The Chicago Folklore Ensemble celebrates Chicago’s immigrant musicians and helps share and pass on their stories and musical knowledge through performances that interweave music and storytelling. We interview musicians of many ethnic backgrounds, collect their songs and stories, and adapt them into arrangements for string quartet and storyteller. We also create educational programs for kids that present music and stories from around the world.
The Chicago Folklore Ensemble was founded in 2015 by violinists Lucia Thomas and Sam Hyson. The initial inspiration came from Lucia and Sam’s experience learning music from Jovan Mihailović, a Serbian violinist. As Jovan taught them Balkan melodies, he shared with them his memories of Serbia, passing on not just the music itself, but also some understanding of the music’s cultural, historical, and emotional context. Lucia and Sam were inspired to seek other elder musicians, learn music from them, and document their stories.
Supported by a grant from Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Lucia and Sam studied with five master musicians from Serbia, Jordan, Ghana, Argentina, and Thailand. They collected songs and stories, arranged them for string quartet and storyteller, and presented them in a performance series entitled The World In Chicago.
Lucia and Sam continue collaborating with interdisciplinary storyteller Sojourner Zenobia, developing new work and exploring new ways to combine story and song.
Lucia Thomas and Sam Hyson also perform as the violin duo Compass Rose.