Winter weekend classical music festival seeks to warm the soul

Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano and SIU alumnus Emily Fons returns to southern Illinois to give a recital at the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall with Yuko Kato, associate professor of piano at the School of Music at 17 p.m., Friday, February 4. The show is part of a three-day winter weekend festival presented by the Carbondale School of Music and Community Arts. (Photo provided)

January 31, 2022

Winter weekend classical music festival seeks to warm the soul

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Local musicians and internationally renowned artists will seek to warm everyone’s spirit with the Winter Weekend Classical Musical Festival, Friday to Sunday, February 4-6.

The SIU School of Music and Carbondale Community Arts present the three-day festival with performances at Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall on the campus of Southern Illinois University Carbondale and at ArtSpace 304, located at 304 W. Walnut St., Carbondale.

On Friday, Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Emily Fons, alumnus of SIU, returns to southern Illinois to give a recital with Yuko Kato, associate professor of piano at the School of Music. The 5 p.m. performance at the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall is free and the public is invited.

Fons and Kato’s performance will feature music from the Baroque era to the 21st century. Fons received her MA in Opera and Musical Theater from SIU in 2008.

“We chose works that focus on the lives of individual women – from Joan of Arc to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and even the Statue of Liberty,” Kato said. “These works by Gioacchino Rossini, Henry Purcell, Benjamin Britten, Lee Hoiby and Jake Heggie show Emily Fons at her best.”

Hailed as one of opera’s rising stars by Opera News, Fons’ global performances in recent seasons include the Canadian Opera Company, Seattle Opera, Berlin Philharmonic, Lyric Opera Chicago, the International Handel Festspiele, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Dallas Opera, the San Diego Opera, Opera Omaha, Boston Lyric Opera, Florentine Opera, Madison Opera, Opéra de Lille, the Ongaku-Juku Festival, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Opera Theater of Saint Louis.

The weekend performances move to ArtSpace 304 on Saturday and Sunday February 5 and 6. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the festival will feature the New Chicago Wind Quintet with SIU alumnus, pianist Kara Benyas.

Ed Benyas, professor of oboe and conducting at the School of Music, said the highlight of this program is one of his sabbatical projects, transcribing Czech Antonín Dvořák’s monumental “Piano Quintet” for a sextet of piano and winds. The program also includes music by German cellist and composer Franz Danzi, the father of the wind quintet, Benyas said. Members of the New Chicago Wind Quintet have performed with major ensembles and music festivals from the United States, Europe and Asia, including the Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Milwaukee Symphony, Grant Park Symphony , St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Florida Orchestra, Tianjin. and Shenzhen Symphonies, and the Banff, Spoleto and Carmel Bach festivals.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., Vanderbilt University’s Eunoia String Quartet performs quartets by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn and Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, as well as a “new rhythmic work” by young black composer and violinist Jesse Montgomery.

Information about tickets and masks

The February 4 performance is free. Tickets for the February 5-6 performances at ArtSpace 304 are $30 each and include two free alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks. Tickets are only available at the door in cash or check, and payable to the SIU, Benyas said.

All performers, staff and audience members must fully comply with Governor JB Pritzker’s executive orders regarding vaccinations, testing and the wearing of masks in indoor public places. Benyas noted that while the hope is that all festival performances will take place, the right to cancel any or all of them in the event of a COVID outbreak among one or more of the performers exists.

For more information, email Benyas at

Support for music festivals also comes from the SIU Foundation, the SIU Alumni Association, Fine Arts Student Activity Fees, the Southern Illinois Music Festival, the Southern Arts and the Illinois Arts Council.

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