fifth house ensemble

“You have to admire the sheer imaginative chutzpah these young performers bring to their envelope-pushing enterprise.”

-John Von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

“Young chamber groups devoted to shaking up the traditional concert experience are blossoming in Chicago, and one of the best is the five-year-old Fifth House Ensemble… They are a talented crew, and they brought spontaneity and hair-trigger responsiveness to the music of Black Violet.”

-Wynne Delacoma, Musical America

The Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble is a versatile and dynamic group praised by the New York Times for its “conviction, authority, and finesse.” Having pioneered the art of narrative chamber music with its signature series Black Violet, The Weaver’s Tales, and In Transit, Fifth House’s innovative programs engage audiences through their connective programming and unexpected performance venues.

5HE is defined by its limitless imagination and energy, and an insatiable desire to bring chamber music to audiences of all types. 5HE harnesses the collaborative spirit of chamber music to create transformative cross-media performance experiences that bring together elements as diverse as storytelling, physical theatre, graphic novels, and fashion design. With humor and joy, 5HE breathes life into repertoire both established and emerging, equally at home on the most prestigious stages and unexpected venues including aquariums, train stations, and bars.

As part of its 2013-2014 season, Fifth House Ensemble (5HE) presents three landmark events: the long-awaited return of Black Violet: The Leagues of Despair, written and illustrated by Ezra Claytan Daniels; Invoking the Muse, developed with faculty members from UI-Springfield; and Luna de Cuernos, a new community-based collaboration developed with Chicago graphic novelist Sarah Becan.  These Chicago concerts will be performed at the Chicago Cultural Center, neighborhood venues in Humboldt Park, and at Chicago’s new music hotspot, Constellation.

Other performances this season include Harvest, the culminating event of a year-long residency partnership with DePauw University and its surrounding community that celebrates the stories and spaces of Greencastle, IN, as well as concerts and workshops at the New England Conservatory, the Morton Arboretum,  Waukegan Chamber Music Society, Piedmont College, Oklahoma State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Constellation Chicago, and Loops and Variations at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Having established itself as a regular on the Chicago chamber music scene, Fifth House has performed on some of the city’s most well-regarded series and venues including Ravinia, the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, Mostly Music Series, Waukegan Chamber Music Society, Pritzker Pavilion, Byron Colby Barn, PianoForte Chicago, Live from the Morse/WFMT, WFMT Impromptu, Sunday Salon Series at the Chicago Cultural Center and Rush Hour Concerts at St. James. In addition to public performances, Fifth House Ensemble reaches out to those unable to make it to the concert stage through its MusiCare series, presenting concerts at the Self Help Center and Children’s Memorial Hospital.

Bringing its signature connective programming from the stage to the classroom, 5HE develops young audiences through curriculum-integrated interactive concerts and residencies for students grades K-12. A member of the Illinois Arts Council’s Arts-in-Education Roster, 5HE presents performances and residencies at Chicago public schools and the Chicago Cultural Center in partnership with the International Music Foundation, the Chicago Teachers’ Center, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, Communities in Schools Chicago, and Ravinia’s Reach*Teach*Play program. Programs are customized to the curriculum of each school, with the goals of promoting active listening skills and connecting music to a wide variety of subjects. This season’s residency sites include Chicago’s Mather High School, Lowell Elementary School and other CPS schools, and explore poetry and storytelling.

Currently Ensemble in Residence at Carthage College, Fifth House also frequently performs for college audiences, including workshops, residencies, and performances at Yale College, Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, Northwestern University, the Miller Theater at Columbia University, DePaul University, the Colburn School, and DePauw University. In 2012, 5HE launched fresh inc, a one of a kind chamber music festival that brings together composers and instrumentalists for side-by-side performances, receiving creative presentation and entrepreneurship training.

Members of Fifth House Ensemble are also active as orchestral musicians, having performed with ensembles including the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Peninsula Music Festival, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Also active as educators, members of Fifth House serve on the faculties of Carthage College, the Merit School of Music, Trinity University, and DePaul University.


“In an era where we risk accountability driving out creativity, it is wonderful to have a program that allows students to learn content at high levels within a fine arts framework. 5HE has demonstrated excellence in using music to do what music does best—reaching minds and hearts.”

-Barbara Kent, Principal, Burley Elementary School