Symphony Orchestra Shows Range and Depth at Orchestra Hall Concert

There was a winter chill in the air on Sunday night, but inside Symphony Center it was full of warmth and energy as Symphony Orchestra took the stage for their fall concert. Under the baton of Maestro Allen Tinkham, more than 100 young musicians performed to an adoring crowd (and many curtain calls!).

Maestro Tinkham leads the orchestra
Close up of the orchestra, including woodwinds, horns, and violins

The evening began with remarks from Interim Executive Director Madalyne Maxwell, followed by Board Chair Ross Bricker. Following the normal thank yous to the crowd, Bricker led an emotional tribute to CYSO Associate Conductor Terrance Malone Gray, who passed away earlier this year. In lieu of a moment of silence, the crowd rose to their feet for an extended round of applause to honor Maestro Gray’s 30 year legacy with CYSO and his immense impact on the Chicago music community.

The performance began with Jessie Montgomery’s Overture, which set the tone for the contemporary pieces that made up the first half of the program. Following was a movement from Anna Clyne’s Abstractions, full of texture and bending harmonies evoking the ethereal photo on which the piece was based. The third piece was Daniel Bernard Roumain’s impassioned Father Antonio’s Contrapuntal Prayers for Michael.

Bass section
Brass section

Next came CYSO alum Mary Elizabeth Bowden, who joined the orchestra to perform the world premiere of Clarice Assad’s Bohemian Queen concerto for trumpet and strings. Bowden’s prodigious talent was familiar to many in the crowd, as she performed another premiere with the ensemble last November—Vivian Fung’s Trumpet Concerto. This fall’s piece was inspired by Chicago painter Gertrude Abercrombie, who’s bohemian lifestyle and place at the center of Chicago’s rich mid-century jazz scene were evident in the piece, which included jazz-influenced runs and even had the violin section snapping along at various points.

Mary Elizabeth Bowden solos in front of the orchestra
Mary Elizabeth Bowden solos in front of the orchestra

After intermission, this year’s Alumni Award was presented to 1953 CYSO alum Jerome Fifer. Fifer is a model of how music can remain central and vital to one’s life, even when they choose to work in another profession. A long-time city engineer for both Gary, Indiana and Chicago, Fifer has continued to perform in various bands and orchestras, as well as teaching and leading ensembles. His speech was a moving illustration of the influence music education can have on an individual’s life. Read more about Jermome Fifer from our Alumni Interview earlier this year.

Jerome Fifer giving his speech
Madalyne Maxwell, Jerome Fifer, Jim Franklin

Finally came the musical centerpiece of the night—Strauss’s emotional Ein Heldenleben, an autobiographical epic with a title that translates to “A Hero’s Life” or “A Herioic Life.” The piece includes vignettes from Strauss’s life, including battles and peace, trials and tribulations. Ein Heldenleben also includes a tender violin solo dedicated to the composer’s wife, skillfully performed by co-concertmaster Henry Auxenfans.

Henry Auxenfans performs the Strauss solo
Maestro Tinkham shakes Henry Auxenfans' hand
Maestro Tinkham and the orchestra stand as the audience applauds

Thank you everyone who braved the cold to join us for this unforgettable concert! Concert posters, along with CD/download and DVD pre-orders are available now in the CYSO shop. You can also tune in to the concert livestream on our YouTube channel now.

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