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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins our friends at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in mourning the passing of beloved Chicago actor John Mahoney. He died in Chicago on February 4, at the age of 77.

John Mahoney in rehearsal at the Steppenwolf Theatre in 2008 (Chris Walker photo for the Chicago Tribune)

John Mahoney appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on three occasions, once at the Ravinia Festival and twice in Orchestra Hall, as follows:

July 14, 2001 (Ravinia Festival)
MENDELSSOHN A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor
John de Lancie, Narrator/Puck and director
John Mahoney, Bottom
Janet Zarish, Titania
Timothy Gregory, Oberon
Stacey Tappan, soprano
Lauren McNeese, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Children’s Choir
Josephine Lee, director

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Wynne Delacoma set the stage. “It was a dream of a midsummer’s night at the Ravinia Festival Saturday, the kind of warm, clear evening just made for picnicking and listening to music outdoors. The music offered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Andrew Davis provided a perfect match. After intermission, the pavilion light dimmed and sprites with glowing wands flitted through the night as the orchestra, singers and actors including John Mahoney . . . as the bumptious Bottom [he was] an endearing monster.”

April 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21, 2002 (Orchestra Hall)
STRAVINSKY The Soldier’s Tale
William Eddins, conductor
Pinchas Zukerman, violin
John Mahoney, Narrator
Paul Adelstein, Soldier
Hollis Resnik, Devil
Tina Cannon, dancer
John Bruce Yeh, clarinet
David McGill, bassoon
Craig Morris, trumpet
Jay Friedman, trombone
Joseph Guastafeste, bass
Edward Atkatz, percussion
Peter Amster, director and choreographer
Rafael Viñoly, stage designer

“Seizing the opportunity to do something different, the CSO teamed with Steppenwolf Theatre to stage The Soldier’s Tale, which Stravinsky wrote in 1918 as a theater piece,” wrote Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times. “Mahoney was the dispassionate Narrator and Hollis Resnik a fashionable Devil in a generally lively staging by Peter Amster. Zukerman and six CSO musicians, conducted by William Eddins, perched on a tall, black platform centerstage, while Mahoney, Resnik, Paul Adelstein as the Soldier and dancer Tina Cannon spilled around the set of raised platforms and a few props devised by Rafael Viñoly. . . . Amster and his colleagues created a compelling drama. . . . Relaxed, making no judgments as he chronicled the Soldier’s victories and defeats, [Mahoney] was a sympathetic guide to Stravinsky’s morality tale.”

November 17, 18, 20, and 23, 2004 (Orchestra Hall)
BEETHOVEN Egmont
Mikko Franck, conductor
John Mahoney, narrator
Erin Wall, soprano

Again, Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times described the event. “Mahoney returned to Symphony Center Thursday night to narrate a rare performance of Beethoven’s complete incidental music to Goethe’s Egmont. Goethe’s play about a former loyalist fighting Spanish colonialism in the 16th century Netherlands was quickly forgotten, but Beethoven’s Egmont Overture has long been a concert hall staple. It was fascinating to hear it in its complete context, especially with the young Finnish conductor Mikko Franck honing in on the music’s noble bearing and expansive reach. . . . In the minimal staging devised by director Sheldon Patinkin, [Mahoney] managed to turn the obscure Egmont into a flesh-and-blood presence. With his straightforward delivery and Beethoven’s evocative music reinforcing each scene, he brought us glimpses of a brave soldier and king’s loyal administrator destroyed by political intrigue and despotism. The thirst for liberty is a recurring motif in Beethoven’s life and much of his music. Hearing the entire Egmont, the movie music of its day, was a reminder of how strongly Beethoven believed in that ideal.”

Numerous tribute have been posted online, including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Timesand CNN, among others.

 

Revised program book cover for the November 28 and 29, 1963, subscription concerts

Revised program book cover for the November 28 and 29, 1963, subscription concerts

November 22, 1963, already was a memorable day for Mary Sauer (currently the Orchestra’s principal keyboard), as it was her and her husband Richard’s fifth wedding anniversary. While on her way to Orchestra Hall for the Friday afternoon matinee concert, she heard the news of the events in Dallas: President John F. Kennedy had been shot at 12:30 p.m. CST while riding in a motorcade in Dealey Plaza. It was unconfirmed whether or not the president was still alive.

CSO flute and piccolo Walfrid Kujala recalled, “I remember emerging from the State Street subway around 1:00 p.m. on my way to Orchestra Hall and seeing a crowd hovering around a television display in the front window of a Palmer House store. That’s where I first learned about Kennedy’s assassination.” And CSO principal trombone Jay Friedman remembered, “I heard about it before I took the stage; it was announced on television earlier that day.”

The CSO matinee concert was scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m., not even two hours after the president had been shot and shortly after Walter Cronkite had confirmed the news of Kennedy’s death at 1:38 p.m. Just before the concert began, an announcement was made from the stage (presumably by general manager Seymour Raven) and there was significant reaction of shock from the audience, including audible gasps, cries, and even screams.

