A Fellow’s Reflection: February 27 -March 12, 2017

On the evening of February 28th the Civic Orchestra gave the Chicago premiere of Glière’s full, unabridged Third Symphony.  This symphony might be the epitome of the late, great romantic symphonies. The piece runs over eighty minutes long, calls for the largest orchestra we’ve used all season, and pushes the technical and musical boundaries of nearly every section. It came as no surprise that it took so long for a full performance to make its way to Chicago.

This concert was also a special one for the Civic Orchestra because we were led on the podium by Civic Orchestra alum and Chicago Symphony Orchestra legend, Jay Friedman.  Mr. Friedman believes this work is one of the greatest symphonies ever composed.  The piece also holds unique significance to him because an abridged version of the work was included on the very first program he played as a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1962.

Preparation for this concert included an extended rehearsal period, extra sectionals, and coaching from CSO musicians during full orchestra rehearsals.  The process was exhausting, but it resulted in an extremely successful and once-in-a-lifetime performance.

Following this program, the Civic Fellows were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief with a couple lighter weeks ahead.  January and February were jam packed with school performances of Don Quixote, residencies throughout Chicago, the Chicago Youth and Music Festival, two very challenging orchestra concerts and, of course, all of our own professional and graduate school auditions. I think I speak for all of us when I say we were really looking forward to March.

The month of March started with a fantastic Young Artist’s Competition.  I would like to congratulate Maya Anjali Buchanan, 16, of Evanston, on her stunning performance on the first movement of Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major. Maya will be featured as a soloist in performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra next season during one of their school concerts.

The Civic Fellows have been visiting our partner schools throughout Chicago to work with and mentor students in preparation for May’s culminating celebration of interdisciplinary arts expression, Don Quixote, and an overall theme of courage.  I am working with students at Edwards Elementary School in Archer Heights where, at 8:30am last Tuesday, I found myself teaching guitar for the first time in my life.  The students of Mr. Dixon’s music class have only just begun learning guitar but in the spirit of courage they were tasked with composing and writing their own protest songs. I was inspired by the creativity and musical intuition of these students through their pairing of lyrics with music.

Looking ahead to the rest of March, the Civic Fellows begin their chamber performance series throughout the city and will be performing alongside boys from the Illinois Youth Correctional Center.

By Matt Baker

Photo by Todd Rosenberg