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Chicago Orchestra, October 16 and 17, 1891

October 16 and 17, 1891

According to Philo Adams Otis in his book The Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Its Organization, Growth, and Development, 1891–1924: “The first meeting for the incorporation of The Orchestral Association was held at the Chicago Club, December 17, 1890, and a board of five trustees elected. The first season (1891–92) of the Chicago Orchestra will consist of twenty concerts, each concert preceded by a public rehearsal, to be given at the Auditorium under the direction of Theodore Thomas. The talent engaged to make up the Chicago Orchestra is of the very finest order.”

Theodore Thomas Orchestra, October 20 and 21, 1905

October 20 and 21, 1905

Following Thomas’s unexpected death on January 4, 1905, Frederick Stock temporarily assumed the duties of music director as the Association began a search for a permanent replacement. But after a few months, it was evident that the more-than-capable successor to Thomas already had been in place. On April 11, the trustees met and unanimously elected Stock as the second music director, and the ensemble’s name was changed to the Theodore Thomas Orchestra. The program books for that season’s last concerts on April 14 and 15 were perhaps already printed, and the new name first appeared in October 1905.

Otis’s account of the twenty-second season completed the saga: “During the winter of 1912–13 [Association] President [Bryan] Lathrop interviewed or wrote to every member of the Board of Trustees, suggesting important reasons for changing the name ‘The Theodore Thomas Orchestra’ to ‘The Chicago Symphony Orchestra.’ Mr. Lathrop had always held to the belief that an institution depending largely on the public for its support suffers in bearing the name of its founder or benefactor, however honored or distinguished that name may be.”

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, February 28 and March 1, 1913

February 28 and March 1, 1913

The Board’s executive committee met on Friday, February 21, 1913, and adopted the following: “Resolved, that hereafter the official name of the Orchestra shall be The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, founded by Theodore Thomas . . . indissolubly connecting the name of our first great conductor with that of the Orchestra, and indicating to the world what the present name fails to do, that he was the founder of our Orchestra, and it will commemorate the great work which he did in America for the cause of good music. The new name will also associate the Orchestra with the city and people of Chicago, and insure for it their continued aid and support.” The following week, the cover of the program book made it official.

This article also appears here and portions previously appeared here.

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first roster

October 1934

On October 1, 1934, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mrs. Frederic W. Upham presided “this afternoon at the meeting of the Woman’s Campaign Committee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. . . . One hundred invitations were issued asking the presidents and music chairmen of clubs in the vicinity of Chicago to attend today’s meeting.”

Later that month, following the first concerts of the forty-fourth season, The Orchestral Association expressed “its appreciation to the Woman’s Campaign Committee for its organized efforts in the sale of season tickets. It is believed that through the efforts of this committee in stimulating public response to the concerts, a great work is being done in furthering the interests of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The committee reports it has had cooperation from clubs and other organizations in and about Chicago. The Association gratefully acknowledges this evidence of goodwill and confidently anticipates still greater results from this cooperation.”

This spirit of giving has continued ever since, as this group of extraordinary volunteers—later called The Women’s Association and currently the League of the CSOA—continues to play a vital role in the daily life of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. Countless hours are dedicated annually to produce numerous programs including educational activities directed toward all age levels, youth auditions, an annual luncheon for musicians, participation in Symphony Ball and Corporate Night, social events, and fundraising efforts.

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Mrs. Frederic W. Upham and Georg Solti, December 17, 1970

On December 17, 1970, the Women’s Association hosted a reception commemorating the eightieth anniversary of the incorporation of The Orchestral Association, which had taken place at the Chicago Club on December 16, 1890. The guests of honor included Georg and Valerie Solti, along with ninety-five-year-old Mrs. Upham, who had occupied the same Friday seats virtually since Orchestra Hall opened its doors in December 1904.

This article also appears here.

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Articles of Incorporation for The Orchestral Association

Articles of Incorporation for The Orchestral Association

The first meeting for the incorporation of The Orchestral Association was held at the Chicago Club on December 17, 1890, at which a board of five trustees was elected to serve: Adolphus Clay Bartlett, Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank, Charles Norman Fay, Charles Davidson Hamill, and Ezra Butler McCagg. A group of fifty-one businessmen—including Chicago pioneers Armour, Field, Glessner, McCormick, Potter, Pullman, Ryerson, Sprague, and Wacker—volunteered to serve as guarantors, each pledging their financial support for three years.

Theodore Thomas, then the most popular conductor in America, would be, as specified in his first contract, engaged to “determine the character and standard of all performances given by the Association, and to that end make all programs, select all soloists, and take the initiative in arranging for choral and festival performances . . . [attaining] the highest standard of artistic excellence in all performances given by the Association.”

According to the Memoirs of Theodore Thomas, “I never expected to see the day when I would be told I would be ‘held responsible’ for maintaining the highest standard of artistic excellence in my musical work. All my life I have been told that my standard was too high, and urged to make it more popular. But now, I am not only to be given every facility to create the highest standard, but am even told that I will be held responsible for keeping it so! I have to shake myself to realize it!”

This article also appears here.

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Mrs. Frederick W. Upham and Georg Solti

On December 17, 1970, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Women’s Association hosted a reception at the Casino Club, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the incorporation of The Orchestral Association, which had taken place at the Chicago Club on December 16, 1890. (Of course, it was not possible for the event to be held at the Chicago Club since it did not allow women.)

The guests of honor were Georg and Valerie Solti, along with ninety-five-year-old Helen Hall (Mrs. Frederick W.) Upham. Mrs. Upham—who had occupied the same Friday seats virtually since Orchestra Hall opened its doors in December 1904—had founded the Women’s Association in 1934. She was to serve as the honorary chairperson for the 80th anniversary ball in the spring, and was also honored with a a citation of “special honor and recognition” presented by Louis C. Sudler, then president of The Orchestral Association.

Louis Sudler, Women’s Association President Caroline (Mrs. Paul W.) Oliver, and Valerie and Georg Solti

Press coverage of the Casino Club event is here.

Also, there are a few great images of a young Mrs. Upham (courtesy of the Library of Congress’s American Memory project) here.

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Theodore Thomas

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