about work and the workplace. Presenters included Megan Gogerty, a local actress and comedian; Robyn Hepker, a designer with Benson & Hepker; and Dave Parsons, CFO of Tallgrass Business Solutions.

In addition, they were joined by Brittany Borghi, a graduate student in the nonfiction writing program at the University of Iowa. Borghi was unable to appear in person, so a video of her presentation was shown. Many in attendance asked us to share Borghi’s video so they could share it in turn.

Here is Borghi’s “Letter to Iowa City.”