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John Glessner and his wife Frances were among the most generous and loyal supporters of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since its founding in 1891. They extended that generosity into their own home, and both Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock, their families, along with members of the Orchestra and visiting soloists, were frequent guests, especially during the Christmas season (see here).

Frances meticulously kept diaries, detailing menus, decorations, guests, and seating arrangements, giving us a glimpse into the family’s frequent entertaining. According to her diaries, during the holiday season she frequently served one of her favorite cookies—Hermits. Here’s her recipe:

Hermits
Makes about 1 1/2 dozen bar cookies
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup nutmeats (chopped coarse)
1/2 cup dates (chopped or diced)
1 orange rind grated
1/2 cup butter or shortening
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons sour milk
2 eggs (beaten well)

Cream together butter, sugar, and orange rind. Sift together flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and soda and set aside. Add beaten eggs to butter and sugar mixture. Alternate adding dry ingredients and sour milk, then fold in dates and nuts. Spoon into (greased and floured) 9-by-13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cut into bars when cool.
Modern cooking tip: sour milk can be fabricated by adding a few drops of lemon juice to milk.
(from Carol Callahan’s 1993 Prairie Avenue Cookbook)

Keeping with the Glessners’ holiday traditions, the Glessner House was beautifully decorated for the holidays this year. It recently was open for docent-led candlelight tours, complete with executive director and curator William Tyre playing carols on the late nineteenth-century Steinway grand piano in the parlor.

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And a footnote . . . we couldn’t share the recipe without trying it ourselves . . . delicious success!

Mrs. Glessner's seating chart for Christmas Day, 1915

Mrs. Glessner’s seating chart for Christmas Day, 1915 (image courtesy of the Glessner House Museum)

Our good friends at the Glessner House Museum have posted a wonderful recollection on their blog—The Story of a House—recounting the events of a Christmas dinner, one hundred years ago! The post can be found here.

Loyal supporters of the Orchestra from the very beginning, John and Frances Glessner also had long been close friends of both Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock, along with numerous musicians and administrators. Guests at their home on the afternoon of December 25, 1915, included Stock and his wife Elizabeth and daughter Vera, the Orchestra’s business manager Frederick J. Wessels and his wife Minnie, assistant manager (and future business manager) Henry E. Voegeli and his wife, principal harp Enrico Tramonti and his wife Juliette, and the Glessners’ daughter Frances (who had made a doll orchestra for her mother three years earlier).

December 24 and 25, 1915

December 24 and 25, 1915

Following the 1:00 p.m. dinner, the guests ventured to Orchestra Hall—some to attend the concert, some to perform in it. The program that evening included the Pastorale from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the Orchestra’s first performances of Mouquet’s The Flute of Pan (orchestrated by principal flute Alfred Quensel who also performed the solo part), Bruneau’s The Sleeping Beauty, and Dvořák’s D minor symphony, op. 70 (then known as no. 2 and now, of course, no. 7).

Page 3 of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; note "Property of Theo Thomas" stamps

Page 3 of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; note “Property of Theo Thomas” stamps

On October 16 and 17, 1891, founder and first music director Theodore Thomas led the Chicago Orchestra’s inaugural concerts at the Auditorium Theatre. A group of more than fifty businessmen—including Chicago pioneers Armour, Fay, Field, Glessner, McCormick, Potter, Pullman, Ryerson, Sprague, and Wacker—had agreed to serve as guarantors, each pledging their continued financial support.

At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., this giving spirit is the focus of a long-term Philanthropy Initiative announced on #GivingTuesday that includes a new display, “Giving in America” unveiled on December 1, 2015, and on view through November 2016. Included in this display is a very special artifact from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Rosenthal Archives: the oldest of Thomas’s scores for Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a work prominently featured on those inaugural concerts.

examing

CSO archivist Frank Villella and Newberry Library manuscripts and archives librarian Alison Hinderliter examine the score

In the Thomas collection, there are four copies of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: three are held in the Rosenthal Archives and one at the Newberry Library. Several months ago, Newberry Library manuscripts and archives librarian Alison Hinderliter and I carefully evaluated all four copies. While it’s impossible to determine exactly which score was used for the October 1891 concerts, we decided the most likely candidate was the oldest of the four scores. That particular edition clearly bears Thomas’s markings—particularly bowings in the string parts—along with the conductor’s personal stamp on numerous pages. Several weeks ago, it was carefully packaged and shipped to Washington, D.C. for the exhibit.

preparing for shipment

Safely preparing the score for shipment from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

According to museum’s website, the preview cases for “Giving in America,” will “provide a look at how philanthropy has shaped American civic culture in two eras—the Gilded Age (1870s–1900) and the present day. The display showcases the role of philanthropy in creating some of the nation’s most enduring museums, libraries, orchestras, universities, and hospitals. It also examines the involvement of women in nineteenth-century philanthropy. Artifacts include a register book showing the 1,600 libraries financed by Andrew Carnegie, an 1881 gown designed by Charles Frederick Worth for philanthropist Mary Eno Pinchot . . . a nurse’s cap worn by a Johns Hopkins School of Nursing student (circa 1945), and current civic philanthropy stories.”

For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu.

Page 35 of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; note several markings in blue pencil, primarily indicating bowings in the string parts

Page 35 of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; note several markings in blue pencil, primarily indicating bowings in the string parts

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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.

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.

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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.

Yet another significant Chicago institution is in the midst of celebrating their 125th anniversary: the John and Frances Glessner House and Museum, located at 1800 South Prairie Avenue in Chicago. The Glessners were perhaps the most significant early supporters of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and also close personal friends of our first two music directors, Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock.

Bruno Steindel - Glessner doll collection

Bruno Steindel, principal cello of the Orchestra from 1891 until 1918, as depicted by Frances Glessner Lee in 1913.

On January 1, 1913, Frances Glessner Lee presented her mother with a unique and memorable birthday gift: a meticulously crafted model of the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. With Frederick Stock’s permission, Lee attended numerous rehearsals in order to sketch the individual musicians. She spent months creating the model and used Viennese bisque dolls, customized with appropriate hair and instrument. Stock also contributed, writing out the music parts for each stand. And on January 17, 1913, the Glessners welcomed the entire orchestra to their home for dinner and an opportunity to view the model.

To celebrate the house’s 125th year as well as the centennial of the doll collection, on January 16, Glessner House Executive Director and Curator William Tyre will give a lecture on the Glessners and their lifelong support of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. There will also be an opportunity to view the doll collection, which will be on loan from the Rosenthal Archives through February 24.

The details:

The Glessners and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Wednesday January 16, 2013, at 7:00 p.m.
$10 per person / $8 for members (the dinner is already sold out)
R.S.V.P. to (312) 326-1480
Glessner House Museum Coach House

Join us!

Chicago Symphony Orchestra in miniature

The miniature orchestra in January 1913, shortly after it was presented to Frances Glessner by her daughter Frances Glessner Lee (Chicago Daily News photo)

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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

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