Dvořák Serenade for Strings

Tue, June 25, 2024 6:30 pm
Thu, June 27, 2024 6:30 pm


Grant Park Festival String Fellow Alumni

Kyle Dickson, conductor

Shaina Martinez, soprano

Imara Miles, mezzo-soprano





Romanian Folk Dances
Stick Dance
Waistband Dance
Stamping Dance, or On the Spot
Hornpipe Dance
Romanian Polka
Quick Dance 


Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9
Ária (Cantilena) 

Shaina Martinez, soprano


Delights and Dances

Solo String Quartet
Janani Sivakumar,
Layana Izurieta,
Harper Randolph,
Gabriel Hightower,


Of Paradise and Light


Last Spring

Imara Miles, mezzo-soprano


Serenade for Strings
Tempo di valse
Scherzo: Vivace
Finale: Allegro vivace 



South Shore Cultural Center, Jay Pritzker Pavilion


Approx. 80 minutes


This concert is made possible by the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation,
and generous gifts from Nancy Dehmlow and an Anonymous Donor. 

The Festival’s Fellowships are graciously supported by Peter and Lucy Ascoli,
Dr. Scholl Foundation, Colleen and Lloyd Fry and the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation,
Barbara Dana Klein, Nancy Meyerson (In Memory of Al Lewis), and
the Sandra and Earl J. Rusnak, Jr. Cello Fellowship Fund


Kyle Dickson


American Conductor Kyle Dickson has built a reputation as an inspiring and compelling presence on the podium. In 2023, Dickson was named Assistant Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Youth Orchestra. The recipient of the 2021 Grant Park Music Festival Advocate for Arts Award, the Concert Artists Guild’s (CAG) Richard S. Weinert Award, and the Joel Revzen Conducting Fellowship, Dickson is also a recent Salonen Conducting Fellow with the San Francisco Symphony and the Colburn School under the guidance of Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Appointed Assistant Conductor of the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles in 2021, Dickson has appeared as guest conductor with the symphony orchestras of Detroit, San Francisco, Oakland, Wichita, and the National Symphony (Washington, DC). In 2023/24, he will return to the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and make debuts with the Minnesota Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, and the Pasadena, Portland (ME), and Marin Symphony Orchestras. Other recent highlights include appearances with the Festival Orchestra Napa and collaborations with acclaimed artists including Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Reena Esmail, Alexander Malofeev, and Carlos Sainz-Villegas.

As Cover Conductor, Dickson has been engaged by the New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, and the San Diego Symphony as well as serving as Assistant Conductor for concerts with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Orchestre de Paris, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Passionate about music education and diverse representation in the arts, Dickson has worked regularly with many youth ensembles including the Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra, Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, Ravinia’s El Sistema Program, and the Colburn School’s Academy Virtuosi. He served as an Assistant Conductor for Carnegie Hall’s 2022 NYO/NYO2 Tour and this season will appear as guest conductor with both the 2022 ILMEA District 9 Senior Orchestra Festival and the Chicago Youth In Music Festival Orchestra.

Trained as a violinist, Dickson was a prizewinner at the 2010 NANM National Concerto Competition and began his career as an orchestral and chamber musician. He was named the 2017 Hyde Park Artist-In-Residence and has performed with the Grant Park Symphony, Quad City Symphony, and the Chicago Sinfonietta, among others. Dickson appeared regularly as Concertmaster of the Chicago Composers Orchestra and was an avid chamber musician; serving on the Violin and Chamber Music faculty at Chicago’s New Music School and holding residencies at Indiana University-South Bend and the United World College of South East Asia (Singapore). Additionally, his playing can be heard on albums by recording artists such as John Legend, Chance the Rapper, and Jessie J as a member of the Matt Jones/Recollective Orchestra.

