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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!

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.

the vault

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After the Europe Tour 2020, Riccardo Muti joined the Orchestra again for a three-week CSO residency in February that included the Florida Tour 2020 and two programs at Symphony Center. In celebration of the Music Director’s time with the Orchestra during the past two months, please enjoy this video featuring Maestro Muti leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in an excerpt from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, featuring mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili as Santuzza. 🎥@toddrphoto
Opening with the most famous four notes in all of classical music, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is featured on this CSO program led by Riccardo Muti, along with the composer’s Second Symphony and the world premiere of Ophelia’s Tears, Concertante Elegy, a new work by Nicolas Bacri featuring the CSO’s own bass clarinet J. Lawrie Bloom as soloist. #Beethoven250 📸@toddrphoto
“In four years, I had been in five orchestras,” said CSO Bass Clarinet J. Lawrie Bloom about the beginning of his orchestral career. As a clarinetist, he never set out to play the bass clarinet, but there just happened to be orchestral positions for the instrument when he began seeking a job. “That is how fast the auditions were happening. But by then, I had really started to realize that the bass gave me a voice I’d never had.” J. Lawrie Bloom takes center stage this week in Orchestra Hall for the world premiere of Nicolas Bacri’s Ophelia’s Tears, Concertante Elegy for Bass Clarinet and Orchestra, led by Riccardo Muti. #MusicianMonday 📸@toddrphoto

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

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