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A fanfare and two Swahili songs commissioned for Evanston Township High School’s 125th anniversary will have their world premiere at the Winter Music Festival in the school auditorium at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24.

Almost 300 ETHS students will participate in band, orchestra and chorus under the direction of David Fodor, director of bands, Charles Abplanalp, director of orchestras, and Mary Theresa Reed, choral director, performing three commissioned works by Chicago composer Regina Harris Baiocchi.  

Ms. Reed explained that the ETHS Alumni Association approached the music department to have works commissioned for this celebration. The music faculty selected Ms. Harris Baiocchi, a composer, author, poet, lecturer, teacher and artist who has written instrumental and vocal music for opera, ballet libretti, and concertos and chamber music. Ms. Harris Baiocchi’s works have been performed in the United States and abroad by the likes of the Detroit and Chicago symphonies.

Her quasquicentennial works, the “ETHS Fanfare” and “Two Swahili Poems: Nilisikia sauti kuba and Haba na haba,” (“I Heard a Voice” and “Little by Little”) were made possible in part through generous donations from the ETHS Alumni Association.

This writer attended a rigorous rehearsal as the Concert Choir practiced one of the two Swahili songs. Under Ms. Reed’s direction, the disciplined 75-member choir focused their collective attention on the complicated rhythms and the nuances of the Swahili language.

In a telephone conversation, Ms. Harris Baiocchi said in preparation for the commission she was invited to talk with the music faculty about the various possibilities, the number of students involved and details about the history of the school and the music program.

 The students will have the unique experience of meeting and interacting with the composer when she attends the dress rehearsal.

The “ETHS Fanfare” will incorporate both instrumental and choral groups, as will the “Two Swahili Poems: Nilisilia sauti kuba and Haba na haba,” with translations by Atieno Samandari and the idiomatic translation by Father Gabriel Basuzwa, SX. Haba na haba has a universal message about perseverance:

“Little by little you get what you want.

Young hearts say that love brings peace (joy).

Little by little you get what you want.”

Mr. Alplanalp, director of orchestras, explained that for the commissioned works, there will be an expanded wind ensemble with string orchestra, winds and percussion.

In addition to the commissioned works, the string orchestra will be performing works by Correlli and Dvorak. The symphony orchestra will perform a symphony by Vittorio Giannini, a neo-Romantic American composer.

Tickets are available at the door, $3 for adults, $1 for students and free to seniors.