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Bye, Bye Birdies: Eighth Blackbird’s Top 10

by Nathalie Joachim

Enact Launch and Eighth Blackbird CD Release

Photo: Braxton Black for Jeremy Lawson Photography © MCA Chicago

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Our season-long residency at the MCA is coming to a close soon. We’ve loved inviting the public into our creative process and presenting concerts and education events throughout the year. Here are some of our favorite memories from #mcaresidency15 (and don’t forget to say hi to us in the third-floor galleries today):


The first moment has to of course be when the residency opened to the public! It kicked off our season in an extremely fun way. We had a new creative home for the year, and a new flutist to boot.

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Throughout the season we had many amazing guest artists come work with us during our residency. One of the first was composer David T. Little who joined us at the MCA to develop and workshop Ghostlight, a new Eighth Blackbird–commissioned work that premiered at The Kennedy Center and later came to the MCA Stage.

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Another cool guest who made frequent visits to our MCA gallery was drummer Glenn Kotche (from Wilco). He spent the season developing a new work with Lisa and Matthew (Eighth Blackbird’s pianist and percussionist).

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Our residency happened mostly in our gallery spaces on the third floor of the museum, but we also had the pleasure of bringing some of our season highlights to the MCA Stage. In January, we performed Hand Eye, a multimedia production featuring music by the Sleeping Giant composer collective, with live visuals by CandyStations and stage direction by Matthew Ozawa.

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True story: we were actually at the MCA when we learned about our most recent Grammy nomination! Filament (which includes a Philip Glass track that we recorded at the MCA), was released just following the start of our MCA residency, and went on to win a Grammy this year—our fourth one yet!

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We worked with singer Iarla Ó Lionáird (The Gloaming, Brooklyn) and composer/fiddler Dan Trueman many times throughout our residency on a new project called Olagón, which is currently in development. One of our workshop days happened to fall on an MCA Family Day, and the kids weren't the only ones having fun!

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Bringing David T. Little's Ghostlight to the MCA Stage after developing the work in our gallery space was definitely a highlight of the year for us, and we think it was for the MCA guests as well! The piece was actually born from start to finish at the MCA, so the public got to see all of its phases. Bonus: Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy) was the guest performer. Double win!

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Seeing MCA patrons partake in the interactive aspects of our exhibition was definitely fun. We loved seeing their creativity emerge and add even more sonic life to the museum. One of our favorite memories was a day when a group of students from Harold Washington High School interacted with our John Cage, Child of Tree, installation.

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In the spring, our exhibition changed over from Child of Tree to a retrospective of our staged theatrical productions. It was an honor to get to show some of our history in creating immersive audience experiences, and the MCA staff worked very hard to create a beautiful exhibition around it.

Installation view, Eighth Blackbird Residency, MCA Chicago, Sep 2015–Jun 2016

Photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago


Another great MCA Family Day memory involved some very talented students from the Chicago Academy for the Arts. We performed works developed and composed by the students for hundreds of MCA patrons throughout the museum space. The students poured their hearts into the work, and the MCA visitors truly enjoyed being part of such an innovative performance experience.

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