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North Central College’s annual ‘Explore the Sound’ concerts return

NAPERVILLE – A nationally acclaimed venue for music and theater will be on full display Friday as North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall offers its “Explore the Sound” concerts.

“Explore the Sound V” will feature concerts at 7:30 p.m. with more than 125 musicians performing, including women’s chorale groups, a chamber string ensemble and instrumental soloists.  

In keeping with the experimental nature of the program, there will also be an iPad/iPhone Ensemble. 

“Explore” was the brainchild of Ramona Wis, who has chaired the college’s music department for the past 10 years.

When the hall first opened five years ago, musicians were eager to explore its capabilities. In 2009, Wis devised a program to, “Push the hall beyond its boundaries: to challenge ourselves and the hall.”

This involved staging musical performances in unlikely places, like the side staircase. At the same time, the music had to be aesthetically pleasing to an audience. 

Now, in their fifth year, they’ve designed a show that will flow seamlessly for a little more than an hour. There will be no pause for applause.

Wis is not only pushing her students to the limit, but the audience also will be invited to participate in three pieces. They will be clapping and vocalizing in a “controlled” partnership with the performers. 

“Creativity equals courage,” Wis said. “We’ll be living on the edge.”

Even the lighting will be “experimental.”

The concert will begin in atmospheric, theater lighting. The staging will be “very organic” – no risers for the chorale singers. In fact, one vocal group will be standing in a circle facing each other, without a conductor. The audience will hear music from the balcony, the loft and from in front of the stage. 

“This is an Olympic event for the students,” Wis said. “They will learn how to be flexible musicians.”

It’s also a daunting project for Wis, who has to coordinate the “flow of bodies” and a lot of behind-the-scenes logistics and technology.

“It’s all hands on deck,” she said, “like in musical theater.”

Audiences responded so well to earlier “Explore the Sound” concerts, the college had to add a second show.

“It attracts a wide variety of interest from families, friends and faculty,” Wis said. “It also appeals to the broader community. Some audience members have said it’s their favorite event of the year.”

Wis encourages patrons to buy tickets in advance, as the concerts are general seating. Tickets are $7 for adults, $3 for students and seniors.

They can be purchased online at, or by calling 630-637-SHOW. 

Wentz Concert Hall is located at 171 E. Chicago Ave. in Naperville.

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