The train was quiet when I headed into the loop. Many people were told to stay home from work in anticipation of the Van Dyke verdict. As I waited on the platform, I saw two Chicago Police officers leaning together, ears tilted toward a phone, listening for live updates from the trial.
I’m starting my third season here, which is just a moment in the Civic Orchestra’s 100 year history. This orchestra has always been a gesture of idealism in a city reckoning with its imbalances. Civic’s first concert in 1919 came months after a 20-day riot left 38 people dead and hundreds injured. Classical music concerts in the glittering white lights of famed Orchestra Hall can be a sanctuary from the troubles of the wider world – but sanctuary also implies a separation from the world at large. The mission of the Civic Orchestra to defy such a boundary is one I am proud to be a part of today.
The Civic Fellows begin this season resolved to draw on this spirit of idealism. The Civic Orchestra set the bar for this ambitious season during our first concert – a side-by-side performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Riccardo Muti for an audience of over 10,000 people in downtown’s Millennium Park.
Civic’s centennial season commenced with an unforgettable side by side concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Riccardo Muti. The 10,000-plus audience members at Millennium Park witnessed that which makes the Civic Orchestra experience so special – our unique and invaluable relationship with the world-renowned CSO. | Photos by Todd Rosenberg
Ten days later, the Civic brass section presented a concert alongside CSO musicians and Civic alumni, under the baton of legendary CSO Principal Trombone Jay Friedman, himself a Civic alum. Other familiar faces will include a concert conducted by Cliff Colnot, who was the principal conductor of Civic for over two decades, a concerto with Joyce and Judson Green Creative Consultant Yo-Yo Ma, and Mahler 6 conducted by Solti Conducting Apprentice Erina Yashima. The rest of the season includes two performances at the South Shore Cultural Center, a concerto premiere with Third Coast Percussion, and the fifth annual Bach Marathon.
Several members of the legendary Chicago Symphony Orchestra brass section joined the Civic Orchestra Brass and Percussion for an epic performance of Richard Wagner’s magnum opus, ‘The Ring,’ arranged for brass, percussion and organ by San Francisco Symphony Principal Trombone and Civic alum Timothy Higgins, and conducted by CSO Principal Trombone and Civic alum Jay Friedman. | © Todd Rosenberg Photography
The Civic Fellows are likewise setting out to create with the community. We are partnering with community organizations like Margaret’s Village, Caledonia House, and RefugeeOne, we are presenting free chamber music in Symphony Center and the Zhou B Art Center, and we have expanded songwriting projects this year with The Irene Taylor Trust. We are about to begin a new CSO-Connect project themed on the past century in Chicago, incorporating music into the curriculum at public schools all over the city. We are working in teams to create community engagement projects in the North, West, and South sides, and this year every member of the Civic Orchestra has the option of applying for an independent project grant to invent a brand new project to serve the community.
Music asks that we join together and listen. I hope readers will join the Civic Fellows this season; we’ll be listening for something beautiful.
By Civic Fellow and viola Roslyn Green
TOP: Civic’s centennial season commenced with an unforgettable side by side concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Riccardo Muti. The 10,000-plus audience members at Millennium Park witnessed that which makes the Civic Orchestra experience so special – our unique and invaluable relationship with the world-renowned CSO. | Photos by Todd Rosenberg