Dickson studied conducting with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Victor Yampolsky, and Kevin Noe receiving degrees from the Colburn School and Northwestern University. He was a Paul Freeman Conducting Fellow under the mentorship of Mei-Ann Chen from 2019-2022 and was selected as a Conducting Fellow at the 2021 National Orchestral Institute’s Conducting Academy directed by Marin Alsop and James Ross. He also received degrees in Violin Performance and Music Education from DePaul University and Michigan State University studying with Walter Verdehr, Laura Roelofs, and Olga Kaler.

Shaina Martinez


Shaina Martinez has been hailed by the Washington Post for her “piercing, muscular soprano” and recognized by Opera News for having “an attractive soprano”. She has performed Giannetta and covered Adina (L’Elisir d’Amore) with Opera Maine; Violetta (La Traviata), Susannah (Susannah) and Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with Lighthouse Opera Company; the title role in Viardot’s Cendrillon with City Lyric Opera; Violetta (La Traviata) with MassOpera, Cio Cio San and Kate Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly) with Florida Grand Opera; Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte) and Saffi (Der Zigeunerbaron) with Manhattan School of Music; Salud (La Vida Breve) with The In Series, and Zweite Dame (Die Zauberflöte) with the Siena Music Festival. As an active competitor she has received 1st place from the 2022 Lyra New York International Art Song Competition, 2022 Dorothy Lincoln-Smith Voice Award (DC Chapter), 2022 SAS Performing Arts Vocal Competition, 2021 National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artist Competition, 2019 Eisenberg-Fried Concerto Competition, 2019 Russell C. Wonderlic Competition, and 2019 Talents of the World International Competition; 2nd place from the 2022 Southern Illinois Young Artist Competition, 2019 Opera NEO Voice Competition and MIOpera Vocal Competition; 3rd place from the Washington International Competition, the XXI Concurso Internacional de Canto Lirico, and Alan M. & Joan Taub Ades Competition; and was a finalist in the 2022 Loren L. Zachary Society Vocal Competition, 2022 Vero Beach Opera Rising Stars Competition, and 2022 and 2019 Opera at Florham Vocal Competition. She was a semifinalist of the 2022 Elizabeth Connell Prize and in the 2021 Met Council Auditions, which resulted in her receiving a Met Council Education Fund Grant in 2021. Ms. Martinez also has a love for art song which has been expressed in her performances in the Opera America Emerging Artist Recital with Craig Rutenberg, and her performance of Joaquin Turina’s Poema en forma de canciones with the MSM Philharmonia, under the baton of Perry So. Young Artist Programs include: Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance, Grant Park Music Festival’s Project Inclusion Fellowship, and Florida Grand Opera. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland and a Master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music.

Imara Ashton Miles


Imara Ashton Miles is the 2022 recipient of the James Toland Vocal Arts Elizabeth Greenfield Award. Originally from the D.C. Metropolitan area, Imara is known for her expressivity and lush sound.

Holding degrees from both York College of Pennsylvania (B.A) and Indiana University (M.M), Imara has been a lead and featured performer in shows such as The Pirates of Penzance (Ruth), The Drowsy Chaperone (Title Character), Dialogues Des Carmélites (Mere Jeanne), and Little Women (Cecelia March). While at Indiana University, Imara also performed in Carol Vaness’ Opera Workshop productions of Gianni Schicchi and The Ballad of Baby Doe where she played Zita and Augusta Tabor, respectively. She has also been a young artist at summer programs such as The Grant Park festival, The Glimmerglass Festival, Finger Lakes Opera, and Des Moines Metro Opera. During these programs, she performed various partial roles as Carmen & Merecédès (Carmen), Giovanna Seymour (Anna Bolena), and Amneris (Aïda) as well as a featured performer as Lily/Maria(cover) in Porgy & Bess with Des Moines Metro Opera. During the 2021-2022 season, Imara was a Resident Artist with Pensacola Opera where she performed in their productions of Die Zauberflöte (Third Lady) and Il barbiere di Siviglia (Berta/ Rosina cover). She also did the role of Elizabeth in Matthew Aucoin’s Second Nature with Opera Fayetteville and was a featured Soloist with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra.

