If you ask anybody what they know about Chicago, many people will respond that it is the birthplace of blues. Even though this is not strictly correct, Chicago has played a massive part in elevating blues music to the level it is today. The type of music that is lesser connected to the windy city is classical. But really this was the very music that gave Chicago its reputation as one of the most elegant and arty cities on the east coast of America.
Classical Music and Chicago
It was muted that it was Chicago’s love of the finer things in life that was one of the main reasons it was incorporated as a city in the 1830’s. Even back then classical music was being heard in salons and taverns all over town as early settlers from Europe played the music that they loved back home. And as the city grew in size and audiences increased it was possible to attract visiting musicians from overseas. It was one of the major cities in America that was known across Europe as a cultural hub.
Up until the turn of the century most of the classical recitals were by amateur societies and musicians. And these societies were mostly formed by Europeans that came to settle in the giant metropolis. After the catastrophe of the great fire in 1871, classical societies and orchestral groups held concerts to raise money for the rebuilding of the city. Festivals were organized with classical music at their hub, every part of society was introduced to classical music for the first time. Some of the festivals such as the Sangerfest and the May Festivals were devoted to opera, and the good people of Chicago still love opera today.
Opera Comes to Town
1910 was a landmark year in Chicago as the Chicago Grand Opera Company was formed out of the remnants of a New York failed ensemble. Its first production was Aida and the star soprano were world renowned Mary Garden. This lavish production absolutely wowed the people of Chicago and the love of opera by all Chicagoans has never diminished. In 1929 a purpose built auditorium was erected called the Civic Opera House.
Teaching is the Way
Chicago is no different to any other American city in the fact that the love for classical music is passed on by the people who teach it rather than those who perform it. Not only does private teaching provide added income it maintains levels of amateur societies as musicians have a way of making a living. Since its inception as a city, Chicago has a history of supporting new music, if not by denoting actual money, the local government sponsors societies and festivals.
Not to be forgotten in the growth of classical music in Chicago through the decades are the myriad of local businessmen who have invested heavily in maintaining the arts. And by doing so have ensured that this great American northern city has a many faceted and multicultural life.