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Sherrill Milnes (Dario Acosta photo)

Wishing a very happy eighty-fifth birthday to the legendary American baritone Sherrill Milnes! A native of Downers Grove, Illinois, he also was a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus in the beginning of his professional singing career.

Milnes auditioned for Margaret Hillis in 1958 and became a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus in time for the beginning its second season. “I was knocked out by Margaret’s personality and musicality,” he said in a March 1976 interview with Winthrop Sargeant for The New Yorker. “Singing under Fritz Reiner could only be a great thrill for an amateur singer, and I was an amateur. It was pre-career. She had all the techniques of a modern choral conductor. For example, ‘staccato du.” It was the first time I had encountered it. To make sure you know the notes, you sing them ‘du-du-du’—each note very short. Also speaking the words to rhythm—in a monotone, with the rhythm of the music but without the melody. She was the first choral conductor I’d ever know who molded the sound of the chorus, making it change color, and so on. She had everybody sing the soprano part where there was a melody, and the same with the bass and other parts. She opened up a whole new world of musical ideas and rehearsal ideas. . . . I’m on the recording of Reiner’s Beethoven Ninth in the chorus [and] Alexander Nevsky with Reiner too. . . . I was hearing phrases thrown at me for the first time, and it was opening up a whole new world.”

Milnes has been a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of occasions, both in Orchestra Hall and at the Ravinia Festival, all listed below.

December 16, 1961, Orchestra Hall
BACH Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243
HAYDN Mass in D Minor, Hob. XXII:11 (Lord Nelson)
Margaret Hillis, conductor
Maria Ferriero, soprano
Teresa Orantes, soprano
Lili Chookasian, contralto
David Paige, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

February 15, 1964, Orchestra Hall
MENDELSSOHN Elijah, Op. 70
Margaret Hillis, conductor
Lillian Garabedian, soprano
Marion Vincent, soprano
Julia Diane Ragains, soprano
Robert Johnson, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

December 19, 1964, Orchestra Hall
BERLIOZ L’enfance du Christ, Op. 25
Margaret Hillis, director
Jennie Tourel, mezzo-soprano
Seth McCoy, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
John West, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

HAYDN July 18, 1965, Ravinia Festival
ORFF Carmina burana
Seiji Ozawa, conductor
Julia Diane Ragains, soprano
Pierre Duval, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Alfred Reichel, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Christopher Moore, director

August 7 and 9, 1969, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Aida
Giuseppe Patanè, conductor
Sheldon Patinkin, stage director
Robert Hale, bass-baritone
Lili Chookasian, contralto
Martina Arroyo, soprano
Richard Tucker, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Ara Berberian, bass
Herbert Kraus, tenor
Carolyn Smith-Meyer, soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 15 and 17, 1971, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Rigoletto
István Kertész, conductor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Patricia Wise, soprano
John Alexander, tenor
Robert Hale, bass-baritone
John Walker, tenor
Bernard Izzo, baritone
Edna Garabedian, mezzo-soprano
Susan Lutz, mezzo-soprano
Eugene Johnson, bass
Phyllis Kirian, soprano
Julia Diane Ragains, soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

July 1, 1972, Ravinia Festival
PUCCINI Tosca
James Levine, conductor
Teresa Kubiak, soprano
John Alexander, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Bernard Izzo, baritone
Charles Anthony, tenor
Andrew Földi, bass
Eugene Johnson, bass
Joseph Caccamo, boy soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus
Doreen Rao, director

July 24, 1976, Ravinia Festival
WALTON Belshazzar’s Feast
André Previn, conductor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus
John Currie, director

July 9, 1978, Ravinia Festival
MENDELSSOHN Elijah, Op. 70
James Levine, conductor
Jessye Norman, soprano
Kathleen Battle, soprano
Beverly Wolff, mezzo-soprano
Isola Jones, mezzo-soprano
Philip Creech, tenor
Kirk Stuart, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Philip Kraus, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

June 26, 1981, Ravinia Festival
VERDI Macbeth
James Levine, conductor
Renata Scotto, soprano
Giuliano Ciannella, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Timothy Jenkins, tenor
Gene Marie Callahan, soprano
Michelle Harman-Gulick, soprano
Sharon Graham, mezzo-soprano
Duane Clenton Carter, baritone
Rush Tully, bass-baritone
Terry Cook, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis and James Winfied, directors

June 27, 1992, Ravinia Festival
SAINT-SAËNS Samson and Delilah
James Levine, conductor
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano
Plácido Domingo, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
Bryn Terfel, bass-baritone
Sergei Koptchak, bass
David Anderson, tenor
John Concepcion, tenor
Paul Grizzell, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director

Milnes also gave one recital under the auspices of Allied Arts (now Symphony Center Presents):

February 14, 1987, Orchestra Hall
Jon Spong, piano
MONDONVILLE Eole’s Aria from Titon et l’Aurore
LULLY Bois épais from Amadis
GRÉTRY O Richard, O mon roi from Richard Coeur-de-lion
SCHUBERT An die Leier, D. 737
SCHUBERT Die Liebe hat gelogen, D. 751
SCHUBERT Kriegers Ahnung from Schwanengesang, D. 957
SCHUBERT Die Allmacht, D. 852
SANTOLIQUIDO Le domandai
SANTOLIQUIDO Quando le domandai
SANTOLIQUIDO Io mi levai dal centro della terra
SANTOLIQUIDO Riflessi
MOZART Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo, K. 584
McGILL Duna
COPLAND The World Feels Dusty from Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson
TRADITIONAL/Copland At the River
arr. Dalway Love Trapped Me
arr. Dalway Killiney Strand
DUKE Luke Havergal
SAINT-SAËNS Qui donc commande from Henry VIII
Encores:
MOZART Fin ch’han dal vino calda la testa from Don Giovanni, K. 527
TRADITIONAL Shenandoah
TRADITIONAL/Britten Oliver Cromwell (sung by Spong with Milnes at the piano)
GIORDANO Nemico della patria from Andrea Chénier

Happy, happy birthday!