Currently, Imara is a Resident Artist at Toledo Opera where she recently performed La Badessa/Lola in their double bill, Suor Angellica/Cavalleria Rusticana, and will be in their production of The Merry Widow as Olga. In the upcoming 22-23 season, Imara will return to Pensacola Opera as Nettie Fowler in Carousel and will be making her role and house debut as Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro with Knoxville Opera.


Matthew Adams
Fahad Awan
Caitlin Edwards
Scott Jackson
Amyr Joyner
Gabriela Lara
Alba Layana Izurieta
Audrey Lee
Sarah Martin
Yalyen Savignon
Lucas Scalamogna
Janani Sivakumar
Allie Switala
Teddy Wiggins

Rita Andrade
Wilfred Farquharson
Rafael Gargante
Eva Mondragon
Seth Pae
Harper Randolph
Edwardo Rios
Deanna Said
Yvonne Smith

David Caplan
Diana Flores
Gabriel Hightower
Chad Polk
Lindsey Sharpe
Jared Snyder
Denielle Wilson
Cole Randolph

Teddy Gabrielides
Gregory Heintz


Jessie Montgomery: Starburst

In the field of astronomy, a starburst is the sudden formation of vast quantities of stars. The rate and volume of creation is so high that it alters the structure of the entire galaxy. Composer Jessie Montgomery (b. 1981) evokes this flurry of energy in Starburst, a short one-movement work for string orchestra. She creates a multidimensional soundscape by mixing explosive, syncopated phrases with fleet-footed runs and undulations to capture what she calls the “imagery of rapidly shifting colors.” Starburst was commissioned in 2012 by The Sphinx Organization, a Detroit-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing the representation of Black and Latinx artists in classical music. The organization’s groundbreaking chamber orchestra, The Sphinx Virtuosi, inspired the imagery of the piece and gave the work’s premiere.

Béla Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances

When Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (1881–1945) was in his twenties, he became absorbed by the folk music of his homeland. With the help of his friend and fellow composer Zoltán Kodály, he traveled throughout Hungary and neighboring countries collecting and systematically cataloguing thousands of folk songs. From that point on, all of Bartók’s compositional output became influenced by this native music, either quoting folk melodies directly or incorporating characteristic elements such as modes and irregular rhythms.

Romanian Folk Dances, originally composed for piano in 1915 and orchestrated by the composer two years later, is a set of six brief vignettes based on Transylvanian folk tunes that would have been played on the fiddle or shepherd’s pipe. Although brief, the six dances all differ greatly in affect. First, we hear the pompous stomping of “Stick Dance,” followed by the flirtatious “Sash Dance.” “In One Spot” then evokes a Middle Eastern flute played over a drone. The slow “Dance from Bucsum,” also called “Horn Dance,” gives us a moment of respite before the vigorous dances of the final two movements.

Heitor Villa- Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9

Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959) once said, “The map of Brazil was my harmony textbook.” Largely self-taught, Villa-Lobos absorbed the diverse cultural heritage of his homeland and blended it with European modernism. Around the same time that Béla Bartók was traveling Eastern Europe collecting folk music, Villa-Lobos was undertaking his own ethnomusicological excursions in northeastern Brazil. “I study the history, the country, the speech, the customs, the background of the people,” he said. “I have always done this. It is from these sources, spiritual as well as practical, that I have drawn my art.”

Composed between 1930 and 1945, Bachianas Brasileiras is a suite of nine pieces that pay tribute to one of Villa-Lobos’ favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach. Though there are no direct quotations of Bach’s music in Bachianas Brasileiras, Villa-Lobos presents German baroque techniques and forms through the lens of Brazilian folk idioms. The last in the set, No. 9, takes the shape of a baroque prelude and fugue. In the slow, mystical prelude, the theme of the subsequent fugue is introduced in long note values over a pedal tone. Lush harmonies swirl and build anticipation for the fugue to come. In the fugue, the cellos induce the subject in the jaunty time signature of 11/8. In true baroque fashion, Villa-Lobos continues to develop the theme and places it in dialogue with a secondary motive in the violins before reintroducing the fugue subject in full, gradually adding layer upon layer before ending in a resounding unison.

