South Side, Senn High, and Masur: Reflecting on April 24 – May 7, 2018

Spring finally arrived, and so did the time for the fellows to begin carrying out our community group projects.

The South Side community engagement group, which included Alex, Alice, Roslyn, Maria, and myself, went on their first visit to the Maria Shelter of Margaret’s Village. We met about ten women, some of whom were mothers, and about 15 children. With Mother’s Day not far away, we themed this project as a celebration of female role models. To introduce ourselves, we each played a piece and told a short story about a female role model in our lives. Afterward, we played with the children and had conversations with the group about qualities they favored in other women they admired. We looked forward to planning a culminating event that would feature music as well as some of their reflections on the effects of those special people on their lives.

On April 24 Civic members had sectionals with CSO musicians in preparation for our seventh main stage concert of the season. In this concert cycle our conductor was Ken-David Masur, considered an all-around Civic favorite. This being my first year, I was looking forward to learning what all the buzz was about. The repertoire for this cycle included Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier Suite, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony (“Pathetique”), and the U.S. premier of a work by composer Edmund Finnis titled the air, turning.

After some truth-revealing sectionals (and lots of individual practice), we had our first rehearsal. Everyone seemed eager to play this difficult yet well-favored repertoire, and Masur’s engaging rapport with the orchestra made it easy to warm up to his conducting. Whether through dramatically singing phrases from the Tchaikovsky or giving comical descriptions of characters from the Strauss, he made his interpretational wishes quite clear.

This cycle was unique in that it was to include a culminating side-by-side performance with orchestra students from Senn High School. Since mid- March, the Civic Fellows had been assisting in sectionals on two pieces: arrangements of the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, and Take Five by Paul Desmond.

On April 28, Senn students came to Symphony Center and observed the first half of our rehearsal, then they joined us on historic Orchestra Hall stage to rehearse the Desmond and Tchaikovsky arrangements. The following day was the side-by-side performance in Senn High School’s auditorium.the stage was quite crowded with over 120 musicians, but we all fit and had fun. Talking with the students reminded me of the joys I found not too long ago in high school, when I first began playing in an orchestra.

Civic and Senn High musicians sit side-by-side on a full stage inside the north side school’s auditorium.

On April 30 in Orchestra Hall, we repeated the Strauss suite and Tchaikovsky symphony, and premiered the Finnis. Performing heavy repertoire twice may have seemed daunting, but I was grateful for the second chance. To echo many of the Civic Orchestra members’ answers to a Senn student’s question, playing in the Hall never gets old.

The Civic Orchestra presents a concert in Orchestra Hall, under the direction of Ken-David Masur. Top left, Civic Fellow Denielle Wilson. | Todd Rosenberg Photography

After such a monstrous concert cycle, the fellows were given a few days to get some individual work done. Some of us took the time to visit family, take auditions, or simply get some sleep. This break period allowed us to refuel for the last couple months of our season.

By Civic Fellow and cellist Denielle Wilson


TOP: Civic musicians acknowledge the applause after performing Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier Suite, under the direction of Ken-David Masur, during the concert on April 30, 2018. | Todd Rosenberg Photography