The Passing of a Great Restauranteur
Last week I received word that Gerry Freeman, owners of Gulliver's Restaurant on Howard Street in Chicago, had died. Gerry was one of the many small businessmen that make the neighborhoods in Chicago unique. And his restaurant, on the most northern fringe of West Roger's Park, (if you cross the street you are in Evanston) was certainly unique. The place is stuffed, floor to ceiling/wall to wall, with antique chandeliers, paintings, prints, wrought iron, figurines, lamps, stained glass, building facades and many other artifacts, many rescued from demolished Chicago landmarks. Gerry was on duty night and day greeting patrons and making you feel at home.
Gulliver's, Light Opera Works and Classical Music
Gulliver's was founded in the late 60's and, in fact, was the first place that I tasted Chicago Pan Pizza in 1974 as a freshman at Northwestern University. In the 70's and 80's Evanston's liquor laws were restrictive. After student rehearsals and later, Light Opera Works rehearsals, cast members, orchestra and crew would make their way south to Gulliver's to unwind. The large menu, late night hours and well stocked bar satisfied the late night cravings of post rehearsal/performance artists. To this day, if you stop in after midnight on any given night, you will often see tuxedoed musicians relaxing in one of the many antique adorned booths.
Gerry Freeman and his wife Nancy have supported Light Opera Works since its earliest days. They have generously donated opening night parties and gift certificates for auctions. The restaurant's support continues today as a member of our "Restaurant Partners" program. We are very grateful.
If you have never been to Gulliver's, stop by late some night--you might meet one of your favorite Chicago musical artists. Though you will no longer meet Gerry, his spirit is certainly present in the place.
I could easily fill a few more pages but this will have to suffice. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!
The Wallace Foundation staff arranged this convening so that the participants would themselves participate rather than take the more passive role of listening to experts speak about the field. My first activity was to be a part of an open rehearsal performed by the Amir String Quartet preparing a Shostakovich piece.
This open session demonstrated, in an unmistakable fashion, the need to break down the "fourth wall" that separates the musicians from the audience when we can. The rehearsal began with the quartet playing a section of the piece. The session's facilitator, Eric Booth, interrupted the musicians about two minutes into the section and got them talking to each other (and us) about what they were feeling about the sound, the interpretation, etc. I think most of us were surprised to hear the divergence of opinion the musicians had about certain aspects of their performance.
They played the same section a few more times, trying different approaches, and fielding questions and comments from the observers along the way. During the course of these discussions little tidbits of information about Shostakovich's life at the time he composed the piece were revealed that shed light on why the music sounded the way it did. It turns out that his wife had died just before he wrote the quartet and he was quite depressed during this period of his life. The session ended with a full performance of the piece.
What was the result of experiencing this? When they first began playing the music, I didn't like it very much. Listening to the musicians talk, and sometimes argue, about the piece enhanced my enjoyment of the music substantially. I want to provide similar experiences for members of the Chicago Sinfonietta's audience. Stay tuned, I'll let you know how this all works out.
This blog is the first in a series of monthly posts written by Chicago Sinfonietta musicians. This week's guest blogger is June Matayoshi, an active free-lance oboist and English hornist in Chicago. She is a member of the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra.
Nothing creates more havoc for a double reed player than the change of seasons. Imagine having your perfectly honed reeds completely collapse due to a humidity and temperature drop, or become so saturated and enlarged due to too much humidity and rise in temperature. How do you even predict what kind of reed to make when the temperature is as variable as it is in Chicago at this time of year!
As an oboist who has battled with double reeds for over 30 years, my reed making struggles often have me asking myself, "Why do I continue to play this instrument?!"
Think about having the success of your professional career hinging on a piece of bamboo. A bad reed can make or break an oboist. Assuming you have the musical ability to master the techniques of the oboe itself, a professional oboist must also spend endless hours perfecting the art of making a reed, something that takes years and years to develop. You take bamboo tube cane, splice it, chop it to length, gouge it to a particular thinness, fold and shape the cane to a specific shape, then take the folded cane and tie it onto a tube. Once you have made this "reed blank," you sharpen your knife to begin the whittling process. You carefully sculpt the reed, creating a backbone and channels, a very thin tip, and a thicker middle area called the heart of the reed.
Sound easy? Not! Here are the problems. Back in the 70's, John Mack, principal oboist of the Cleveland Orchestra, said that we had to accept the fact that good cane sources were dwindling and that we had to learn to make playable reeds from bad cane. Cane was no longer given the chance to grow and age to maturity due to keeping up with demand. He said that over 30 years ago! So you get the picture. Couple that with working with a woody grass like bamboo, which can be highly affected by temperature, humidity, altitude, and sometimes you just throw up your hands wondering how to tame this plant into a reed that is going to provide you with the warm, articulate tone every oboists strives for.
How long do reeds last? It depends on how lucky you are. Sometimes it's one rehearsal. If you've found some decent cane, perhaps the life of the reed may be extended to 3-6 hours worth of playing before it starts to deteriorate. This is why you always see oboists whittling on reeds, always readying a new reed for the next rehearsal or performance.
Check out this Wikipedia link for a rundown on reedmaking. There are some nice illustrations here as well.
Last Sunday you probably couldn’t help but notice the 40,000 runners who took to Chicago's streets for the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon – and included among that number were The Chicago Chamber Musicians’ own Joseph Genualdi, violin, and Gail Williams, horn, as well as Gail’s daughter, Liz.