“This is my first time going to any concert at all…It just made it one of my favorite moments of my life…”
—Sophomore at Morton East High School
If you believe what you read, the town of Cicero has a troubled history: a 2002 embezzlement scandal; race riots in the 50’s, and a homestead for Al Capone. Iniquitous associations like these linger for decades, while saying nothing of the men and women who live, work, and raise families here. On Wednesday, the people of Cicero had the opportunity to show something of their fiber: world-renowned conductor Riccardo Muti chose their landmark Chodl Auditorium as the location to launch the 2013-2014 concert season for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Morton East High School began preparing for the CSO’s concert in the 1924 auditorium on the first day of school.
Sophomore Eduardo Morano volunteered to usher through the school’s drama club, “This is my first time going to any concert at all. It was just a fantastic experience seeing the music up close like this, seeing the conductor just flailing his arms about. I don’t know what it means, but he just knows how to make music with just flailing his arms, moving his hair. It was just a masterpiece…It just made it one of my favorite moments of my life…”
Jean Turnmire, a former music teacher at Morton East, looked on with pride as she spotted former students in the audience. For her, having Maestro Muti and the CSO at her school was like a moment of arrival.
“(Maestro Muti) accomplished his goal of bringing love and music to everyone here.”
—Jean Turnmire, music educator
Many students today pass through the public schools without any musical instruction. Without the vocabulary to describe symphonic music, the students fumble for words to describe their excitement at hearing the CSO for the first time.
The concert opened with Brahms’ 2nd Symphony, a 45-minute piece full of hushed, and velvety nuance – music that might have smothered 2,000 less-than-sympathetic people wedged into a space without air-conditioning – but this audience was rapt. Without pausing for intermission, Milan-native Barbara Frittoli, came out in a dazzling, white gown to sing the plight of Leonora from Verdi’s La forza del destino. Leonora’s pleas were answered by the men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and a gorgeous Padre Guardino sung by Luca Dall’Amico.
If Maestro Muti imagined this free concert would attract people who had never heard the Chicago Symphony, he didn’t feel they needed explanations; he didn’t feel they needed light repertoire. In stifling heat, the audience sat mesmerized, springing to its feet at the end. It wasn’t until the last note had been played that the Maestro turned to speak to them. Without the benefit of a P.A. system, the entire audience froze, straining to hear his words. In a town that’s nearly 90% Hispanic, Mo. Muti noted the international make-up of the orchestra, and spoke of the power of music to bring people together. Judging by the exhilaration in Cicero on Wednesday evening, he was right.