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Civic Music Student Orchestra, onstage at Orchestra Hall in March 1920 (William T. Barnum photo)

We recently received an extraordinary donation to our collections: a mounted photograph—in remarkable condition—of the Civic Music Student Orchestra onstage in Orchestra Hall from March 1920. This image appeared in the Civic’s first program book (see here), and previously, the only copies in our collections were quite grainy and not the best quality.

In this newly acquired image, clearly visible—downstage, front and center—is the Civic’s founding leadership: (standing) Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Frederick Stock and (seated, left to right) assistant conductors Eric DeLamarter (the CSO’s assistant and associate conductor from 1918 until 1936) and George Dasch (a member of the CSO’s violin and viola sections from 1898 until 1923).

Mildred Brown in the early 1920s (Image courtesy of the Archives of the Sisters of Saint Francis, Rochester, Minnesota)

Also clearly visible in the assistant concertmaster chair is Mildred Brown, the previous owner of this artifact. The photograph came to us from the archives of the Sisters of Saint Francis in Rochester, Minnesota, where Brown—later Sister M. Ancille—lived from 1924 until her death in 1963. The handwriting at the bottom of the image reads, “Mildred Brown (Sr. Ancille), Assistant concert mistress, Front & center,” and an arrow points to her.

Born in Chicago on March 23, 1894, Brown earned a master’s degree in violin at the Chicago Musical College in 1915, where she studied with Alexander Sebald, and Leon Sametini, along with Chicago Symphony Orchestra assistant concertmaster Hugo Kortschak. She also attended the Juilliard School where she was a student of Franz Kneisel.

February 8, 1923

Brown was a member of the Civic Orchestra for its first season in 1919-20, one of fourteen women on the ensemble’s roster. At Stock’s invitation, she returned to the Civic in 1922-23, this time as concertmaster—the first woman to hold that position in the ensemble. During that season, Stock also invited her to be a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a Popular concert on February 8, 1923. Brown performed Wieniawski’s Fantaisie brillante (based on themes from Gounod’s Faust).

After her first year in the Civic Orchestra, Brown embarked on a solo career and enjoyed considerable success. A press brochure itemized generous critical praise:

  • “Miss Brown has traveled far upon the road to success [performing] with so much brilliance, so much technical clarity with tone so pure and round. Hers is an admirable gift” (Felix Borowski, Chicago Record Herald).
  • “A young violinist of high attainments, both in the technical and interpretative sense (Eric DeLamarter, Chicago Tribune).
  • “She dashed into the finale with brilliance and carried it off with joyous abandon. Miss Brown has the right stuff in her and made such a ‘hit’ with the audience that she had to give an encore (Karleton Hackett, Chicago Evening Post)

    Sister M. Ancille in the early 1960s (Image courtesy of the Archives of the Sisters of Saint Francis, Rochester, Minnesota)

  • “Mildred Brown possesses all the attributes of the finished artist [with] rich tone and brilliant technique. . . . The difficult harmonic passages were played with security and in a flawless fashion” (Milwaukee Free Press).

While on tour in 1923, she performed a concert at the College of Saint Teresa in Winona, Minnesota and served as an instructor for its summer session. In January 1924, she joined the Sisters of Saint Francis. As a postulant, she directed the Teresan Orchestra and gave frequent concerts, and later—as Sister M. Ancille—she served on the faculties of the School of Musical Art and Lourdes High School (both in Rochester) and the College of Saint Teresa. She completed a second master’s degree in music from the University of Michigan in 1941 (likely attending for several summers, as it was common for Sisters teaching at the high school and college levels to continue work on advanced degrees by taking summer classes).

Sister Ancille died unexpectedly on November 19, 1963, at the age of sixty-nine. An obituary published in The Campanile (the college’s newspaper), she was remembered for “her performances as presentations of impeccable technique, finesse of style, and the artistry of a great musician, [always] striving for perfection. Sister Ancille had a reserve and repose that persons of all ages admired and respected. Her complete composure and graciousness exemplified the fullness of her life as a Franciscan. It seems, to us, very fitting that God called her home on the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, the patron of all Third Order Franciscans.”

Mildred Brown in the second chair of the Civic Orchestra’s first violin section in 1920

Special thanks to the Archives of the Sisters of Saint Francis in Rochester, Minnesota, and congregational archivist Sister Marisa McDonald, OSF

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Step into Your Place, David Allen & Sons, England, 1915

The recruitment poster at left, from the Pritzker Military Museum & Library collections, shows men in civilian attire falling into formation, joining ranks of soldiers marching into the distance.

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Walter Guetter and Wendell Hoss

Bassoon Walter Guetter (1895–1937) was hired by Frederick Stock in 1915, after auditioning at Willow Grove Park, where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra regularly performed summer concerts. He was promoted to principal bassoon during his second season and temporarily left the Orchestra in 1918 to serve in the U.S. Navy at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. After the war, Guetter returned to the principal chair through 1922 until he was invited by Leopold Stokowski to join the Philadelphia Orchestra, also as principal bassoon.

Wendell Hoss (1892–1980) joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s horn section in June 1917 for the Ravinia Park and subsequent downtown seasons, and he joined the U.S. Navy the following summer, serving at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. After his year in the Navy, Hoss played in the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra before returning to Chicago for one season as principal horn in 1922–23. He later taught at the Eastman School of Music, performed in the Disney recording studios, and was a co-founder of the International Horn Society.