1967 London Records program book advertisement

Wishing a wonderfully happy eighty-fifth birthday to the legendary American mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne!

Over the course of nearly forty years—between 1965 and 2002—Horne has appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a number of occasions in concert and on recording, indicated below:

September 23 and 24, 1965, Orchestra Hall
BERLIOZ The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Richard Verreau, tenor
Ezio Flagello, bass
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Chicago Children’s Choir
Christopher Moore, director
Jean Martinon, conductor

June 2, 1967, Orchestra Hall
ROSSINI The Italian Girl in Algiers
Isabella Marilyn Horne, soprano
Mustafa Ezio Flagello, bass
Taddeo Theodor Uppman, baritone
Lindoro Ken Remo, tenor
Elvira Teresa Orantes, soprano
Zulma Carol Cornelisen, mezzo-soprano
Haly Charles Van Tasssel, bass-baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Ronald Schweitzer, assistant director
Henry Lewis, conductor

July 9, 1983, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
ROSSINI Non temer d’un basso affetto from The Siege of Corinth
ROSSINI Overture to The Silken Ladder
ROSSINI Assisa a piè d’un salice from Otello
ROSSINI Overture to Semiramide
ROSSINI Mura felici from The Lady of the Lake
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
James Levine, conductor

August 18, 1984, Ravinia Festival
MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
James McCracken, tenor
James Conlon, conductor

July 20, 1986, Ravinia Festival
ROSSINI Overture to William Tell
ROSSINI Oh! patria! . . . Tu che accendi . . . Di tanti palpiti from Tancredi
ROSSINI Overture to The Silken Ladder
ROSSINI Da te spero, oh ciel clemente from Zelmira
ROSSINI Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers
ROSSINI Deh, lasciate . . . Beviam, tocchiamo a gara from The Silken Ladder
SAINT-SAËNS Printemps qui commence from Samson and Delilah
THOMAS Overture to Mignon
THOMAS C’est moi, j’ai tout brise . . . Me voici dans son boudoir from Mignon
MASSENET Meditation from Thaïs
Samuel Magad, violin
GOUNOD Ou suis-je? O ma lyre immortelle from Sapho
COPLAND Hoedown from Rodeo
NILES Go ’way from my window
FOSTER/Cullen If you’ve only got a moustache
TRADITIONAL/Copland At the River
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Henry Lewis, conductor

Marilyn Horne (Marty Umans photo)

July 4, 1992, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 (Classical)
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Sarah Chang, violin
COHAN/Davis You’re a Grand Old Flag
TRADITIONAL/Davis Shenandoah
TRADITIONAL/Matthews Billy Boy
FOSTER/Tunick Beautiful Dreamer
FOSTER/Cullen If you’ve only got a moustache
FOSTER/Matthews I Dream of Jeannie
FOSTER/Cullen Camptown Races
TRADITIONAL/Davis I’ve Just Come from the Fountain
MALOTTE/Davis The Lord’s Prayer
TRADITIONAL/Matthews When Johnny Comes Marching Home
BRYAN-PIANTADOSE/Davis I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier
TRADITIONAL/Davis Battle Hymn of the Republic
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Cheryl Frazes Hill, assistant director
James Levine, conductor
Radio broadcast recordings of Camptown Races and I’ve Just Come from the Fountain were released in 2008 on Chicago Symphony Chorus: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration (From the Archives, vol. 22).

July 28, 2002, Ravinia Festival
Music of Rodgers and Hammerstein
Selections from Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, Victory at Sea, The King and I, and The Sound of Music
Sylvia McNair, soprano
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Rodney Gilfry, baritone
John Raitt, baritone
John Mauceri, conductor

Horne also commercially recorded with Orchestra and Chorus, on two notable occasions:

MAHLER Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus
Doreen Rao, director
James Levine, conductor
Recorded by RCA on July 21, 22, and 23, 1975, in Medinah Temple. The recording was produced by Thomas Z. Shepard and Jay David Saks, and Paul Goodman was the recording engineer. The Orchestra and Chorus also performed the work at the Ravinia Festival on July 13, 1975; Beverly Wolff was soloist.

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 in C Minor (Resurrection)
Carol Neblett, soprano
Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Margaret Hillis, director
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon on February 13 and 16, 1976, in Medinah Temple. The recording was produced by Rainer Brock, and Heinz Wildhagen was the balance engineer. The Orchestra and Chorus also performed the work in Orchestra Hall on February 12 and 14, 1976; Neblett and Claudine Carlson were soloists. 

November 28, 1999

On November 28, 1999, Horne and her longtime collaborator Martin Katz gave a recital at Orchestra Hall. Just before the final encores, she announced from the stage, “Today I sing my last classical recital. . . . I’ll still be around from time to time [but] one thing you cannot do is stop the march of time.”

“Perhaps not,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “But time has been on the side of this great and treasurable artist. She has sung everything she ever wanted to sing in every major opera house and concert hall. She has been at the forefront of the modern Handel and Rossini revivals. She has long held the mantle of the world’s foremost mistress of bel canto. Her place in history as one of the all-time great singers is secure.”

Happy, happy birthday!

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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