Pittsburg State University and the Colonial Fox Foundation teamed together for the finale of the 2018 Pittsburg Chamber Music Festival Saturday, June 23, featuring the Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues Ensemble. The concert was held at the Colonial Fox Theatre in downtown Pittsburg.
The Chamber Music Festival has become a summer tradition, brought together through a collaboration between Pitt State, the PSU Music Department, the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, the Colonial Fox Theatre Foundation, the Treble Clef Club, and artists throughout the Four State Area.
Corky Siegel is known internationally as one of the world’s greatest blues-harmonica players and is a celebrated composer, blues-pianist, singer, songwriter, bandleader, and author. Siegel has taken Chamber Blues into its own realm by merging his blues, vocals, and unique harmonica riffs with a string quartet accompaniment, creating a new genre of music.
“I realized these were different genres, or different voices,” Siegel said. “The idea is having the intertwining of blues and classical and then adding a third element.”
Over thirty years ago Corky Siegel made music history with his unique blend of various instruments and compositions. Other famous composers, such as George Gershwin and Duke Ellington, have morphed blues, jazz, and gospel idioms into classical forms, but Siegel’s approach is distinctive. It is his use of powerful Chicago blues, expressed primarily through his deft harmonica playing, that makes his music stand out.
Siegel said he learns more about music every time he writes and performs.
“What I learned from juxtaposing blues and classical is if you just stick two things together in music, it’s going to work,” he said. “You don’t even have to contemplate it.”
Siegel has a knack for intertwining musical languages, working to prove that seemingly opposing genres—like classical and blues—can find common ground. The results are the unique blend of classical blues that community members had the opportunity to enjoy Saturday night.
“I loved the way he joined the two different kinds of music,” said Michelle Duffell, PSU alumnae of social work. “It was very different than I imagined. … The musicians were of a much greater caliber than I ever expected to see in Pittsburg and the theatre was just beautiful. I thought it was a wonderful way to wrap up the festival and I really enjoyed it.”
This is the sixth year for the Chamber Music Festival and its content and audiences has grown each year. According to Raúl Munguía, festival organizer and assistant professor of music, this year’s festival took six months to plan.
“What I like about this festival, and why I keep organizing it, is because it puts Pittsburg, Kansas, on a regional, and possibly national, platform,” Munguía said. “I want our communities to know that there is something going on in (their) backyard and its world-class performances.”
The Chamber Music Festival is renowned for its diversity, shown through its variety of acts, providing a cultural outlet for the community during the summer months.
“Chamber music is a unique form of art that has been referred to as the music of friends,” Munguía said. “It’s been around for centuries.”
Munguía said he was very pleased with the continued success of the Chamber Music festival and looks forward to next year.
“I am happy that the festival is proving itself to be something people in the area now look forward to,” he said. “I am not 100 percent sure if this is the only festival of its kind in the Four State Area, but we are now on our sixth season and that says a lot.”