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Festival Music Quiz

January 1, 2024 | Noel Morris
Person at the Great Lawn

Are you a music trivia buff? Test your knowledge of these popular works and composers to be featured during the 2024 Grant Park Music Festival.

1. The frontman of the rock group TOTO is the son of which famous composer?

a) Alan Menken
b) John Williams
c) Joan Tower
d) Arturo Márquez


b) John Williams

John Williams, the man who has garnered the most Oscar nominations (48) and who gave us the music to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Harry Potter, E.T., and so much more, is the father of Joseph Williams, the voice behind Rosanna, Africa, and many other hit songs.

2. What work from the 2024 season is a 20th-century setting of Gregorian chant?

a) Mozart's Jupiter Symphony
b) Mahler's Symphony No. 8
c) Duruflé's Requiem
d) Holst's The Cloud Messenger


c) Duruflé's Requiem

Maurice Duruflé studied at a monastary that specialized in Gregorian chant, resurrecting the ancient music and publishing editions for modern performers. As a virtuoso organist, Duruflé famously made glorious improvisations based on chant. But as these were made up on the spot, most of his music was never written down.

3. A teenager was the first person to organize a performance of J.S. Bach's long-forgotten St. Matthew Passion during the 19th century. Who was it?

a) Igor Stravinsky
b) Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
c) Leonard Bernstein
d) Felix Mendelssohn


d) Felix Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn's grandmother Bella Salomon gave her teenaged grandson a manuscript of the Passion as a gift. To hear the wondrous music on the page, young Mendelssohn gathered family and friends, taking on multiple parts himself until he was able to launch a public performance of an abridged version in 1829. He continued to write choral music for the rest of his life.

4. This piece is based on a tune from a savagely difficult violin piece.

a) Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini
b) Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
c) Bonds' Montgomery Variations
d) Bartók's Romanian Folk Dances


a) Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Sergei Rachmaninov is widely condsidered to be one of the greatest pianists who ever lived. It's fitting that he wrote his Rhapsody based on a piece by Niccolo Paganini, one of the world's greatest violinists. Rachmaninov himself played the solo piano part at the world premiere of his Rhapsody in Baltimore, Maryland. The piece was used in the feature film Groundhog Day, and the TV shows The Walking Dead and The Good Wife.

5. Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story is a modern-day retelling of what Shakespeare tragedy?

a) Othello
b) Romeo and Juliet
c) Macbeth
d) Hamlet


b) Romeo and Juliet

Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins borrowed the rivalry between the Montagues and Capulets and recast them as two street gangs in 1950s New York City.

"My office is on Lexington Avenue and 74th Street and just twenty blocks away life is entirely different," Robbins said in a 1957 interview. "Those kids live like pressure cookers. There's a constant tension, a feeling of the kids having steam that they don't know how to let off.”


6. Originally, this dance piece was called Ballet for Martha. It famously uses the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts."

a) Ravel's La valse
b) Copland's Appalachian Spring
c) Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen
d) Stravinsky's Petrushka


b) Copland's Appalachian Spring

It's hard to imagine this rustic, earthy music as anything else, but it was commissioned for the Martha Graham Dance Company to be performed at the Library of Congress, hence "Ballet for Martha." The title comes from a Hart Crane poem with the line "O Appalachian Spring!" As the Library's Coolidge Auditorium has a very small orchestra pit, the original ballet used only 13 instruments.

7. Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical using songs by what 70s supergroup?

a) Bee Gees
b) Jackson Five
d) Kool & the Gang



Mamma Mia! was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson using songs by the Swedish group ABBA. Original band members Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad were involved in the show's development. Anni-Frid Lyngstad helped promote the show by appearing at many of the premieres worldwide.

8. The Grant Park Orchestra will be performing the 1947 version of this 1911 work. The reason for the revision had to do with royalties. The composer had immigrated to the United States and needed to change the piece in order to re-establish copyright. Which piece is it?

a) Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin
b) Copland's Appalachian Spring
c) Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony
d) Stravinsky's Petrushka


d) Stravinky's Petrushka

Igor Stravinsky came to the U.S. in 1939 as a lecturer at Harvard. He soon settled in Southern California. According to his assistant, Robert Craft, the composer made revisions to Petrushka that he had always wanted to make. The later version calls for a smaller orchestra and goes farther to integrate the piano into the score. He became a U.S. citizen in 1945.

9. This piece became a rallying cry for the Allies in World War II because it's main motive spells out "V" for victory in Morse code.

a) Mahler's Symphony No. 8
b) Schumann's Piano Concerto
c) Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
d) Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony


c) Beethoven's Fifth

The arresting opening to Beethoven's Fifth is built off three short notes and one long, the same as the letter V in Morse code. But that figure appears in more than the opening. In fact, it sounds in nearly every bar of the first movement, placing the composer's capacity for invention on full display. It's curious to note that Beethoven had been elevated to a level that transcended nationality. Clearly, the Allies seemed untroubled by their embrace of a German composer.

10. Chicago was a cultural beneficiary of the Great Migration in the 20th century. Which of these composers moved to the Windy City from the Southern United States?

a) Florence Price
b) Jessie Montgomery
c) Tina Turner
d) Margaret Bonds


a) Florence Price

Florence Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, educated at the New England Conservatory and moved to Chicago shortly after a brutal lynching in her home town. Price found a vibrant community and vital support system through the Chicago Club of Women Organists and the Musicians Club of Women. Several local orchestras performed her works, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


8-10 correct = virtuoso
6-7 correct = maestro
4-5 correct = weekend warrior
1-3 correct = music lover