Illharmonic HIP HOP ORCHESTRA performance August 24 Preview - sympohonic music and hip-hop meld-- talk with Thee Phantom and his MC wife
August 24, 2019
“Illharmonic Orchestra” is an intriguing name for a music group set to entertain Chicagoans at Auditorium Theatre. Picture this Post (PTP) offers Chicago’s hip-hop fans this inside look at how this event came to be and what to expect—talking to both Thee Phantom and the Mistress of Ceremonies aka The Phoenix.
First, some background on these artists---
Thee Phantom (TP) , wrote his first rhyme at the age of 8 and made his first beat by mixing the instrumental from the Beastie Boys’ Paul Revere with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at age 12. In 2002, Phantom became the first Hip-Hop artist to perform at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center with musical accompaniment from members of the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. He has since formed his own ensemble, dubbed The Illharmonic Orchestra and has toured the United States and Japan, including an engagement at Carnegie Hall in 2015, only the 3rd Hip-Hop Artist to headline his own show at that venue.
The Phoenix - Mistress of Ceremony (MC) has toured Nationally and Internationally as a vocalist and MC and is featured on Phantom’s albums, “Hero Complex”, “Making Of An Underdog” and “Maniac Maestro”. A native of Queens, New York, she grew up immersed in the arts and all genres of music at an early age. As a youth she studied flute, piano, dance and sang in her high school choir. She attended Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she majored in dance, but always kept her passion for music, specifically singing on the back burner.
PTP: How did the Illharmonic Orchestra come about?
(TP) I started mixing Hip-Hop with Classical Music back in 1987. I grew up poor in a rough neighborhood, but being exposed to a wide range of music at an early age allowed me to have these ideas and dreams that removed a lot of barriers for me. I had no idea what I created but I knew that it sounded beautiful inside my head and I envisioned standing on stage with an orchestra behind me at Carnegie Hall. I met Phoenix in 2000 and she helped me cultivate the idea even further. After several attempts and partnerships with ensembles like The Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Phoenix and I decided that we needed musicians that shared our same passion and similar musical experiences. Thus the Illharmonic Orchestra was born and we haven’t looked back.
What is it like as a husband and wife duo, fronting the Illharmonic Orchestra?
(MC) Performing beside my husband, who also happens to be my best friend, is a tremendous feeling. It is truly uplifting and fulfilling. I think it is a rare and powerful thing to find someone that you share so many things in common with, on every level, and also get to call that individual your life partner.
When you're having a rough show night and can look over at the person standing beside you for encouragement and reassurance, you can't beat that! During a recent show in Minneapolis, I was set to perform a cover of Purple Rain. I was really overwhelmed and nervous and scared. Because you know, it's Prince! And we were in his hometown. He means so much to that city and to us as artists. You cannot bomb that song there. My anxiety was through the roof and Phantom knew it. He had no doubt that I could do the song well, but wanted me to do what made me feel most comfortable. When it came time for me to solo, he gave me the look like "Just say the word and we can move to the next song." I gave him that knowing look to let him know I was doing it. He stepped off the stage and took a spot in the audience right at the front of the stage and rooted me on. That type of moral support is EVERYTHING!
Even though working with your spouse is not without it's challenges, when you are both working towards the same goals, it makes it all worth it. I wouldn't have it any other way.
(TP) There isn’t much more for me to add other than to say I am her biggest fan and I am blown away at each and every show by her command of the stage and the way that the audience embraces her.
What is your mission as an ensemble?
(TP and MC) The mission of our ensemble is representation, to inspire musicians and fans alike, especially young people of color, and to make our music, on our terms.
What sets you apart from other artists or groups who are attempting to blend Hip-Hop with Classical Music?
(MC) Some of our favorite artists, especially in Hip-Hop, are booking concert halls and performing with full orchestras. That's an awesome thing. What sets us apart though, is that we perform with an orchestra, each and every time we step on stage. Always have and always will. And have been doing so, for years
(TP) As originators and trailblazers in this field, it’s important for us to continue to represent all of the aspects of the Hip-Hop Culture. We have a DJ, MC’s and often use B-Boys/B-Girls during our performances. Some may call themselves a Hip-Hop Orchestra, but will either only perform Hip-Hop instrumentals without MC’s or neglect to have a DJ or Breakdance element. We are Hip-Hop!
What are your musical influences?
(TP and MC) Soul, Old Rock, Folk, Classical, Hip-Hop, R&B, House. We have been shaped by nearly every genre of music that exists.
What can concertgoers expect to see at an Illharmonic Orchestra performance?
(MC) Our show is not the typical concert hall experience. You should fully expect to sing along with reckless abandon, get out of your seat and dance if the mood strikes you, and to leave feeling inspired and uplifted.
(TP) We liken our live performance experience to a House Party in a Concert Hall.
$5 Off per ticket with Promo Code: Hip-Hop.
Groups of 5 or more can receive a $9 Discount with Promo Code: Chicago
For ticket availability or full-priced ticket information please visit Auditorium Theatre website
For Group Sales, Contact Auditorium Theatre Box Office for more information. firstname.lastname@example.org, 312.341.2310
Auditorium Theatre - 50 E. Ida B Wells Drive, Chicago, IL 60605
Photos courtesy of Auditorium Theatre