Imani Winds serve up energy in mixed UC debut

Chicago Classical Review

The presidential inauguration wasn’t the only changing of the guard to take place yesterday.

The Imani Winds made their debut in the University of Chicago Presents series Friday night at Mandel Hall. As the new Don Michael Randel Ensemble in Residence, Imani follows the Pacifica Quartet, who were UC’s ensemble in residence for 18 years.

Following the superb and popular Pacifica Quartet in that post is no easy feat, and the new ensemble’s debut was made more difficult by circumstances. Imani flutist Valerie Coleman injured her shoulder earlier this week and was unable to perform. Fortunately, Tim Munro was available and, as one of Chicago’s most deft and versatile musicians, the Australian flutist filled in gracefully, as if he had been playing with the other Imani members for years.

The Imani Winds’ appointment comes at what seems like a time of transition for the University of Chicago’s venerable music series, now in its 73rd season. The series’ long-running Sunday chamber concerts were quietly eliminated last year; jazz programs have increased exponentially in recent seasons; and finally the music department has elected to replace a highly acclaimed classical string quartet with a lesser-known crossover group whose commitment to classical repertoire seems like an open question. Despite assurances from officials, it’s not hard to see why there has been growing concern among audience members that core classical repertory is in danger of losing its preeminence at these UC concerts.

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