Oak Park River Forest Symphony Orchestra cellist Alex Groesch at rehearsal of his Groesch Symphony #3 in G minor at Concordia College, March 8, 2023. | Todd A. Bannor

On Monday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m., the Symphony of Oak Park & River Forest will perform their sixth concert in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The concert has been a long time coming. Since 2010, the Symphony has performed a biennial concert at that venue, but the 2020 concert was cancelled due to the pandemic. This year, they finally decided that the time was right to reschedule.

The concert consists of two parts: the world premiere of Alex Groesch’s Symphony No. 3 and Hector Berlioz’s Te Deum, which has not been performed in Chicago since 1982. The performance will run about 90 minutes.

Groesch’s piece was not part of the original 2020 program. But when the concert was planned for this spring, the decision was made to add it. According to David Leehey, president of the Symphony board, “Jay Friedman [music director] had this idea to premiere Alex’s symphony. It turned out to be a shrewd move as it’s gotten a lot of interest. Alex is a young, musical genius.” 

Groesch is 28 and has been a musician all his life. He started playing cello at age 6 and began composing in high school. This is the second time one of his symphonies will be performed. He started composing this symphony about five years ago but said he “began taking it a lot more seriously in the last year.” He also received assistance from Friedman, who said his experience as a conductor allowed him to “advise on and edit the technical aspects of Alex’s score.”

Groesch describes his work as being in the Romantic style. One of his goals is to “introduce classical music to people who don’t normally listen to it. In my music, I strive to evoke emotions that make people nostalgic, such as thoughts of people, places, or other meaningful memories. When I’m coming up with themes, I often think of close friends and family. The brass themes often reflect fate and death. The strings play a lot of adventurous, hopeful, and longing themes, while the woodwinds are constantly fluctuating.”

The second piece in the concert, Te Deum, was originally composed for the 1852 coronation of Napoleon III (nephew of Napoleon I) but was not actually performed until 1855 with an ensemble of 950 musicians. The work is unusual in that it has not only a full orchestra but also three different choruses: two adult and one children’s choral groups.

This performance will consist of an orchestra as well as 200 voices, evenly split between adults and children. The three choruses are made up of singers from eight different singing groups from across the Chicago region. 

According to Bill Chin, the Symphony’s chorus director, “This concert is an example of how arts organizations can achieve high goals through cooperation by partnering with other musicians. It’s a win-win when we can combine five adult choirs along with three children’s choirs and create a whole that is more than just a combination of the parts.”

According to Friedman, the idea for performing Te Deum came from Leehey, who said, “I had wanted to do it for a long time. I performed it when I was 22 years old at Tanglewood [the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra] and the audience loved it. It’s not a trivial piece. It’s very well-constructed, but it’s more accessible to an audience that may not be that musical. And it has one of the most exhilarating endings in all of music.”

Excited is building. Groesch said, “Symphony Center is a spectacular venue and it’s huge for a community orchestra to be performing there. It would be great for people from the community to come out and support us.”

Added Leehey, “It’s been five years since we’ve played downtown. We’re very ready to do this again.”

Tickets for the April 3 concert are $25-$75. For more information, visit www.symphonyoprf.org.

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