Praise for the World Premiere of Jessie Montgomery’s “Procession”

May 30 – Jun 1, 2024, Conductor Manfred Honeck led Principal Percussion Cynthia Yeh and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the World Premiere performances of Jessie Montgomery’s percussion concerto, Procession. Read the critical acclaim below!

Chicago Tribune

Speaking to the Tribune in December, Chicago Symphony composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery teasingly called 2024, the last year of her Chicago Symphony residency, her “year of percussion.” And oh, how it is.

Montgomery rang it in with Study No. 1, premiered by Third Coast Percussion on May 3. Performers blew through surgical tubing into their drums to change pitch; later, synchronized stickwork recreated the adrenalized energy of drumline music. Far more enthralling than its academic title might imply, the “study” was an astounding freshman outing for Montgomery, who, before that premiere, had never written a work for percussion.

Going from that seven-minute work to a 20-minute percussion concerto, though? Only someone with Montgomery’s élan makes that quantum leap sound easy, as the premiere of her “Procession” did Thursday night, under conductor Manfred Honeck.

Read the full Chicago Tribune review here.


“[Jessie Montgomery and Cynthia Yeh] clearly stirred up an intriguing, richly dramatic work for the orchestra in which the bold, mood-shifting sounds of percussion (on a drum set, djembe/bass drum, vibraphone and glockenspiel) burst into an intriguing, dramatically varied 20-minute piece full of musical surprises. (In fact, it is difficult to imagine how this score has even been notated in many places.)

Yeh captured the work’s big, fast, drum-beating opening followed by the cellos and winds, with others on drums and timpani. And while she supplied wild rhythms on a giant drum — and at times deftly operated four sticks to capture the beats on both drums and other instruments — the rest of the orchestra tapped into the beauty of Montgomery’s sometimes lyrical, sometimes brassy, sometimes dreamy, sometimes march-like score that even includes the sound of church bells.”

Read the full WTTW review here.

Hyde Park Herald

“Montgomery’s new piece highlights, in her own words, “steadiness and relentlessness.” She writes in her program notes that the work demonstrates, “the unique role percussion can play as both a blending color and the sheer sonic power it has to overtake the orchestra.

Cynthia Yeh, who appeared in a spangly jumpsuit that glittered with power, moved about the stage from instrument to instrument with ease, herself a towering example of Montgomery’s idea of relentlessness. One moment she is nearly caressing the bass drum with the palms of her hands, the next she is powering away at a drumset.

There are many call-and-response moments in Montgomery’s new work, sometimes led by Yeh, sometimes led by the orchestra. There is an easy and lovely give and take between the soloist and the rest of the players, adding to the attractiveness of the music.”

Read the full Hyde Park Herald review here.