The Scene

Wheaton’s Camerata Chicago plans fiery milestone concerts

Chamber orchestra earns international accolades over two decades

Camerata Chicago of Wheaton to mark 20th anniversary in April 2024 concerts

A heady concert season with royal flourishes from a crown prince and princess last fall marks the 20th anniversary of Camerata Chicago’s founding in Wheaton by Maestro Drostan Hall, whose uncle, famed conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, opened the Sydney Opera House concert hall in 1973, with Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother in attendance.

As Camerata prepares its season finale concerts in Wheaton, Hinsdale and Evanston in April, featuring Marta Aznavoorian as guest pianist, Hall is excited to also unveil the upcoming season, which includes a returning favorite, the Christmas portion of Handel’s “Messiah,” to be performed in November by his orchestra and its choir, joined by guest soloists selected from the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center.

Aznavoorian’s April 12-14 performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 will be complemented by Dvorak’s “New World Symphony No. 9,” a piece that touched 7-year-old Hall growing up in England. One of the most beloved symphonies became personal for Hall, whose parents were professional musicians who took him and his brothers to hear a local performance of the Dvorak work by the London Symphony Orchestra.

“It is the piece of music that inspired me to make music my profession,” Hall said. “My parents played us a recording of [it] for about three months in advance. We got to know and love this symphony. And so, of course, when we went to the performance. … It was so thrilling to see it played live.

“Dvorak came here in [the 1890s and] wrote that piece while in the United States,” he said. “I have a certain affinity with this work because I myself came to the United States. ... There’s still a feeling of the new world, an exciting spirit in this country. … I’ve been welcomed here in the United States with open arms. The ‘New World Symphony’ represents a very strong part of my childhood and my career in the U.S. It seemed very fitting and celebratory to put that piece on the program.”

When Hall was 4, his mother became his first violin teacher. The whole family was musical and local composer Joyce Barrell wrote them a sextet, a work they would perform at local festivals. Hall continued to study violin in England and later at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. When he was 13, he was in the junior section of the inaugural Yehudi Mehuhin International Competition for Young Violinists held in Folkestone, England.

The current Camerata season opened with acclaimed Serbian violinist Stefan Milenkovich.

“It’s been a wonderful 20 years – wonderful to make music with so many great musicians,” said Hall, a Wheaton resident.

He called it a marvelous delight to have the crown prince and crown princess of Serbia at the concert featuring Milenkovich, performed in Chicago and Wheaton. The princess founded the Lifeline Humanitarian Organization, which includes a Chicago office.

“We were able to raise $45,000 as a result of ticket sales and other donations … to support orphanages in Serbia [through Lifelife],” he said, noting concert sponsors were Dr. Nikola and Tatjana Nenadovich.

“My husband [Alexander, a descendant of Queen Victoria] and I congratulate Camerata Chicago on 20 years with Maestro Drostan Hall at the helm performing beautiful music for people to enjoy,” Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia said at the concert, adding the music brought tears to their eyes.

Photo of The Crown Prince Alexander (descendant of Queen Victoria) and Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia (center and second from right), Ariane and Drostan Hall of Wheaton from far left, Tatjana Nenadovich (next to Drostan Hall) and Dr. Nikola Nenadovich on far right. Drostan Hall is music director and founder of Camerata Chicago in Wheaton. Photographer Daniel Anderson

Those raves were echoed in reviews of Camerata Chicago on its 2013 concert tour in Italy, Czech Republic and France. A French reviewer wrote of “Camerata Chicago’s performance under the baton of an exuberant magician, Drostan Hall. This internationally known ensemble has a powerful aesthetic that is supported by exemplary cohesion. The musicians go straight to what is essential; they have a touch that flies.”

On tour with Camerata Chicago was celebrated cellist Wendy Warner, who had made a Haydn recording with them on Chicago’s Cedille Records label that earned a European Grammy nomination. Cedille’s president is Jim Ginsburg, son of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the Supreme Court. Hall said he and Jim Ginsburg exchanged notes. “Both of us had very close family ties to a very famous person – his mother, my uncle,” Hall said.

Marta Aznavoorian, pianist, will guest star with Camerata Chicago of Wheaton in April 2024 in Wheaton, Hinsdale and Evanston. 

- Lisa Mazzucco, photographer

For April’s concerts, Aznavoorian, a world-class artist in Chicago, will play the third concerto by Beethoven, Hall said. The third piece is Rossini’s “Overture to William Tell,” commonly recognized as the theme of “The Lone Ranger” TV show.

“It’s iconic in the American psyche, and, of course, very celebratory with the famous trumpet fanfare in the middle of the piece,” Hall said. “Part of what I want to achieve with our concerts is to bring the great pieces of music to a new audience – to the children, to families.”

Founder and music director Drostan Hall of Wheaton. Camerata Chicago of Wheaton to mark 20th anniversary in April 2024 concerts

For families, Hall created the first educational edition of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” available on Camerata’s website.

“It includes excerpts and explanation so everyone knows what they are listening to,” he said. “The birds, the murmuring leaves and all the different seasonal phenomena – lightning, thunder.”

Camerata’s new season will kick off in October with Brazilian violinist Guido Sant’Anna, who gained international recognition in 2022, when, at age 17, he became the first South American to win the prestigious International Fritz Kreisler Competition in Vienna. “The Messiah” concert follows in November, and in February 2025, Camerata plans a Valentine’s concert series with renowned Canadian violin soloist Susanne Hou performing romances. Music is by Beethoven, Dvorak, Svendsen and Kreisler. Massing a 40-voice choir, Camerata will end the season with Mozart’s Requiem over Memorial Day weekend to honor veterans.

Mathias Tacke, from Germany, a member of the acclaimed former Vermeer Quartet at NIU, has been Camerata concertmaster since 2008, part of the international roster of 55 players frequently heard in live broadcasts on Chicago’s classical music radio station WFMT. Hall said Tacke lauds the acoustics at the new state-of-the-art Armerding concert space at Wheaton College, one of their favorite venues.

Photo of the members of The Camerata Chicago Ladies Guild (based in Wheaton) - Left to right Tammy Van Cleave, Anna Brazier, Alisa Maloney, Ariane Hall and Holly Moses.  Photo Mike Van Cleave

Hall is joined in his love for music by wife Ariane, who founded the Camerata Chicago Ladies Guild, and who lends her “perspicacious ear” for singers in scouting fine voices.

“We’re looking forward to at least another 20 years of music making,” he said.


• WHAT: Camerata Chicago

• WHERE: Armerding Concert Hall at Wheaton College, 520 E. Kenilworth Ave., Wheaton, and Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church, 201 N. Oak St., Hinsdale

• WHEN: 3 p.m. April 13 and 14; concert is at 7:30 p.m. April 12 in Evanston


Renee Tomell

Renee Tomell

Covering the arts and entertainment scene in northern Illinois, with a focus on the Fox River Valley.