Logan Center for the Arts

2018 in Music Photos

A year of big performances, big venues, big voices, and big ovations. Here’s a look at my favorite music photos from 2018. Applause to all!

All photos © copyright 2018 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Summertime Views

Summer is even more unpredictable than the rest of the year, but the last three months gave me some wonderful shoots with longtime friends and colleagues, cool kids being their cool selves, lots of great tunes, and a big open look at the Milky Way on a perfectly dark night in Colorado. Behind the scenes, I've made significant investments in my business and I'm looking forward to sharing some big projects, news, and more views in the fall! 

All photos © copyright 2018 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Supermoon and Symphonies: Early Highlights of 2018

If there's a way to sum up the start of 2018, it's that I photographed some pretty awesome and beautiful things. The year started off with a Supermoon in sub-zero temps. After the feeling returned to my fingers, I drove out to the Mississippi River to watch the bald eagles before concert season picked up again. I spent a dress rehearsal with the Lake Forest Symphony; covered the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra's final concert before its China tour; and shot the Chicago Philharmonic (with two pianos!). The Northwestern University Jazz Orchestra - with Victor Goines and Don Vappie - blew out the best Mardi Gras tunes north of New Orleans. I shot my first concert for the Harris Theater on the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, and watched in amazement while pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard performed Ligeti and Beethoven before a rapt audience at the University of Chicago. Fulcrum Point New Music Project closed March with a rollicking performance of music by Wynton Marsalis. Now, on to spring! 

All photos © copyright 2018 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Contempo Season Opener, October 27, 2015

The 51st season of the University of Chicago's Contempo series opened on October 27, 2015 with a program celebrating its recently retired artistic director, Shulamit Ran. The towering music was given probing and gutsy performances by U of C ensembles-in-residence Pacifica Quartet and eighth blackbird with mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley.  New artistic director Marta Ptaszyn'ska joined Ran on stage as longtime colleagues and friends.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

Chicago Jazz: A Photographer's View - Sept 23-Oct 25, 2015

One of the major highlights of 2015 - three of my photos were selected for inclusion in "Chicago Jazz: A Photographer's View" at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts.  My pictures were featured alongside some terrific images from around the city, and I had a chance to meet some photographers I've long admired - Stan Lee, Jasmine Kwon, Mark Sheldon, Farrad Ali, and Jack Siegel.  Many thanks to Bill Michel and the Logan Center for a great show and fun evening.  Below, my images from the Green Mill and performance shots of saxophonist Bernard Scavella and drummer Greg Artry.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

Scenes from the 2015 Collaborative Works Festival

My third season shooting for the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC) kicked off last week with the 2015 Collaborative Works Festival and four days of fantastic singing. It's an incredible privilege to have such close access to these singers; here are some of my favorite images.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.   

Looking back at CAIC's 2014-15 season

The Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago closed out its 2014-15 season this month, and with it, my second season shooting for them.  Through terrific recital programming, a series of master classes, and expert coachings, CAIC has added a vibrant art-song presence to Chicago's music scene, and I've been happy to see its audience grow at each event. Congratulations to my friends at CAIC on another wonderful season - I was happy to see it all, once again, through the camera.

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

CAIC's Spring Lieder Lounge

Baritone John Brancy and pianist Peter Dugan gave one of the most beautiful and memorable recitals I've had the privilege to shoot. With poignancy and grace, Brancy and Dugan performed a program of World War I British composers against an evening backdrop from the 9th-floor penthouse at the University of Chicago's Logan Center, a venue perfectly suited for the intimacy of the music.  

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Contempo: Big names, world premieres

Contempo always packs a heavy-hitting and heady mix of music.  This past Sunday seemed extra significant as Contempo gave the world premieres of works by Gunther Schuller and Sofia Gubaidulina - two giants in the world of contemporary composition who were also in attendance.  Add composer and Contempo artistic director Shulamit Ran, conductor Cliff Colnot, and U of C ensembles-in-residence Pacifica Quartet and eighth blackbird, and you've got some of the best in new music.  

Unlike traditional classical music forms, contemporary music is impossible to predict, making it uniquely challenging to photograph.  The usual strategy of waiting for the loud parts doesn't necessarily work since the loud parts may never come, or they come and go in an instant.  Here are some moments that I caught when the shutter sound was (hopefully) masked.  

Contempo celebrates 50 years

The University of Chicago's Contempo series is celebrating its 50th year of contemporary classical music this season, and featuring its two ensembles-in-residence: eighth blackbird and the Pacifica Quartet.  Joining them on January 24 was soprano Sharon Harms, trumpeter Stephen Burns, conductor David Fulmer, and a host of players from Chicago's new music community.  It's always fun to photograph these expressive musicians, and I'm looking forward to more in March. 