Program page for November 21 and 22, 1963, announcing scheduled memorial for Fritz Reiner the following week

Program page for November 21 and 22, 1963, announcing scheduled memorial for Fritz Reiner the following week

Moments before, it had been decided to open the concert with the second movement—the funeral march—from Beethoven’s Third Symphony (Eroica) followed by the rest of the program as scheduled: Bach’s First Brandenburg Concerto, Henze’s Third Symphony, and Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with Byron Janis, all led by Jean Martinon. Sauer recalls the emotion of the musicians as they took the stage: “The feeling was similar to when we were in Lucerne on September 11, 2001, deciding whether or not to continue with the concert. There was a tremendous sense of uncertainty, because the news was so fresh and still unfolding, and we did not know so many of the facts. But ultimately, needing to perform was the only answer. One of the beauties of music is you can immerse yourself in the performance and let the music be a retreat from the rest of the world. Performing allows you to escape from the stresses of life as well as being a powerful means of releasing and sharing of one’s emotions.”

According to newspaper accounts, a “self-imposed blackout on all regular [entertainment] programs and commercials on television since President Kennedy’s assassination last Friday was brought to a close last night with special memorial programs.” The Chicago Symphony Orchestra made its own contribution on Monday, November 25, taping a concert for broadcast at 4:00 p.m. on WGN-TV. The program was carried by ABC in the afternoon and rebroadcast (presumably only locally) later that evening at 10:15 p.m.

The television program contained works by Gluck, Bach, Beethoven, and Barber, all led by Martinon. The Bach was a repeat of the First Brandenburg Concerto from the previous week and the Barber was his Adagio for Strings. However, the other two works on the program remain unconfirmed, as no programs were printed and we do not have a copy of the broadcast in our collection. A logical choice for the Gluck might have been the Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice; but the Orchestra had just performed the Overture to Iphigénie en Aulide on November 14 and 15. Also, Martinon and the Orchestra had performed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on October 10 and 11 and the Seventh Symphony on November 14 and 15, so both interpretations would have been fresh.

Revised program page for November 28 and 29, 1963

Program page for November 28 and 29, 1963

Friedman also recalled being in a restaurant that day, along with principal trumpet Adolph “Bud” Herseth, principal tuba Arnold Jacobs, and fellow section trombone Robert Lambert, watching the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on television. When the bugler played Taps, Friedman remembers Bud saying, “I wouldn’t want his job.” (That job was given to Army Sgt. Keith Clark.)

The subscription concert program for November 28 and 29, 1963—originally programmed by Jean Martinon months before and designated as a memorial to Fritz Reiner only days before—became a memorial for President John F. Kennedy. A new program cover was printed and the Reiner insert also was used.

Margaret Hillis had prepared the Chicago Symphony Chorus for both works; and the soloists in the Mozart were Adele Addison, Carol Smith, Walter Carringer, and William Warfield. According to Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune, “After the emotional exhaustion of these last black days, neither the austere beauty of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms nor the not-quite Mozart of the Requiem asked more of the listener than he had left to give. It was a quiet, beautifully played, wholly compassionate concert in Orchestra Hall.”

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A footnote: at virtually the same time on Friday afternoon, November 22, 1963, a nearly identical scenario was unfolding in Kennedy’s home state of Massachusetts. The Boston Symphony Orchestra‘s Friday afternoon matinee began at 2:00 p.m. EST, and their concert already was in progress when orchestra management received word of the events in Dallas. Near the end of the first half of the program, music director Erich Leinsdorf was informed and the decision was made to play the second movement of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. Their librarians (including William Shisler, whose recollection of the event is here) quickly distributed the music and Leinsdorf made an announcement from the stage. The entire event was captured on tape by WGBH and the audio can be heard here.

Thanks to Bridget Carr, archivist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Images of the revised program pages can be found here, as part of the BSO’s Archives fantastic project to digitize their program book collection.

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A second footnote: to commemorate the anniversary, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform Stravinsky’s Elegy for J.F.K. on November 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2013. Kelley O’Connor will be the mezzo-soprano soloist; the work also features CSO clarinetists John Bruce Yeh, Gregory Smith, and J. Lawrie Bloom. Michael Tilson Thomas conducts.

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During January and February 1987, Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra embarked on a domestic tour with concerts in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Omaha, Nebraska; Bartlesville, Oklahoma; San Francisco, Costa Mesa, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, California; Tempe, Arizona; and Austin, Houston, and Dallas, Texas.

Following the Wednesday evening (January 28) concert in Bartlesville, there were two free days before the next concert—an afternoon matinee—on Saturday at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. On Thursday afternoon, the Orchestra flew safely from Tulsa to San Francisco.

However, the majority of the cargo (including instruments, music, and clothing), traveling by trucks, did not arrive as planned. One truck was delayed due to a snowstorm as well as a flat tire, and a second truck was stopped by “agricultural inspectors at the Arizona-California border . . . for a routine check only to discover that the drivers didn’t have their paperwork in order.”

