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Grant Park Music Festival Presents World Premiere and Composer Residency with William Bolcom

The Festival's 80th Anniversary celebration features a newly commissioned orchestral work and composer-in-residency week with William Bolcom

The Latest Update

Recording of Bolcom’s World Premiere Millennium: Concerto-Fantasia!

Posted on October 20, 2014 by Grant Park Music Festival

Please enjoy listening to the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Millennium: Concerto-Fantasia! This recording features the Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra’s premiere performance on August 15, 2014.

Note: This recording is for archival use ONLY, and not to be used without permission from the Grant Park Orchestral Association.

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Post-Residency Wrap up

Posted on September 23, 2014 by Grant Park Music Festival

William Bolcom’s exciting Grant Park Music Festival residency concluded with the World Premiere of his new orchestral piece written for the festival, Millennium: Concerto-Fantasia. The piece premiered to a packed Pritzker Pavilion, with an estimated 12,000 filling the Seating Bowl and Great Lawn.

Describing the piece’s genesis and background, Bolcom writes, “In 2000 a fascinating Cambridge University conference on all aspects of time discussed, among other things, the history of century-marking, [and] the presence of the number 60 in minutes & seconds…I was invited to give a paper on the difference between real time and musical time, real time being calibrated by the steady beat of the cesium atom used in Greenwich time and musical time guided by how music goes – fast or slow, excited or calm, formally loose or tight. So many of the institutions of the previous millennium are currently under heavy review…in music, one of them may be the orchestra itself. Many of us have feared the funneling of the opera house, the concert hall, the symphony into one big enclave of the rich musical past. Though there is still a passionate audience, and schools of music and conservatories are turning out very talented artists performing this music, many, many people in our society do not relate to this culture at all. It is clearly up to us in music to invite these people into our enclave and to the many beauties waiting for them.”

Bolcom continues, “Thus Millennium. When Grant Park commissioned me for a work, I drew on my thoughts about time from fourteen years ago and began to think of the orchestra’s history of the last four centuries. The piece is a concerto for orchestra with a progressive musical form. There are several passing sections like chapters in this one-movement piece, played without pause: Introitus, Rockets, Dreamscape: The Love Dream, Rude Awakenings, and A Conclusion, for Now.”

Bolcom concludes his thoughts with great sentimentality, writing, “…Millennium has the positive charge of being premiered in a millennial park in a vibrant, evolving city. And here we all are together in this park, hearing a new piece.” 

The work received a warm reception, and 10,000 more attended the next evening’s concert, where Bolcom’s Millennium closed Grant Park Music Festival’s 80th Anniversary season.

Lawrence A. Johnson, contributor to The Classical Review, commented on the World Premiere: “The opening “Introitus” starts with primitive beginnings, here painted in irregular timpani strokes and rattlesnake-like percussion. Other instruments join in and timbres coalesce, leading to “Rockets” where the pounding timpani and showy bravura reflect the late-18th-century Mannheim School and its popular effect of fast and brilliant upward string flourishes (the “Mannheim rocket”). The Romantic era is represented by “Dreamscape: The Love Dream,” where a lyrical violin solo, well played by Jeremy Black, is taken up by all the front-desk principals. The soaring music for string quartet builds to a climax.

The reverie is broken (“Rude Awakenings”) with a rhythmic trumpet motif and edgy chords that segue into an uneasy stillness with a Mahler-esque horn theme against sustained violins. A ticking clock-like transition leads to the final section (“A Conclusion, for Now”), with the sense of time accelerating once again. After aggressive fast music punctuated by dissonant chords, the tempo slows and the music ends quietly with shimmering strings and a hopeful rising theme for harp.

A colleague clocked Millennium at 15 minutes—about a third shorter than the program indicated—yet the work feels right at this length. The music is pure Bolcom—quirkily iconoclastic with restless, dynamic energy, and scored with ease and panache with brief moments in the spotlight for several Grant Park principals.  Kalmar and the orchestra gave Millennium a fizzing and hugely energized sendoff with the composer joining them on stage to share in the applause.”

Grant Park Music Festival offers heartfelt thanks to William Bolcom for his stunning composition, as well as the time he devoted to coachings, rehearsals, and audience lectures. An estimated 37,500 people were treated to Bolcom’s music throughout the week.

Photo: Composer Bolcom onstage at Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Photo credit: Chris Sweda

Residency Week Continues

Posted on August 14, 2014 by Grant Park Music Festival

William Bolcom’s residency with the Festival continued with a performance of selections from Cabaret Songs featuring the Grant Park Orchestra and artists from the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center: J’nai Bridges, Mezzo-Soprano; Julie Anne Miller, Mezzo-Soprano; Anthony Clark Evans, Baritone; and Will Liverman, Baritone.