On stage with Third Coast Percussion

Microphones, music stands, lights, cables, a thousand mallets.  Plus the instruments - some of them large (marimbas, drum kits, cymbals, a gong, a piano), and some of them found objects (pipes, empty whiskey bottles, a string of paperclips).  And the artists themselves: Rob, Pete, Sean, David, all with earpieces plugged in and playing in perfect syncopation.  Third Coast Percussion is a complete sensory experience.  A few weeks ago, they gave me free range on stage at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts during their dress rehearsal with one directive: get all four musicians in one frame.  The solution was a multiple exposure frame created in the camera; it also captured the organized chaos of instruments.  

Up close with Patricia Barber

In the green room at intermission, legendary jazz pianist and vocalist Patricia Barber turns to me and asks, "How the f*** do I follow that?"  She was referring to a performance by percussionist Nicholas Reed of Marta Ptaszynska's "Space Model," a work for three sets of percussion instruments and recorded track.  Reed's seamless playing held the audience in rapt attention, igniting waves of applause.  Pianist Lisa Kaplan and cellist Nicholas Photinos, both of eighth blackbird, opened the show with the haunting "Habil-Sayagy" by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh.  The Pacifica Quartet followed with Elena Firsova's String Quartet No. 11, "Purgatorium," playing with its trademark precision and sensitivity.  I didn't have an answer to Barber's very serious question, other than to say, "I'm glad I don't have to."  

Barber was just as intense during her set as she was before it.  Sensing the enormity of the concert - the 10th anniversary of the new music series Contempo at the University of Chicago curated by Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer Shulamit Ran - Barber gave a performance both searing and deeply touching, poignant and beautiful.  Drummer Ari Hoenig, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and guitarist Gilad Hekselman provided ample solos and witty accompaniment.  But it was Barber who carried the full weight of the music.  I know this because I witnessed it from the front row, often dropping my camera from my eye just to watch for a minute.  It was an honor to photograph these artists, and to share for the briefest of moments the space they occupy.  

Patricia Barber: Completely awesome jazz pianist, vocalist, poet.

Patricia Barber: Completely awesome jazz pianist, vocalist, poet.

Patricia Barber rocking the Steinway.

Patricia Barber rocking the Steinway.

eighth blackbird's Lisa Kaplan (piano) and Nicholas Photinos (cello).

eighth blackbird's Lisa Kaplan (piano) and Nicholas Photinos (cello).

The Pacifica Quartet in the spotlight.

The Pacifica Quartet in the spotlight.

Percussionist Nicholas Reed 

Percussionist Nicholas Reed 

Pacifica Quartet and Anthony McGill make for a perfect afternoon

I am confident saying that Sunday's concert with the Pacifica Quartet and clarinetist Anthony McGill was the most soulful and satisfying performance of Mozart and Brahms that I have ever heard.  So often, the promise of all-star combinations falls short of expectations, but the Pacifica and McGill make music as if they have been performing together as a quintet for 20 years.  Their collaboration is natural, and the music flows with depth and clarity.  The concert also celebrated the quintet's forthcoming release of the same program - Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A Major and Brahms' Clarinet Quintet in B minor - on Cedille Records in May.  

Not only was I able to hear this exquisite music from behind a camera, but the artists were kind enough to let me hang out with them in the green room during intermission.  I was thrilled to finally meet the Pacifica, an ensemble I've long admired as a reviewer and music lover; and McGill - a Chicago native - may be best known for his performance at President Obama's first Inauguration.  

And to top it all off, my photo of the concert ran in the Sun-Times with Andrew Patner's glowing concert review.  My first photo in a newspaper!  Many thanks to Cedille Records' Jim Ginsburg and University of Chicago Presents' Amy Iwano for a wonderful afternoon.  

Clarinetist Anthony McGill and the Pacifica Quartet during Mozart's Clarinet Quintet.

Clarinetist Anthony McGill and the Pacifica Quartet during Mozart's Clarinet Quintet.

Pacifica Quartet and Anthony McGill 

Pacifica Quartet and Anthony McGill 

Cellist Brandon Vamos studies Brahms during intermission.

Cellist Brandon Vamos studies Brahms during intermission.

Anthony McGill tests out his reeds in the green room. 

Anthony McGill tests out his reeds in the green room. 

My photo on page 26 of the Sun-Times, April 15, 2014.

My photo on page 26 of the Sun-Times, April 15, 2014.