Clockwise from left: Samuel Magad, Solti, John Sharp, and Charles Pikler perform onstage at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall on January 31, 1987

On Saturday afternoon (January 31) in hopes that the cargo would eventually arrive, an impromptu concert was arranged, with members of the Orchestra (who had traveled with their instruments) and Maestro Solti—making his U.S. concert debut as a pianist—performing chamber music. The concert began at about 3:15 p.m. and continued for nearly three hours. The program was as follows:

MOZART Clarinet Quartet in E-flat Major (after K. 380)
John Bruce Yeh, clarinet
Nisanne Graff, violin
Richard Ferrin, viola
John Sharp, cello

SCHUBERT Allegro moderato (first movement) from Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano in A Minor, D. 821
Charles Pikler, viola
Mary Sauer, piano

MOZART Allegretto (third movement) from Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-flat Major, K. 452
Michael Henoch, oboe
Larry Combs, clarinet
Bruce Grainger, bassoon
Gail Williams, horn
Paul Hersh, piano

MOZART Rondo allegro (third movement) from Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, K. 478
Samuel Magad, violin
Charles Pikler, viola
John Sharp, cello
Sir Georg Solti, piano

By 6:00 p.m. the trucks still had not arrived. Borrowing instruments from the San Francisco Symphony, a local youth orchestra, and a violin shop, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took the stage in their street clothes, using music borrowed from the SFS’s music library. The original program was to include John Corigliano’s recently composed Clarinet Concerto (with Larry Combs as soloist). But since the only copies of the music for the concerto were still stranded on one of the cargo trucks, Mozart’s Haffner Symphony (no. 35) was performed instead.

The trucks finally arrived around 9:00 p.m. on Saturday night. Solti and the Orchestra were able to rehearse as scheduled on Sunday afternoon and for the evening concert, Haydn’s Symphony no. 103 was replaced by the Corigliano concerto.

Several newspaper accounts documenting the incident are here and here.

Originally scheduled program for January 31, 1987

Originally scheduled program for February 1, 1987

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During Sir Georg Solti’s tenure as music director, more than seventy musicians—many of whom are still members—joined the roster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:

David Babcock, horn 1969–1971
Edwin Barker, bass 1976–1977
John Bartholomew, viola 1980–
J. Lawrie Bloom, clarinet and bass clarinet 1980–
Ella Braker, violin 1976–2003
Loren Brown, cello 1985–
Catherine Brubaker, viola 1989–
Li-Kuo Chang, viola 1988–
David Chickering, cello 1978–1986
Roger Cline, bass 1973–
Timothy Cobb, bass 1985–1986
Larry Combs, clarinet and E-flat clarinet 1974–2008
Alison Dalton, violin 1987–
Franklyn D’Antonio, violin 1981–1986
Patricia Dash, percussion 1986–
Joseph DiBello, bass 1976–
Louise Dixon, flute 1973–
Fox Fehling, violin 1979–
Jorja Fleezanis, violin 1975–1976
Barbara Fraser, violin 1975–1996
Daniel Gingrich, horn 1976–
Rachel Goldstein, violin 1989–
Rubén González, violin 1986–1996
Bruce Grainger, bassoon 1986–1996
Jerry Grossman, cello 1984–1986
Tom Hall, violin 1970–2006
Laura Hamilton, violin 1985–1986
Erik Harris, bass 1989–1993
Michael Henoch, oboe 1972–
Marilyn Herring, librarian 1982–1997
Russell Hershow, violin 1989–
Richard Hirschl, cello 1989–
Michael Hovnanian, bass 1989–
Thomas Howell, horn 1971–1991
Nisanne Howell, violin 1976–
Albert Igolnikov, violin 1979–
Mihaela Ionescu, violin 1987–
Jacques Israelievitch, violin 1972–1978
Timothy Kent, trumpet 1979–1996
Mark Kraemer, bass 1974–
Melanie Kupchynsky, violin 1989–
Lee Lane, viola 1971–2009–
Stephen Lester, bass 1978–
Kathryn Lukas, flute 1985–1986
Elizabeth Matesky, violin 1972–1973
Blair Milton, violin 1975–
Diane Mues, viola 1987–
Michael Mulcahy, trombone 1990–
Joyce Noh, violin 1979–
Bradley Opland, bass 1984–
Daniel Orbach, viola 1988–
Nancy Park, violin 1984–
Jonathan Pegis, cello 1986–
Paul Phillips, violin 1980–
Charles Pikler, violin and viola 1978–
Gene Pokorny, tuba 1989–
Max Raimi, viola 1984–
James Ross, percussion 1979–
David Sanders, cello 1974–
Ronald Satkiewicz, violin 1979–
Florence Schwartz, violin 1989–
Norman Schweikert, horn 1971–1997
John Sharp, cello 1986–
Sando Shia, violin 1989–
Philip Smith, trumpet 1975–1978
Gregory Smith, clarinet 1983–
Gary Stucka, cello 1986–
Robert Swan, viola 1972–2008
Susan Synnestvedt, violin 1986–
David Taylor, violin 1979–
Charles Vernon, trombone and bass trombone 1986–
George Vosburgh, trumpet 1979–1993
Jennie Wagner, volin 1974–
Gail Williams, horn 1978–1998
Thomas Wright, viola 1981–
John Bruce Yeh, clarinet and E-flat clarinet 1977–

CSO roster – September 1969

CSO roster – June 1991

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