MusicIC celebrates fifth year June 17-20 in downtown Iowa City

MusicIC is celebrating its fifth year! This free festival (under the Summer of the Arts umbrella), scheduled for Wednesday, June 17, through Saturday, June 20, in downtown Iowa City, features small ensembles and explores the connections between music and literature, drawing on Iowa City’s rich literary life.

The annual festival is notable for two more innovative features. First, it provides a stage for current and former University of Iowa faculty and for Iowa and Iowa City natives, all of whom have or are making names for themselves in the world of classical music. Second, but just as importantly, over the five years of its existence, the festival has undertaken increasingly ambitious theatrical projects.

This year, MusicIC presents “Abundant Happiness: The Music of Robert and Clara Schumann,” a performance combining song, a string quartet and acting, conceived and directed by Iowa City playwright Jennifer Fawcett of Working Group Theatre. The performance takes place on Friday, June 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City. Performers for “Abundant Happiness” include former UI faculty member and violinist Tricia Park, Iowa native and soprano Megan Brus, Iowa City-born pianist Yi-heng Yang and Iowa City actress Saffron Henke. Brus and Yang will perform songs by both Schumanns. Park will be joined by violinist Miki-Sophia Cloud, violist Molly Carr, and cellist Andrew Janss in a performance of Robert Schumann’s String Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3 of 1842. The quartet begins with a theme often associated with Clara’s name and the music of the first movement explores that theme in a range of variations.

“Abundant Happiness” draws on the Schumanns’ diary and music to present an image of their love and happy marriage. In 1841, in an explosion of joy following his marriage, Robert Schumann wrote 150 songs. Several of those compositions, as well as two songs by Clara Schumann, provide the music for the performance, which will be dramatized by Henke’s acting.

Other MusicIC events, all free and open to the public, are as follows:

  • Wednesday, June 17, 11 a.m., Iowa City Public Library: MusicIC musicians and playwright Fawcett will explore the Schumanns’ relationship and how it is expressed in poetry and music. This event is offered in cooperation with the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
  • Wednesday, June 17, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 320 E. College Street: MusicIC musicians celebrate America in three works, including selections from Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs” and Samuel Barber’s work for singer and piano, “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” which draws on text by writer James Agee. The third work is a celebration of America by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, who famously spent a summer in Spillville, Iowa. The musicians will play his String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, “American.”
  • Thursday, June 18, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal: In contrast to Friday’s concert, which focuses on the Schumanns’ love, this concert explores how other composers have channeled the experience of unrequited love into music. Selections include Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 60, “Werther,” and Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters.”
  • Saturday, June 20, 10:30 a.m., Iowa City Public Library: Violinist Park and fiddler Taylor Morris will present a family concert.

“MusicIC delivers high impact music experiences in concerts that are rarely more than 75 minutes and are performed without intermission”, says Judith Hurtig, who with Park is the co-founder of MusicIC. “The four concerts are free, require no tickets, and take place in the heart of Iowa City. “All of our musicians have active careers in classical music, but they have carved out a few days to participate in our event because they love our innovative programming and the free and easy spirit of downtown Iowa City,” she adds. “We are indebted to them for the highest quality of music they provide, which has helped MusicIC to become nationally renowned.”

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