The fall concert of Chicago’s Civitas Ensemble will feature the work “Geometries” by Evanston resident Roger Zare. Born in Sarasota, Fla., Zare moved to Evanston with his wife, who’s a doctoral student at Northwestern.

“I moved to Evanston last September! My wife’s a conductor. We’ve actually worked together a number of times, I’ve written compositions for her, and she plays violin as well. It’s really great to have another musician around, and I love it. I know some musicians pairs who are both cellists, or something. But what we do is complement each other.”

In this concert, Civitas will perform pieces by John Williams and Johannes Brahms along with Zare’s work. “I haven’t worked with Civitas before,” Zare said, “but I met Lawrie Bloom over the summer, and he commissioned me for a festival in Maryland. It was a coincidence that I had just moved to Evanston. I showed him [Geometries] last year and he took a liking to it.”

Bloom said, “I had commissioned Roger for a piece as part of the 30th anniversary of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival. That piece was very well received…We found it challenging to perform, and substantial. In getting to know Roger, he had told me about ‘Geometries’, and sent me a score to look at. I then pushed to schedule it, as I really wanted to present this piece to our Civitas audience.”

Roger Zare.

Zare’s work as a composer has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times and performed across five continents by ensembles including the American Composers Orchestra and the New York Youth Symphony. His work is consistently inspired by science and mathematics, with influences from more fantastical repertoires such as mythology.

The work being performed by Civitas is just such a piece. Zare says the chamber work “Geometries” is inspired by “the nature of mathematics. It’s based on turning geometrical shapes into musical shapes.”  This piece is ideal for small ensembles like Civitas because of his colorful, counterpoint style that sounds “like there are more people playing than there actually are.”

Rehearsals with the composer are important to Civitas as well as Zare. Bloom said, “We love to have the chance to work directly with a composer as we are preparing a new work…In a positive way the composer can challenge us to go further with a work, and we can challenge the composer in order to best communicate the work. In this way hopefully we make a more dynamic performance possible, and ultimately that’s great for our audience, us, and the composer, so everyone is happy.”

As a composer, Zare is extremely efficient. “I write pretty quickly once I get going, but prewriting, thinking, conceptualizing, can be a long time. Writing words to describe the piece helps me stay focused, but when I start writing notes down…I can write pretty quickly.”

Zare’s next piece will be “A 20 minute sonata, for which I’m going to choose an environmental topic.” That work will premiere in March, commissioned for a group in Florida.

Zare remains an active pianist and has performed “Geometries” at the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival. He is also a substitute teacher at Evanston Township High School, and he loves it. “I specialize in music, but the music teachers aren’t out that often. Today I’m substituting in Spanish class, so I’m brushing up on it. This is the third year I’ve been a substitute. There’s a huge variety of things going on at ETHS, it’s great being a part of it.”

Zare wants to be more integrated with the Evanston community. “I’m able to freelance from almost anywhere. I can print and bind from my home office. I’ve been looking for an academic position, but I’m happy to be freelancing as a composer.”

More information about “Geometries” and Zare’s other work is available onlineTickets for the 7 p.m. Oct. 16 performance “Geometries” at Gottlieb Hall at the Merit School of Music, 38 S. Peoria St. in Chicago are available online.

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