21st Anniversary Benefit and Bash: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Last week Eighth Blackbird and its supporters celebrated the ensemble’s 21st Anniversary at the gorgeous Ivy Room in Chicago with its biannual Blackbird Benefit and Bash. Indefatigable co-chairs, board members Kate Bensen and Tony Scott-Green, the benefit committee, ensemble and staff worked all year to produce one of the most memorable and successful fundraising the organization has ever hosted.

Courtesy of benefit sponsor and board member Tremaine Atkinson, the evening kicked off with two signature cocktails designed collaboratively by cellist Nick Photinos and CH Distillery mixologist Patrick Gill: Blackbird Must Be Flying and Beauty of Inflections. Recipes below!* Chicago-based 2018 Blackbird Creative Lab fellows, saxophone quartet ~Nois, performed a lively work written by 2018 composer fellow Liza Sobel, a doctoral candidate at Northwestern  Bienen School of Music.

Emcee extraordinaire, Dr. Richard Hess, the Dolly, Ralph and Julia Cohen Chair of Dramatic Performance at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, and an early influencer for Eighth Blackbird, reminisced on the sextet’s auspicious beginnings. Richard’s early advocacy and wisdom helped shape the group’s core values, now built into the Blackbird Creative Lab and which continue to drive the vision for Eighth Blackbird’s future as cultural provocateurs.

The sextet’s concert featured favorites from the past, and a glimpse into the future including Robert Honstein’s Conduit from our album Hand Eye and Lobster Tails and Turtle Soup, by Australian composer and percussionist Holly Harrison.* An excerpt from David Lang’s new composition as explanation, an ongoing collaboration which will be fully staged in 2019-20, rounded out the program.

Following a scrumptious dinner, our larger than life live auctioneer Jim Miller led an electrifying paddle raise and auction, featuring house concerts by 8BB members, getaways, and signed scores, poems and artwork from recent collaborators.

With a final reflection from Richard Hess on Eighth Blackbird’s coming of age as artistic mentors, guests were invited to play individual handmade scores on cigar box players, producing a magical, tinkling soundscape throughout the hall. The punchole scores were components of “magic boxes” curated and designed by 2017 Creative Lab composer fellow Danny Clay to thank and inspire our guests in their own creative lives.  Each box included dream commissions and big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs) from 2017 and fellows, compositional games, and personal tattoos, compiled with the help of 2017 and 2018 fellows and Danny’s 5th grade music students in San Francisco.

It is hard to believe that Eighth Blackbird came into being 21 years ago. With the continued support of our board and staff, and our extraordinarily open and encouraging community, we are poised for the next era of music making and mentoring. We raise a glass (of the incredible CH Distillery signature dessert cocktail, Lucid Inescapable Rhythms!), to you!  Thank you. Here’s to many, many years to come.

Click here to see CH’s specialty cocktail recipes.

Check out our gallery of 2018 Blackbird Benefit and Bash photos below. All photos by Philamonjaro.

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