You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Grant Park Orchestra’ tag.

Raymond Niwa in 1950 (Central Studio)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the loss of Raymond Niwa—a member of the violin section from 1951 until 1997—who passed away on May 27, 2020, following a brief illness. He was ninety-seven.

Born on August 3, 1922, in Chicago, Niwa began violin lessons at the age of nine, and he attended Lane Technical College Preparatory High School. In 1940, Niwa was the winner of the Polish Arts Club’s first recital contest, and the following year he placed first in the Society of American Musicians Young Artist’s Competition. Following both contests, he was presented in recital in Kimball Hall.

Attending DePaul University as a student of Morris Gomberg, Niwa received a bachelor of music degree in 1943, after which he was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. After three years of military service, he returned to DePaul for a master’s degree, completed in 1948.

While a student, Niwa was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago during the 1945–46 season. In 1946, he was in the pit for the final season of the Chicago Opera Company, and that same year, he began a five-year tenure with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra. During 1950–51, he performed for one season as a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

The Niwa Trio—Raymond Niwa, Eloise Niwa, and Margaret Evans—in 1970 (Terry’s photo)

In 1951, fifth music director Rafael Kubelík invited Niwa to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first violin section. During his tenure, he performed as a featured soloist on two occasions: in Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto on January 3, 1953, with George Schick conducting, and again on June 10, 1970, in Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto under the baton of Irwin Hoffman. Niwa also was an active member on the Orchestra’s members’ committee as well as the contract negotiating team for many years.

Niwa and his wife Eloise, a pianist, and Margaret Evans, a longtime member of the Orchestra’s cello section, made up the Niwa Trio and were featured on the CSO’s Chamber Music Series for over twenty years. They also actively participated in the Orchestra’s ensemble programs, frequently performing in Chicago-area schools and throughout the community.

From 1946 until 1948, Niwa was on faculty at DePaul University, and in 1948, he began a long tenure at Roosevelt University, later heading the faculty string quartet for eight years.

Raymond Niwa in the early 1970s (Terry’s photo)

The Niwa’s children also are accomplished musicians. Their son David is a violinist and holds degrees from the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School, and their daughter Gail is a pianist, also with degrees from Juilliard. The Niwa family claims a singular distinction: all four have been soloists with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In their retirement, Raymond and Eloise Niwa were longtime members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association. He also served for many years on the CSOAA’s board, as a director and treasurer.

Raymond Niwa’s beloved wife Eloise preceded him in death in 2013. He is survived by his daughter Gail, son David (Mariko), and grandson Matthew. Details for a memorial service are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in both Raymond and Eloise’s memory.

125_blog_banner

____________________________________________________

Helen Kotas

In 1941, Frederick Stock appointed Helen Kotas to the position of principal horn, making her the first woman to hold a rostered position in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She was the first female to secure such a position—in fact, the first woman to be hired as principal of any section, except harp—in a major U.S. orchestra.

While still a student, earning a degree in psychology from the University of Chicago (which she received in 1936), Kotas served as a member of the Civic Orchestra and principal horn in the Woman’s Symphony Orchestra. Stock hired her as a regular extra horn at the beginning of the Orchestra’s fiftieth season in 1940, although she was not under contract. In 1940 and 1941, Kotas performed in Leopold Stokowski’s All-American Youth Orchestra’s summer tours; also in 1941, Fritz Reiner offered her the third-chair seat in the horn section of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Oct 1941 (Pottag, Erickson, Mourek, Verschoor, Kotas

Kotas surrounded by the rest of the horn section in October 1941: Max Pottag, Frank Erickson, Joseph Mourek, and William Verschoor

Shortly after her audition in Pittsburgh, Stock auditioned Kotas for principal horn to fill the vacancy left by Philip Farkas when he left to join the Cleveland Orchestra. Stock offered her the job and contacted Reiner, who agreed to release her from the Pittsburgh commitment. Kotas would serve as principal until 1947, when Farkas returned to the Orchestra. She moved to third chair for one season and left the Orchestra in 1948; she married University of Chicago pathologist Edwin Hirsch the following year.

Kotas later was principal horn of the Grant Park Orchestra from 1950 until 1958, and she also served as principal horn of the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra from 1954 until 1959, and third horn until 1965, after which she largely retired from performing.

The first woman listed on the Orchestra’s roster was Mrs. Lawrence (Anna) Winch, second harp for the 1892–93 season. Other women subsequently performed as second harp; however, the position was not contracted and rostered full-time until the beginning of the 1957–58 season, when Carol Baum was hired as second harp. The first rostered woman in the string section was cellist Alice Lawrence in the 1942–43 season, and the first in the wind section was flutist Caroline Solfronk Vacha in the 1943–44 season.

This article also appears here.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

csoarchives twitter feed

chicagosymphony twitter feed

ChicagoSymphony Instagram

disclaimer

The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

visitors

  • 363,377 hits
%d bloggers like this: