Today we went to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto featuring virtuoso violinist Hilary Hahn, born in 1979. In classical music when you are born and when you died matters unless you are alive. It was composed in 1878, Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 and died in 1893. We’ve seen Hilary Hahn before in Stockholm and she’s a wonder to watch despite being a little too far to the side on the front row, luckily we have ears too. The concert was bookmarked without Hilary by a bizarre piece called Paradisfåglar (Birds Of Paradise, 2008) by Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi (she was there), born in 1981, lots of swooping weird notes on the violins. Then came Hilary to blow our minds, Olivia described her playing as “like butter”, effortless virtuosity, incredible feel and control, beautiful, angular, explosive. After that the Chicago Symphony played Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, born in Transylvania in 1883, this was written in 1943, he died in 1945. It can only be described as…miraculously insane. The spectacle of the Symphony Hall, the three tiers, the orchestra, a safe haven from the terrible weather outside.
We took the train from Lincoln Avenue, climbing the rusty cream-painted stairs in the rain to the elevated tracks as they are built in Chicago. We were at Western station on the loop that took us to Adams/Wabash where the Symphony Hall was. A man on the train had a small speaker in his hand bluetoothed to his phone, eyes closed, ignoring the passengers as adverts rang out into the train carriage, no one seemed to mind, at least it wasn’t the scratchy phone speaker, we moved carriages. We descended the stairs at Adams/Wabash and as we hit the street it was freezing, wet, windy and a fight to get to the Symphony Hall, we made it, it was close. We were early so as we had no breakfast in the Airbnb, we went to a sandwich place nearby and paid a small fortune for a crap sandwich, two drinks, and a small tub of macaroni and cheese for Olivia. Money buys so little these days, except for forgotten records from the sixties and seventies, I’ll enlarge on that later.
After the concert, we went to check out the legendary ‘Bean’. It was still cold and wet but we were full of orchestral vigour and found our way to this odd, mirrored, metallic, monster. The park was dark and the rain was hanging on as drizzle. We saw the open-air auditorium, the Pritzker Pavillion, and the Frank Gehry design. There are some amazing buildings in this central part of the city, the Chicago Athletic Association building (1893) for example, one summer I’d like to take the architectural walking tour (there is one). The rain had mainly stopped, we headed back to the elevated train and called sessioneer Mike who we were going to meet. We were trying to get to the Blundstone shop before 6 PM, somehow we made it thanks to Mike and I finally bought some shoes, trainers in Chicago and Minneapolis in December weren’t going to work and I’d left the shoes I’d brought from Portugal in Dallas, the pain makers, I brought the wrong pair from home.
After the shoe shop, we went back to Rattleback Records to pick up The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger record and I also bought some $1 records, great titles that they can’t sell anymore, like Traffic – On The Road (1973), Stephen Stills – 2 (1971) and First Winter (1969), Bonnie Koloc – Hold On To Me (1972) and a perfect American copy of Robin Trower’s Long Misty Days (1976). After the record store, we hung out with Mike and his wife Julie, ate Vietnamese and after a nice dinner and chats, Mike took us to where he does his amazing comic illustration work. The talent, the skill, it’s been a day of experiencing that.
Music today has been one of those incredibly priced records that no one wants, cheaper than a soft drink, you could buy 30 great albums of the sixties and seventies for what we paid for lunch (I bought thirteen), that’s a sandwich and a drink if you’re lucky. Bonnie Koloc seems to be mostly unknown, maybe not in these parts, today’s music is her second album, Hold On To Me (1972). This from Wikipedia:
“Bonnie Koloc (born February 6, 1946) is an American folk music singer-songwriter, actress, and artist. She was considered one of the three main Illinois-based folk singers in the 1970s, along with Steve Goodman and John Prine forming the “trinity of the Chicago folk scene”. Her music continues to be recognised and valued by historians of Chicago folk music as well as by her long-standing fan base in that area. But her voice, which may be considered crystalline in its clarity, is remembered as well.”