The Festival’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar introduced Mr. Bolcom and prompted him to offer the audience some insight into the creation of Cabaret Songs.

The concert was performed to a capacity crowd of over 11,000 people.

Photo credit: Norman Timonera


The Residency Has Begun!

Posted on August 14, 2014 by Grant Park Music Festival

On Wednesday, August 13th, William Bolcom joined one of our Festival docents for a Q&A session at an Open Rehearsal.  Mr. Bolcom talked about the commissioning project that will premiere this weekend, and about the history of his Cabaret Songs, 10 of which were performed later that evening.

The Commission is Complete!

Posted on April 24, 2014 by Grant Park Music Festival

Mr. Bolcom has finished our comissioned piece and we are excited to share the title with you.  The full title of the new piece is MIllennium: A Concerto-Fantasia for Orchestra.

The work includes six movements:
I. Introitus
II. Rockets
III. Landscape
IV. The Love-Dream
V. Rude Awakening
VI. A Conclusion, for Now

We are excited to learn about the inspiration behind the movement titles!

Programming Update!

Posted on March 17, 2014 by Grant Park Music Festival

The Festival is honored to have recieved funding from New Music USA in support of its upcoming composer-in-residency week with William Bolcom!

New to the project’s program: On Wednesday, August 13 at 6:30 PM at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, conductor Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra, with guest artists from the Lyric Opera’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center will perform Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs. Prior to the performance, audiences will have the opportunity to attend two open rehearsals on August 12 and 13 where they can learn more about William Bolcom and his music.

Please note: The Festival will not be presenting the Bolcom Clarinet Concerto or Songs of Innocene and Experience.  All other programming and activities are scheduled to proceed as planned.

We look forward to sharing our progess as the project continues to unfold!



The 2014 summer season marks the Grant Park Music Festival’s (GPMF) 80th Anniversary as well as the 10th Anniversary of its current performance venue, the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s downtown Millennium Park. To celebrate these joint milestones, GPMF has commissioned a new work from distinguished composer William Bolcom. Tentatively titled “Millennium,” this twenty-minute piece is conceived as a Concerto for Orchestra that references the Festival’s rich history. GPMF will world-premiere “Millennium” on August 15, 2014, and reprise the work on August 16, for a projected total audience of 24,000 Pavilion and lawn patrons.

In keeping with its origins as “the people’s orchestra” of Chicago, GPMF continually seeks to deepen audiences’ connection to the Festival and promote broader engagement with symphonic music. As part of this effort, GPMF will host a weeklong residency with William Bolcom, August 11–16, 2014, in conjunction with the “Millennium” world premiere. The residency will comprise ancillary performances of Bolcom’s works in various genres, as well as opportunities for the public to interact with a leading American composer, providing audiences of all ages and musical knowledge with unique experiences that enhance their appreciation of contemporary American music. Confirmed activities include:

–A mainstage GPMF concert at Pritzker Pavilion featuring Bolcom’s Clarinet Concerto (August 13).

–Three open rehearsals of “Millennium” (August 12, 14, and 15) and two open rehearsals (August 12, 13) to include Bolcom’s Clarinet Concerto. These rehearsals, held at Pritzker Pavilion, are free to the public and will feature intermission commentary from the composer.  Estimated attendance for these five rehearsals is 2,500.

–A free pre-concert lecture for adult audiences in Pritzker Pavilion’s Choral Rehearsal Hall (August 16), featuring discussion with the composer and Artistic Director Carlos Kalmar.  Estimated audience is 100.

GPMF is working to finalize repertory, venues, and dates for additional activities including:

–A public performance of Bolcom’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” with guest soloists from the Ryan Opera Center, the professional artist training program of Lyric Opera of Chicago.

–Informal educational and artistic development programs with the composer for younger audiences, including graduate and undergraduate composition students from area universities; and inner-city youth taking part in GPMF’s Classical Campers program.

The Bolcom world premiere and its affiliated week long residency activities are expected to engage up to 38,950 diverse children, youth, adults, and seniors, drawn from communities throughout the greater Chicago area as well as from the city’s significant summer tourist population.

Start and End Dates



Chicago, Illinois

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Last update on October 20, 2014

Project Created By

Chicago, Illinois
Established 86 years ago to serve as “the people’s orchestra” of Chicago, the Grant Park Music Festival (GPMF) was conceived by then-Mayor A. J. Cermak as a series of free, city-sponsored concerts to lift the spirits of Chicagoans during the Great Depression. Today, GPMF is the nation’s longest-running free outdoor summer classical music series, making…

In Collaboration With

Ann Arbor, Michigan


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