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CSO Announces Free Season Opener In Woodlawn

By Alexander Hough in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 13, 2011 7:30PM

Photo of the Apostolic Church of God's sanctuary from their website
A key talking point in the communications surrounding the hiring of Riccardo Muti as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was the importance of engaging the community beyond the slender slice of socioeconomic pie that is the traditional classical music audience. We're cynics by nature, so we reacted to Muti's Euro-charming press conference pronouncements like Larry David eyeballing a suspected liar.

But much to our pleasant surprise, the Muti-era CSO has been following through on their lofty promises, including collaboration with the incarcerated, plans that were vaguely alluded to so often that we began to wonder if the CSO wasn't covertly crafting a sequel to "Prison Break" (after falling ill in October and breaking his face in February, we switched our suspicions to a "RoboCop" cross-promotion; our latest theory is that they may just be a sincere symphony orchestra).

The Muti-led CSO has also been making the right symbolic moves. Even before last September's massively-attended free concert in Millennium Park that introduced the new leader to 25,000 Chicagoans for the first time, the CSO played a free concert in Pilsen.

The 2011-2012 season will begin similarly, with a free concert featuring Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Jacques Ibert's Flute Concerto (with the brilliant CSO Principal Flute Mathieu Dufour as soloist) at the Apostolic Church of God in Woodlawn. The church and the CSO have a relationship dating back over a decade, when the CSO became the principal partner in an orchestra program for young church members. The sanctuary is plenty big - with seats for 3,500, it can accommodate about 1,000 more than Orchestra Hall, to say nothing of the overflow space also available. With such massive capacity, the free, first-come, first-served admission should be easily accessed by local residents.

Even with all the outreach, the CSO has still yet to complete a refreshing (and arguably necessary) shift in symphony orchestra culture, but the effort to include diverse segments of Chicago is noble, particularly in a city with a long-established tradition of the opposite.

Correction: July 13, 2011
An earlier version of this article described "first-come, first served tickets." While admission is first-come, first served, there will be no actual tickets for this concert. Additionally, the same earlier version misidentified Muti as the conductor of the September 2010 concert in Pilsen. That concert was led by guest conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto.

The CSO plays on September 22 at the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free, general admission, and available first-come, first served.