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A brief recap of Wednesday’s events, celebrating the Glessner family event and their generosity to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:

Weisbach family in the vault

Several descendants of Harry Weisbach, concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1912 until 1921, traveled to Chicago for the Glessner House and Museum event. Before Wednesday evening’s dinner and presentation, four family members visited the Rosenthal Archives to view materials in our collections that document Weisbach’s tenure, and they were all planning to attend the CSO concert on Thursday evening.

The Drum Major of Schneider's Band

One of Mrs. Glessner’s favorite songs was Arthur J. Mundy’s “The Drum Major of Schneider’s Band,” and she loved playing it on the family Steinway piano. In her honor, the music on the doll orchestra’s music stands, individually handwritten by Frederick Stock, is a section from that song.

Dinner at Glessner House

On the evening of January 17, 1913, Mrs. Glessner herself sat at the piano in the music room and played the song while the family and members of the Orchestra sang along. And on Wednesday evening just before dinner—sitting at that same piano—Bill Tyre (Glessner House executive director and curator) and yours truly performed the song for the dinner guests, which included not only descendants of Harry Weisbach but also the great-granddaughter of Frederick Stock.

A little sample of the song’s text: “But ven you heers dot moosic blay so sveet / See dot Band a marchin oop de street / Vy it vas you tink dey blay so grand / Who it vas you tink dot leads dot Band / You hear de moosic gay / You hear de beeples say / It surely must be Schneider leads dot Band!”

Bill's presentation at Glessner House

And to complete the evening in the coach house, Bill gave an in-depth presentation—using images and artifacts from the museum’s collections—illustrating the extensive and deep relationship between the Glessner family and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, its musicians, and its first two music directors Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock.

It was simply a wonderful event and collaboration to celebrate the generosity of a great Chicago family.

And just a reminder that the doll collection will only be on exhibit through February 24, 2013. Details on museum tours are here.

Frank Mathie screen shotMy good friend Bill Tyre, executive director and curator of the Glessner House and Museum, and I were interviewed yesterday by Channel 7’s Frank Mathie. The video is available here and a transcript of the segment is below.

__________

Back in the late 1800s, the John Glessner family helped form the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

One family member even created a miniature orchestra to honor the symphony. Now, 100 years later, the tiny musicians have returned home to the South Side.

The historic Glessner House area at 18th and Prairie was the original Gold Coast for Chicago’s wealthy like John Glessner, whose money helped create the CSO.

Seventy-five miniature musicians playing miniature instruments under the direction of 5-inch-tall conductor Frederick Stock were also created.

“This is a model created in 1913 by Frances Glessner Lee as a birthday gift for her mother. And it represents the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as it appeared at that time,” said Bill Tyre, executive director and curator, Glessner House.

Frances Glessner Lee would become a famous miniaturist later in life, but this was her first big project. She was a perfectionist and made sure everything was perfect down to the last note, so she attended rehearsals.

“She would sit in the house and sketch the orchestra while they were rehearsing. But then also during the breaks she would go up to the individual musicians and usually taking one of the doll’s heads, she would sketch the facial hair . . . the hair on the top of the head,” said Frank Villella, archivist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

So the faces and body types you see now are what Frances Glessner Lee saw then as she made her little music men. The orchestra has spent most of the last 100 years in the CSO archives. But now it’s back home for public viewing starting Wednesday night and running until Sunday, February 24.

Some things never change. For instance, the CSO today plays the same symphonies played back in 1913. But other things do change. It was all white men.

“The orchestra now is about 65 percent men and about 35 percent women, and, of course, many more ethnic diversities are represented as well,” Villella said.*

On Wednesday night at a 7:00 p.m. lecture, descendants of conductor Frederick Stock and concertmaster Harry Weisbach will be there to welcome the orchestra back to Glessner House.

(Copyright ©2013 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

*My numbers were a little bit off: according to the program book for this week (January 17-19, 2013), there are 103 rostered members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, of which 41 (39.8%) are women and 62 (60.2%) are men. To the best of my knowledge, this is the highest percentage of women ever in the Orchestra.

In time for Wednesday evening’s event (The Glessners and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) at the Glessner House and Museum, the doll exhibit was mounted this morning in the courtyard bedroom on the second floor of the house.

The exhibit will be viewable beginning this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. through February 24, 2013. Tour information can be found here.

Come and visit!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra as depicted by Frances Glessner Lee in 1913

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra as depicted by Frances Glessner Lee in 1913

Glessner Doll Orchestra - detail 2

Glessner Doll Orchestra - detail 1

Music Director Frederick Stock in front of his miniature colleagues

Music Director Frederick Stock in front of his miniature colleagues

Concertmaster Harry Weisbach and the first violin section

Concertmaster Harry Weisbach and the first violin section

First oboe part to Arthur J. Mundy's "The Drum Major of Schneider's Band," handwritten by Frederick Stock

First oboe part to Arthur J. Mundy’s “The Drum Major of Schneider’s Band,” handwritten by Frederick Stock

the vault

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

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