Orion Ensemble members perform at PianoForte, one of Orion's three venues.
Photos courtesy of each venue.

ORION STORIES
One Program + Three Venues =
Multiple Concert Experiences
Longtime fans know that The Orion Ensemble performs each of its season concert programs at three venues. While the program may stay the same, the changing environment produces a different experience for each concert.

“I love performing the same program several times,” said violinist Florentina Ramniceanu. “It makes for a new experience each time.” Said pianist Diana Schmück, “I learn so much during a performance, and each venue/piano makes me aware of different aspects of the music. Our three venues have extremely different acoustics, as well as different makes and sizes of pianos. In general, those affect the tempos we take, the way we hear the balance between the instruments and, personally, the type of pedaling and voicing I do on the piano.”  
ORION'S THREE VENUES
Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston: Designed in 1912 by noted architect Solon S. Beman as the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the building was sensitively restored in 2003 to become Nichols Concert Hall, a state-of-the-art, 550-seat performance space and music education destination. The converted building received the Richard H. Driehaus Award for best adaptive use by the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.
PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago: Located in the heart of the South Loop, this 3,000-square-foot space seats approximately 100 people. PianoForte Chicago has also evolved into a specialized piano boutique with a focus on selecting fine instruments at various price levels.
New England Congregational Church in Aurora—new this season:
Formed in 1858, the congregation built its original building in 1890. Orion will perform in the building's main sanctuary, which has beautiful stained-glass windows that are original to the building as well as an original Tiffany window above the hand-carved reredos that came from Oberammergau Germany, added in 1934. Orion hosts its spring benefit in the church’s Friendship Hall on the third floor.
Each of these venues offers musicians and audiences a variety of opportunities to experience Orion’s performances and repertoire.
 
“Each hall we play in has special qualities,” said clarinetist and Executive Director Kathryne Pirtle. “PianoForte is our most intimate setting—our audience is literally several feet away from us! It is almost like performing in a large living room, the way chamber music was originally intended. Nichols Hall has wonderful acoustics in a larger space for a warmer, more reverberant sound. We have not yet played a concert in our new Aurora venue, but judging from what we have tried there, it is going to be a wonderful chamber music hall with a balanced, warm sound.”
 
“Pianoforte has a modern and edgy feel and sound, somewhat raw, as if you are inside the instruments,” described Ramniceanu. “Nichols is a perfect hall for chamber ensembles; it’s intimate even though you feel like you are on a great stage performing there. Our new venue in Aurora should provide a perfect balance between the other two venues, and it’s so nice to have a beautiful church and its acoustics to perform in.”
 
In comparing the chamber music experience to that of playing with a large orchestra (which all the Orion musicians do when they are not playing together), Pirtle shared, “Playing chamber music in a wonderful ensemble is one of the most satisfying musical experiences of my life. I love being able to perform a wide range of challenging music with such incredible musical partners.” Ramniceanu added, “You are so much closer to the audiences, they almost become one with you. We react to them so much, it is quite wonderful. We literally share our musical souls in this close relationship.”
 
Schmück agreed. “A substantial part of the energy of each venue is the audience—the people who are listening—and I am grateful that we have enthusiastic, positive chamber music audiences in all three venues.”
 
Pirtle suggested, “Audience members might want to consider experiencing more than one performance of each of our concert programs for an opportunity to hear the different acoustics of our venues and enjoy multiple performances of each piece. Any patron can come to multiple performances of one concert for free with their ticket.”
See Orion's first concert series of the season!
Concert 1
with guest artist Stephen Boe

September 29 - 7 pm (New England Congregational Church, Aurora)
October 2 - 7:30 pm (PianoForte Studios, Chicago)
October 6 - 7:30 pm (Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston)

$30 adults | $25 seniors | $15 students


"The last concert and the last piece left me so thrilled I was floating.
I looked at the man two chairs down and without any words,
our faces and expressions to each other told the whole story—
he was as elated as I was. Wow, what a way to leave a concert!"
–Alice Kacherian Trent (June 2019 concert)


27th Season – 2019-20
The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund, and the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and by generous donations from our dedicated patrons.