Otto, Edward, and Henri Hyna

Czechoslovakia native Otto Hyna (1886–1951) emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and later served in the National Guard as a member of the First Wisconsin Regiment of Field Artillery in 1917. Following his military service, he was principal bass of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1921 until 1923. Hyna joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s bass section in 1930, where he remained until 1950. Otto’s brothers Edward and Henri also were members of the Orchestra’s string section. Edward (1897–1958) served as a violinist from 1929 until 1943, and Henri (1901–1955) also was a violinist from 1928 until 1932.

For the final concert of the 1917–18 season, Frederick Stock opened the concert with America and closed with his Festival March and The Star-Spangled Banner. A new stage decoration recognized musicians serving the U.S. military. The article is here.

Frederick Stock led the Orchestra in a concert at Fort Sheridan on October 21, 1917. According to the Chicago Tribune, Company 21 celebrated after the concert with a dinner that included: “Turkey à la Cook (in honor of company commander Captain Louis H. Cook), oyster dressing à la Smith (in honor of company instructor Captain Horace Smith), first platoon gravy, Murphys [potatoes] à la pick and shovel, shrapnel peas, dugout olives, bayonet celery, grenade cranberry sauce, trench coffee, [and] periscope pie . . .” The article is here.

During the 1919–20 season, Frederick Stock inaugurated three major initiatives to cultivate future generations of musicians and concertgoers: a regular series of Children’s Concerts, Youth Auditions, and the Civic Music Student Orchestra.

Chicago Tribune, January 30, 1920

One of the goals of the Civic Orchestra was “to reduce the dependence of this country upon European sources of supply for trained orchestral musicians” as well as to function as a reserve of talent from which to draw into the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The article is here.

First Civic Orchestra Program, March 29, 1920

Five hundred young musicians auditioned in January 1920, eighty-six were accepted, and the first rehearsal was held in Orchestra Hall on January 27.

Stock and the Civic Orchestra in March 1920

The ensemble made its debut on March 29, 1920, and the roster included future Chicago Symphony Orchestra members (including John Weicher, who became concertmaster in 1937). Frederick Stock, Eric DeLamarter, and George Dasch (also a member of the Orchestra’s violin and viola sections from 1898 until 1923) shared conducting duties, leading works by Halvorsen’s Triumphal Entry of the Boyards, Godard’s Adagio pathétique, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, Grieg’s Suite no. 1 from Peer Gynt, Keller’s Souvenir and Valse, and one of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches.

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A Time for Reflection—A Message of Peace—a companion exhibit curated by the Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Pritzker Military Museum & Library—will be on display in Symphony Center’s first-floor rotunda from October 2 through November 18, and the content also will be presented on CSO Sounds & Stories and the From the Archives blog.

This article also appears here. For event listings, please visit cso.org/armistice.

This exhibit is presented with the generous support of COL (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), Founder and Chair, Pritzker Military Museum & Library, through the Pritzker Military Foundation.

Additional thanks to Shawn Sheehy and Jenna Harmon, along with the Arts Club of Chicago, Newberry Library, Poetry Foundation, and Ravinia Festival Association.

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November 20 1919

November 20, 1919

During the 1919–20 season, music director Frederick Stock inaugurated three major initiatives to cultivate future generations of musicians and concertgoers: a regular series of Children’s Concerts, Youth Auditions, and the Civic Music Student Orchestra.

On November 20, 1919, Stock led the first of a regular series of Children’s Concerts specifically designed to introduce young Chicagoans to music. After hearing several auditions from promising young instrumentalists, Stock chose eight-year-old Anita Malkin to become the first youth soloist on a Children’s Concert; she performed the first movement of Rode’s Violin Concerto with the Orchestra on February 12, 1920.

Anita Malkin

Anita Malkin

The initial goal of the Civic Music Student Orchestra was threefold: “To give an opportunity to capable players to acquire orchestral routine and experience, fitting themselves for positions in the symphony orchestras of the country; to reduce the dependence of this country upon European sources of supply for trained orchestral musicians; and to take orchestral concerts to outlying districts where people, because of their remoteness, are denied the privilege of hearing good music.”

March 29, 1920

March 29, 1920

The ensemble made its debut on March 29, 1920, and the roster included several future Chicago Symphony Orchestra members (including concertmaster John Weicher). Frederick Stock, Eric DeLamarter, and George Dasch shared conducting duties, leading Halvorsen’s Triumphal Entry of the Boyards, Godard’s Adagio pathétique, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, Grieg’s Suite no. 1 from Peer Gynt, Keller’s Souvenir and Valse, and one of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches.

Chicago Tribune, January 20, 1920

Chicago Tribune, January 20, 1920

In the Chicago Tribune, William Lines Hubbard reported, “And O, the youthful enthusiasm and ‘pop’ of it all! The whole room tingled with the vigor and impulse of youth and the audience feeling it grew glad and radiant. At the close of the first half of the program, Mr. Wessling, the concertmaster, presented a baton to Mr. Stock with expression of the players’ thanks for all he had done, and he in return voiced his admiration for the devotion the young people had shown and his appreciation of the wonderful worth of the material Chicago had furnished. . . . Stock used his new baton for the Elgar march, which closed the concert.”

This article also appears here.

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Theodore Thomas

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