Michael Abels: Delights and Dances

Delights and Dances by Michael Abels (b. 1962) is another commission courtesy of the Sphinx Organization. Written in 2007 to commemorate the organization’s tenth anniversary, Delights and Dances is scored for a solo string quartet and string orchestra. When Abels was studying at the University of California, he explored his African-American roots by studying gospel music and African drumming alongside the traditional classical curriculum. As a result, his music often presents elements of blues, jazz, gospel, and bluegrass within classical frameworks. Delights and Dances is no different. Abels calls the piece “a kind of diptych of American musical genres, one regarded as ‘black’ and the other ‘white.’”

The slow introduction begins with a rhythmically free cadenza in the solo cello. The solo viola then answers the cello’s questioning ascending motif, and the two play a rapturous duet. After the two solo violins enter, the tension mounts, eventually giving way to a bluesy section. Here, the soloists take turns playing improvisatory-sounding riffs over the orchestra’s syncopated pizzicato accompaniment. Though in a decidedly bluesy hue, this section remains upbeat. The subsequent bluegrassy section recalls a boisterous hoedown. Again, the soloists show off their virtuosity with increasingly dazzling declamations.

Augusta Read Thomas: Of Paradise and Light

A composer integral to the contemporary music scene in Chicago, Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964) is a professor of composition at the University of Chicago and founder/director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition. Of Paradise and Light (2010) is a string transcription of a work Read Thomas composed for girls’ chorus in 2008, which sets the poem “Kiss Me” by e e cummings. Similar in mood and conception to Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Of Paradise and Light is meditative work that Read Thomas says evokes “a sliver of paradise and light [that] came down to shine upon a garden of colorful flowers.”

Edvard Grieg: Last Spring

Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg wrote many songs based on poems by fellow countryman Asmund Olavsson Vinje. Vinje, in addition to writing poetry, worked as a journalist and travel writer. His treks through the Norwegian countryside helped to engender a spirit of nationalism. In his poem “Last Spring,” a dying man relishes the sweetness of springtime.

Antonín Dvořák: Serenade for Strings

Antonín Dvořák was in a happy period of his life when he wrote Serenade for Strings in 1875. Dvořák’s career was starting to take off, and he was gaining increased recognition outside of his Czech homeland. Earlier that year, he had won a grant for needy artists from a commission in Vienna, of which Johannes Brahms was a part. This stipend allowed Dvořák to compose without fear of leaving him and his young family impoverished. Consequently, 1875 was a prolific year for Dvořák, resulting in his Fifth Symphony, the first volume of Moravian Dances, several chamber works, and the Serenade for Strings. Dvořák wrote the Serenade at a blistering pace, completing it in just twelve days. However, it would not see public performance for over a year. Though a violist from the Vienna Philharmonic attempted to add the Serenade to the orchestra’s repertoire, the ensemble deemed Dvořák too obscure. However, the successful Prague premiere in December 1876 and subsequent performances in Czech cities continued to boost the composer’s visibility at home and abroad.

The happiness and stability of this time in his life shine through in this sunny work. Despite its accessibility, Serenade for Strings demonstrates Dvořák’s increasing sophistication and refinement as a composer with its use of modulations and dynamic shifts within a concise package. Apart from the finale, the movements are loosely cast in A-B-A song form, adding to the work’s approachability. Dvořák’s melodic gift is on immediate display in the opening Moderato, with a blithe cantabile theme presented over pulsing violas. The following Tempo di Valse features a swirling minor-key waltz, whereas the Scherzo is lively and frenetic, interspersed with more lyrical trio sections. The Larghetto acts as a wistful buffer between the vigorous Scherzo and the Finale, which evokes a rustic Bohemian village dance. Dvořák brings the work full circle by quoting the opening theme of the Moderato before closing with a presto coda.

