Chicago Folklore Ensemble

Crossing Borders Through Music And Story

String Quartet And Storyteller
World Music And Oral History


Learning From Immigrant Musicians

We study with master musicians, gathering songs and stories and learning musical styles from around the world.

Making Original Arrangements

We create our own repertoire by interweaving the music and stories we gather, arranging dramatic pieces that feature simultaneous music and storytelling.

Presenting High Quality Performances

We work with accomplished professional artists to captivate audiences with beautiful shows that celebrate world cultures.

Bringing People Together

Throughout the process, our work is based on values of inclusivity and diversity. Our goal is to build interaction and understanding among Chicago’s diverse communities and cultures.

Our Work


Stories and songs from masters of Arabic music

Where Rivers Meet is a show of Arabic music and storytelling that takes listeners down the rivers of the Middle East. String ensemble and storyteller accompany master musicians from Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine who share melodies and memories passed down in song and story.


Music and stories collected from Chicago immigrant musicians

Dinner with the elders copy
From the Serbian mountains of blood and honey to the passionate coasts of Argentina, rattling buses tearing through Thai countryside and back to sweet home Chicago, we'll take you on a journey around the world atop a carpet of music and story. String quartet and storyteller come together to narrate the sights, sounds, and emotions stored in the memories of Chicago immigrant musicians.


Folktales about the earth and traditional music from around the world

Why is the sky so far away? Who is damming the river and killing all the fish? What did little Amrita do to protect her favorite tree? String quartet and storyteller present international folktales that speak to the necessity of respecting nature and caring for the earth. Each tale is accompanied by traditional music from its respective region – Nigeria, Thailand, the United States, India, and the Amazon Rainforest. Kids ages 3–12 participate in clapping, singing, and calling the name of the giant, “Ham Pok!” Chicago Folklore Ensemble takes students on a musical adventure around the world!

Our Ensemble

Visit our Artists page for bios of our ensemble members and mentors.
Uploaded image

Lucia Thomas

Multi-instrumentalist, artistic organizer, and songwriter with a degree in violin performance; a prolific performer of World Music and Americana.
Uploaded image

Sam Hyson

Classically trained violinist, world music connoisseur, and song collector with extensive experience in Eastern European and Latin American styles.
Uploaded image

Sojourner Zenobia

Accomplished actor, director, choreographer, and vocalist with a degree in interdisciplinary performance.
Uploaded image

Robert Fisher

Longtime music educator in Chicago, member of the Chicago Sinfonietta, and graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music.
Uploaded image

Khari Lemuel

Accomplished soul and jazz musician, composer, and improviser who has accompanied several major artists.
Uploaded image

Ellen Frolichstein

Performer and teacher specializing in classical, jazz, and Latin music; also a nonprofit administrator and a film producer.

Latest news