Living in Chicago provides me with an almost endless array of options to fulfill my classical music needs. Although I already have tickets to the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago's Music of the Baroque, there are also so many other venues and options to consider, not least of which is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
But that leads me to my wonderful concert experience at Chicago's Harris Theatre of Music and Dance in Millennium Park. That is where the Music of the Baroque performs. It was my first experience with both the orchestra and the location, and I was thrilled with both. Have you ever had the feeling of going to something that you thought would be what you expected and finding yourself thrilled to discover that was is really there is actually that much better? That occurred to me, and reinvigorated my enthusiasm to see music live.
First off, the Harris Theater is the wonderful multi-purpose concert space tucked around the corner of Millennium Park, and what you find is a rather stark and industrial place, not like a typical venue for classical music. The street level entrance is actually the second balcony, so down, down you go, deep beneath downtown streets to find the main floor. It is an intimate space by Orchestral Hall and Lyric Opera standards, and definitely nowhere near as ornate. In fact, there is not a single fancy thing about the place. It gave me the feeling of listening to some kind of alternative, specialist music in some remote club instead of in the heart of downtown Chicago. It was an awesome space to meet Jane Glover and her Music of the Baroque.
The concert was one piece - Haydn's last oratorio, The Seasons. Now, if you love the classical period, or have grown tired of bombastic 110-piece orchestra works, the concert would excite on the page alone. But once Ms. Glover started commanding her forces, it came to life in a way that made me pity those who would sit through their thirtieth performance of Mahler's ninth. It was refreshing to have only a 60-person ensemble, instrumentalists and chorus combined. Let me reassure you it lacked for nothing. The soloists were superb and the playing was crisp and completely in tune with Haydn's written notes. It was a special occasion, and one, unfortunately, many people probably won't be able to repeat because most orchestras around the country most likely play what would bring in the most people, and that will probably always be the pieces with the big orchestral forces that wear their emotions on their sleeves.
I really look forward to the other concerts I signed up for with Music of the Baroque. I can't wait to hear their rendition of Bach's Matthew Passion - that occurs in March 2008. I guess I will have to wait. Sigh.