Program notes by Katherine Buzard


Heitor Villa-Lobos: Aria from Bachianas Brasilerias No. 5
Ruth Valladares Corrêa (1904-1963)

Tarde uma nuvem rósea lenta e transparente.
Sobre o espaço, sonhadora e bela!
Surge no infinito a lua docemente,
Enfeitando a tarde, qual meiga donzela
Que se apresta e a linda sonhadoramente,
Em anseios d’alma para ficar bela
Grita ao céu e a terra toda a Natureza!
Cala a passarada aos seus tristes queixumes
E reflete o mar toda a Sua riqueza…
Suave a luz da lua desperta agora
A cruel saudade que ri e chora!
Tarde uma nuvem rósea lenta e transparente
Sobre o espaço, sonhadora e bela!

Afternoon, a rosy, slow and transparent cloud
in the air, dreamy and beautiful!
The Moon sweetly emerges into infinity,
Decorating the afternoon like a gentle maiden
Who dreamily prepares herself to be gorgeous
With an anxious soul to keep herself beautiful.
All of nature shouts to the Sky and to the Earth!
Flocks of birds hush to its complaints
And the Sea reflects its great splendor…
Softly in the light of the moon now awakes
Cruel longing that laughs and cries!
Afternoon, a rosy, slow and transparent cloud
in the air, dreamy and beautiful!

Edvard Grieg: Våren (Last Spring)

Enno ein Gong fekk eg Vetren at sjaa for Vaaren at røma;
Heggen med Tre som der Blomar var paa eg atter saag bløma.
Enno ein Gong fekk eg Isen at sjaa fraa Landet at fljota,
Snjoen at braana, og Fossen i Aa at fyssa og brjota.

Yes, once again winter’s face would I see
to Spring’s glory waning,
whitethorn outspreading its clusters so free
in beauty enchaining.

Graset det grøne eg enno ein Gong fekk skoda med blomar [eg seier hei]
enno eg høyrde at Vaarfuglen song mot Sol og mot Sumar.
[Enno ein Gong den Velsignad eg fekk, at Gauken eg høyrde,
enno ein Gong ut paa Aakren eg gjekk, der Plogen dei kjøyrde.

Once more behold from the earth day by day
the ice disappearing,
snow melting fast and in thunder and spray
the river, careering.

Enno ein Gong fekk eg skoda meg varm paa Lufti og Engi;
Jordi at sjaa som med lengtande Barm at sukka i Sængi.
Vaarsky at leika der til og ifraa, og Skybankar krulla,
so ut av Banken tok Tora til slaa og kralla og rulla.

Emerald meadows, your flowerets I’d spy
and hail each newcomer;
listen again to the lark in the sky
who warbles of summer.

Saagiddren endaa meg unntest at sjaa paa Vaarbakken dansa.
Fivreld at floksa og fjuka ifraa, der Blomar seg kransa.
Alt dette Vaarliv eg atter fekk sjaa, som sidan eg miste.
Men eg er tungsam og spyrja meg maa: tru det er det siste?

Once more I’m drawn to the Spring-gladdened vale
that stilleth my longing;
there I find sunlight and rest without fail,
and raptures come thronging.

Lat det so vera: Eg myket av Vænt i Livet fekk njota.
Meire eg fekk en eg havde fortent, og Alting maa trjota.]
Eingong eg sjølv i den vaarlege Eim, som mettar mit Auga,
eingong eg der vil meg finna ein Heim og symjande lauga.

All unto which here the Spring giveth birth,
each flower I have riven,
seems to me now I am parting from the Earth
a spirit from Heaven.

Alt det som Vaaren imøte meg bar, og Blomen eg plukkad’,
Federnes Aander eg trudde det var, som dansad’ og sukkad’.
Derfor eg fann millom Bjørkar og Bar i Vaaren ei Gaata;
derfor det Ljod i den Fløyta eg skar, meg tyktest at graata.

Therefore I hear all around from the ground
mysterious singing,
music from reeds that of old I made sound,
like signs faintly ringing.