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Sonorous Earth

Augusta Read Thomas, Third Coast Percussion and the Chicago Philharmonic collaborate on a new work for percussion quartet and orchestra

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A “United Nations of Resonances” in Concert

Posted on December 11, 2017 by The Chicago Philharmonic Society

Thanks in part to the support of New Music USA, the Chicago Philharmonic premiered Augusta Read Thomas’s Sonorous Earth on November 12, 2017 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in downtown Chicago. It was a culmination of years of work from all involved. Chicago Philharmonic’s Artistic Director Scott Speck led the orchestra and percussion virtuoso ensemble Third Coast Percussion in a critically acclaimed performance.

Chicago Classical Review praised the connection between the orchestra and Third Coast Percussion to be ‘seamlessly organic”, and with the feature of 300 bells from all over the world, Sonorous Earth was not only a musical statement to celebrate the beauty and diversity in bell sounds, but also a cultural statement described as “a joyous affirmation of commonality across world cultures” by Chicago Tribune.

In the words of Chicago Tribune critic John von Rhein:

“Banging away at an exotic array of bells, gongs, chimes, Japanese singing bowls and what-have-you, the Third Coasters conjured an otherworldly carillon as their sounds — now crashing and clangorous, now delicate and shimmering — washed in waves over an orchestra that often mirrored the explosive energy of the four percussionists. Imagine myriad points of light, or multiple showers of shiny metallic objects, flashing across the cosmos, and you get a sense of what this arresting and evocative music sounds like.”

The Chicago Philharmonic champions new works by living composers to expand the influence, relevance and impact of orchestral music in the modern world. Thanks to the generous support of foundations such as New Music USA, our organization can continue to collaborate with influential composers and organizations, presenting new music to large and diverse audiences, and continuing to bring forward the best Chicago can offer.

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Eugene Symphony performance

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Augusta Read Thomas

APRIL 19, 2018
Premiere of co-commissioned SONOROUS EARTH for percussion quartet and orchestra by the Eugene Symphony conducted by Francesco Lecce-Chong and Grammy-winning Third Coast Percussion on a subscription concert at Eugene’s Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

SONOROUS EARTH is conceived as a cultural statement celebrating interdependence and commonality across all cultures.

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Augusta Read Thomas

SONOROUS EARTH can be heard as a United Nations of resonances. 


Posted on January 12, 2017 by Augusta Read Thomas

NOVEMBER 12, 2017
World Premiere of a NEW WORK for percussion quartet and orchestra will be presented by The Chicago Philharmonic Society and Third Coast Percussion conducted by Scott Speck in Harris Theater Concert Hall, downtown Chicago.

Breaking Ground

Posted on December 2, 2016 by The Chicago Philharmonic Society

The Chicago Philharmonic is proud to report that Augusta Read Thomas has broken ground on composing the new percussion quartet concerto, commissioned by the Chicago Philharmonic, featuring Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion as soloists. “Elegantly blending the bells — with their manifold tunings, colors, dynamics — with the orchestra is inspiring, humbling, and engaging,” she says.

Third Coast Percussion and Augusta have been working carefully on the cadenza sections of the concerto, which are exceptionally virtuosic and intricate. Third Coast Percussion has read, at slow tempo, a draft of the cadenza sections materials. Augusta has subsequently revised them, making the music even more virtuosic!

We are all working hard to promote future performances of the new concerto. Since it is a huge job to compose and to learn, we are hoping to perform it more than once.

We start workshops of the piece in June 2017 for a world premiere in November 2017.


In 2012, globally renowned and sought-after composer Augusta Read Thomas was commissioned to write a work for Third Coast Percussion, a ground-breaking young group that, since its formation eight years ago, has become nationally acclaimed for concerts and recordings that meld the energy of rock music with the precision and nuance of classical chamber works.

Resounding Earth, the product of that intensive collaboration premiered on September 30, 2012 at University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.  This beautiful and compelling music caught the attention of the leadership of the Chicago Philharmonic, an orchestra widely known and respected for its excellence and versatility performing works ranging from Santana to Stravinsky.  The Chicago Philharmonic’s interest in developing programming and championing new works to expand the influence, relevance and impact of orchestral music, sparked the idea of expanding Resounding Earth to create a work for a percussion ensemble and orchestra.

We are inspired to develop a new work that will build upon the sensibility of Resounding Earth, and serve as a unique showcase for these three shining examples of Chicago musical talent, each bringing different strengths and focus to the table.

The work will be scored for a percussion quartet playing bells and metals from around the world, and a 60-piece orchestra. It will premiere in Fall 2017 at one of the Chicago Philharmonic’s venues for their symphonic subscription concerts — Pick-Staiger Hall in Evanston (just outside of Chicago) or Harris Theater in Chicago.  Both venues are easily accessible by car and public transportation while offering convenient parking and affordable ticket prices. Through Chicago Philharmonic’s Families to the Phil program, students from area high schools and middle schools serving low-income populations will be invited to attend the concert for free with their families.  These schools, as well as senior citizen and special needs groups, will be invited to witness the creative rehearsal process, where they would hear the music and learn about the artists and the composition process in a comfortable, intimate environment.

The public performance of this work will extend well beyond its initial presentation. With its modestly-sized orchestra and broad appeal, enhanced by the intriguing use of percussion, the work will be easy to tour and share with a variety of audiences, and to be considered for performance by other organizations. The project also includes plans to record the work.

The creation and premiere performance of the work are also supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Project Media

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Augusta Read Thomas composition, commissioned by DePaul University, performed on June 17, 2013 by DePaul University at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, Chicago, Illinois by DePaul University Orchestra Cliff Colnot conducting

Augusta Read Thomas – Resounding Earth
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Written for Third Coast Percussion in 2012, “Resounding Earth” is scored for nearly three hundred unique bells and other resonant metal objects. The composition of the work, and the selection of the specific bells used in the recording, was completed in close collaboration between Third Coast Percussion and Augusta Read Thomas, who is among the most sought-after composers working today. Ms Thomas was the Mead Composer-in-Residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1997-2006 and is currently on the faculty of the University of Chicago.

Start and End Dates



Evanston, Illinois

5 updates
Last update on December 11, 2017

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Chicago, Illinois
Since its founding in 1988 by principals of the Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago, The Chicago Philharmonic Society (“Chicago Philharmonic”) has had two fundamental goals—to provide growing opportunities for its musical artist members to perform symphonic music at the highest level, and, in the process, to bring great music to diverse audiences at affordable prices…

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Chicago, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois


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