// By Genna Krecicki //
The Fifth House Ensemble, a chamber group of ten professional musicians, aims to change the light in which people experience and interact with classical music. Consisting of former Civic Orchestra of Chicago members, the Fifth House Ensemble, or the 5HE, strives to create a multidimensional listening experience, made by combining classical music with other art forms to produce “connective programming.” By creating a narrative aspect that accompanies the music, the 5HE is able to connect with a broader audience. The 5HE has paved the way for modern chamber performance by playing at unexpected venues, like the Apple store in Lincoln Park and downtown at the Shedd Aquarium, and collaborating with some surprising art mediums (film, dance, gourmet food, and winemaking to name a few). Each performance is unique and entertaining, which accomplishes the group’s core goal: to perform at the highest artistic level through dramatic interpretation and creative energy.
Casting off the traditional role often associated with classical repertoire, the 5HE has solidly grounded itself in the modern world. This year’s series, entitled In Transit, tells a story through the use of today’s most popular medium: social media. As a series of four different shows, In Transit tells the stories of fictional characters “creating, sharing, and connecting via their profiles online.” Each story is represented by a specific hashtag: #iwitness, #wink, #undercoverhero, and #thisrocks. While the audience watches a barrage of projected images, including social media updates and emails, the 5HE provides the music to match the narrative mood. At the end of the show, audience members are asked to tweet about their expectations and wishes for the involved characters, which are then displayed on a large screen for everyone to view. Audience response to this new combined media has been mostly positive; one review stated that the show was definitely “designed to keep the experience engaging at multiple levels.” (To read this review, visit http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/narrative-before-music/.)
By becoming a collaboratively motivated group, the 5HE performs pieces by classical composers like Schumann and Mozart in an entirely new context. Executive director, co-founder, and flutist Melissa Snoza says that the group is composed of four main components: collaboration, public performance, educational work, and entrepreneurship. In a recent interview with Innovative Ideas in Performance and Pedagogy, a popular blog among music collaborators, Melissa commented that the group is dealing with the shifting demand for classical music and the arts. Snoza says that by “creating meaningful collaborations, partnerships, and programs that are also of interest to audiences”, the 5HE is catering to all audiences. As a not-for-profit organization, the 5FH provides artistic training programs to students of all levels, as well as an interactive performance-based program called MusiCare for institutions like the Self Help Center and the Children’s Memorial Hospital. The group also focuses on continuing the study of music by traveling to universities and conservatories to offer practical and professional advice about surviving in the music industry. By combining the traditional with the non-traditional, this innovative chamber ensemble has put a refreshing spin on an ancient art form and connected with a newer, more modern audience.
The distinguished classical music lover has sadly become one of a dying breed. Once in high demand and greatly enjoyed, famed orchestras and splendid symphony halls all over the nation are beginning to shut down due to a lack of interest and funding. After studying music performance for two years at Northwestern, I know all about the decreasing demand for classically trained musicians and their trade. The past few decades have reflected how support for the arts has significantly dwindled, and made finding an audience for institutions that create and preserve classical music much more difficult. Younger generations perceive this type of music as old-fashioned and antiquated, out of touch with their modern world. Fortunately for this classical art form, the Fifth House Ensemble has found a way to effectively change this perception.
The Fifth House Ensemble’s performance schedule can be found on their website (http://fifth-house.com/) along with trailers and photos from their current season.