Chicago area residents who attended Final Season Concert of the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest Orchestra on Sunday May 1, 2005, had a memorable experience. It took place at the First United Church in Oak Park where early in the last century Ernest Hemingway’s family attended services. Hemingway’s mother sang in the church and Ernest is reported to have played the cello.
The highlight of the concert was a “Suite from Romeo and Juliet” Op 64, with music composed by one of Russia’s great composers, Serge Prokofiev. Music conductor for the performance was Ho Chung Yeh, associate conductor of the Oak Park and River Forest Symphony.
Jay Friedman principal conductor and music director led the orchestra in a composition by Knox College Music Professor Bruce Polay who attended the concert. Also performed was a “Concert for your Horns and Orchestra up 86” composed by Robert Shuman.
Henry Fogel, noted music impresario on WFMT Chicago classical music station did a superior task at narrating the music from a text of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare with music composed by Prokofiev. Harmony between Fogel’s narration and Prokofiev’s music was remarkable. The audience was enchanted by the whole performance.
As a person who has had a long life witnessing some marvelous cultural experiences in America and Europe, Oak Park and River Forest’s Orchestra compares with many of the best performers of classical music. I have seen music performances at the Bolshoi theater in Moscow and the Maryanskv Theater in St. Petersburg. Residents of the Chicago area may be proud of the Oak Park and River Forest Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra improves quality of life in an urban area where primitive features of crime and violence are unfortunate factors of our time.
Oak Park and River Forest’s music model is one that should be taking place in every American community.