Chicago Sinfonietta celebrates Diwali with Love + Light

  • "Love + Light: The Jubilant Return of Diwali" will be performed Saturday, Nov. 9, at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville and Monday, Nov. 11, at Symphony Center in Chicago.

    "Love + Light: The Jubilant Return of Diwali" will be performed Saturday, Nov. 9, at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville and Monday, Nov. 11, at Symphony Center in Chicago. Courtesy of Chicago Sinfonietta

Submitted by Natalia Dagenhart
Updated 10/21/2019 5:36 PM

"Since music is a reflection of our mindset and our culture, it is bound to change with time. I am glad that India is such a receiving country and is always open to all kinds of music. Our composers, singers and writers are open to experimenting," said Indian singer, composer and actor Sonu Nigam. America is also happy to learn from other countries and cultures, and Chicago Sinfonietta, the nation's most diverse orchestra, is a great example of it.

For the second consecutive year, Chicago Sinfonietta is thrilled to present a joyous celebration concert of Diwali following a successful celebration of the holiday during the 2018-2019 season. The concert, called "Love + Light: The Jubilant Return of Diwali," will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at Symphony Center in Chicago.


What is Diwali? Diwali, or Dipawali, is India's biggest and most important holiday of the year. This festival is important to Hindus in the same way that the Christmas holiday is important to Christians. Over the years, Diwali has also become a national festival enjoyed by non-Hindu communities. It gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa). Indian people light them outside of their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness and to celebrate the victory of good over evil. People also celebrate the Festival of Lights by bursting firecrackers, gorging on sweets and exchanging gifts with family and friends.

Chicago Sinfonietta's "Love + Light: The Jubilant Return of Diwali" will honor the rich heritage of this festival of light by masterfully presenting the heightened themes of musical mythology, familiar traditions and dance. This year, Chicago Sinfonietta's Diwali celebration will highlight the unmatched musicianship of India's iconic and world-renowned violinist and composer Dr. L. Subramaniam and classic Indian Bharatanatyam dance by Chicago's Mandala South Asian Performing Arts. During this concert program Western classical music traditions will interweave with Carnatic music, which is one of two main subgenres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu traditions. Such a brilliant combination of styles and genres will delight audiences and make this concert program unforgettable.

"We are so excited to perform with Chicago Sinfonietta," said Ashwaty Chennat, choreographer and principal artist of Mandala. "With the South Asian population growing rapidly in Chicago, there is no better time to perform a Diwali-focused concert. Diwali is not an Indian-only holiday, as people of many faiths celebrate the festival in South Asia, so we look forward to sharing this celebration with people of all backgrounds and heritages through music and dance. There's absolutely nothing like performing with a full orchestra and we are thrilled to share the talent our homegrown dance company has to offer the city of Chicago with an organization like Chicago Sinfonietta, which champions diversity and inclusion in everything it does."

It will be the first time for Maestro Sameer Patel to lead an entire Chicago Sinfonietta concert. Patel is a former Assistant Conductor of the San Diego Symphony and Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow alumnus. Under the baton of Maestro Patel, the orchestra will begin the concert performing Ludwig van Beethoven's Leonora Overture No. 3, Op. 72, in tribute to the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. Beethoven composed The Leonora Overture No. 3, Op. 72 in 1806, and it ended up being more successful than his two previous tries writing The Leonora overtures. It carries the themes of personal freedom that are consistent with the themes in the opera itself, which was later known as Fidelio. Under the directorship of Maestro Patel, this traditional Western classical music composition will be framed in a new way highlighting the triumph of good over evil that is celebrated throughout Diwali. Such a twist, but nothing is impossible for the Chicago Sinfonietta!

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"The Chicago Sinfonietta has meant so much to me in my career and it's an honor to return for a concert that celebrates a tradition close to my heart," said Sameer Patel, Chicago Sinfonietta Guest Conductor. "The Chicago Sinfonietta team has a bold approach to programming, and it has been an invigorating process working with everyone on this program. They instinctively look beyond the normal concert experience, and their courage, collaborative approach, and willingness to dream big allows creative artists like myself the opportunity to bring big ideas to life. I've grown up celebrating Diwali and I cannot wait to share this festive time of year and this wonderful program with our audience."

The first half of the concert will continue with Igor Stravinsky's Suite from The Firebird (rev. 1919). This magnificent composition shows the remarkable individuality of the composer who wrote this Suite while only 27 years old. It consists of five movements: Introduction featuring The Firebird and Its Dance, Khorovod (round dance), Infernal Dance of King Kaschchei, Berceuse (Lullaby), and Finale. Based on a popular Russian folktale, this masterpiece showcases parallels to traditional Diwali mythology and the story of Ramayana and its central character Hanuman.

During this composition, the Chicago Sinfonietta musicians will be joined on stage by six contemporary dancers of Mandala, who will employ wide spacing choreography that is traditional to Western classical ballet along with the intricacies of classic Indian dance to depict the story through movement. Such a great collaboration of Russian and Indian cultures presented by an American orchestra while happily honoring Diwali, the festival of joy!

The second half of the concert will feature the North American premiere of Dr. L. Subramaniam's Shanti Priya in E, Ls 231, with Dr. L. Subramaniam himself taking the stage as the featured violinist in a once in a lifetime performance. Renowned as a world-class musician and composer, Dr. L. Subramaniam's lineage can be traced back ten generations to the creator of classical Indian music in a musical heritage that is traditionally taught by father to son. The recipient of countless accolades and awards for composition and performance across the globe, Dr. L. Subramaniam is considered to be the greatest classical Indian violinist of our time.


"Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance," said Dr. L. Subramaniam. "Every festival is a celebration of the gift of life itself. Shanti Priya, which translates to 'lover of peace,' has meditative, contemplative passages as well as more upbeat, celebratory ones. No part of the piece is brash or aggressive in its approach, and that was something I was careful to convey. I hope a Western audience can find the essence of our festivals in this piece; a blend of reflection, prayer, and celebration."

The important message carried by this composition and by this beautiful festival of light will shine throughout the entire Chicago area. It will beautify our land musically and enlighten it spiritually. We all need love and light! As one of the Diwali quotes reads, "Happiness is in the air because it is the ambiance of Diwali which is everywhere. Shower love, care, and joy on everyone you meet. Rejoice on this blessed occasion and spread sparkles of peace and goodwill. Have a Happy Diwali!"

For tickets, please go to

Tickets to Love + Light: The Jubilant Return of Diwali range from $10 to $62 when purchased in advance online. Celebrate this vibrant holiday before the show and during the intermission with BRIDGE audience engagement sponsored by Macy's. Also, sample unique flavors with Somrus, learn a new dance style with artists from Mandala Arts, explore the art and musical instruments of India, and capture memories with FOTIO. Enjoy your Diwali celebration!

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