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Singer-Songwriter Collaborates With Chamber Orchestra For Cross-Genre Concert

A decade ago, a twentysomething Pittsburgh resident named Joy Ike dedicated herself to music. She made a name on the local scene as a soulful singer-songwriter and keyboardist who blended pop, jazz and more. In 2014, she left to seek her fortune in a bigger town, Philadelphia.

Chamber Orchestra of Pittsburgh concert with Joy Ike and the music of Jennifer Higdon and Felix Mendelssohn will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 11 at the First Unitarian Church, 605 Morewood Ave., Shadyside.

Today, Ike said she’s doing well there. She performs nationally, and now has two full-length albums to her credit. Her latest return visit to the town she still considers home involves a unique musical collaboration.

The Chamber Orchestra of Pittsburgh, better known as interpreters of Brahms, Haydn and DeBussy,will accompany Ike and her trio on several of her songs. The concert is Friday at First Unitarian Church, in Shadyside.

“I think it’ll kinda bring everything to new life,” said Ike. “In the past, I’ve done shows with a cellist, even a quartet, but I’ve never gone to this place where I’ve had so much instrumentation around me, so I’m really excited to see how we flesh everything out.”

The program also includes “Quiet Art,” a piece by Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning contemporary composer Jennifer Higdon, and Felix Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 8. It’s part of the churh’s SongSpace series.

Ike has been acclaimed by outlets including NPR. Friday, she will be accompanied by an 11-piece version of the Chamber Orchestra, led by artistic director and conductor Edward Leonard. It was Edward who recruited Ike for the project, she said. Most of the collaboration was done via email, with the Orchestra working with transcriptions of her songs.

Ike will play six songs from her two albums, “All or Nothing” and 2018's “Bigger Than Your Box." The Orchestra will join her with new accompaniment on four of them, she says. Her regular bassist and percussionist, Jason Rafalak and Ryan Socrates, will accompany her on all six songs.

“It’s pretty exciting to have the people that I play with who typically do have a lot of experience in that chamber world, and kind of cross-genreing everything, and mixing this whole pop, soul, jazzish fusion with more suit and tie, if you can call it that, a more suit and tie sound,” she says.

“We want to celebrate contemporary and diverse composers, and both Ike and Higdon deserve our attention,” says the Chamber Orchestra’s Leonard.

Ticket information is available here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: