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Summer Postcards

By Melissa Trier Kirk

The summer found some of our orchestra members scattered around the globe performing and teaching while others stayed in Chicago to lend their talents to the Grant Park Orchestra.

Wherever we went, beautiful music was made. Here are a few “postcards” from the summer.

Heather Wittels - violin

2023 was my second summer as the concertmaster of the AIMS (American Institute of Musical Studies) Festival Orchestra in Graz, Austria. The orchestra plays a mix of symphonic and operatic repertoire and the festival lasts 6 weeks. This year the operetta concert was rose-themed and the hosts gave me such a big bouquet that it would only fit in the dorm room's noodle pot.

Liba Schact - violin

I joined my husband, cellist John Sharp, to perform chamber music at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We also performed at the Glessner House in Chicago and taught and played chamber music at the Virtuoso Festival in Queretaro, Mexico.

Lewis Kirk - bassoon

A snapshot of me with my bassoon colleague Julia Harguidaey in the pit of the Santa Fe Opera. Lyric Opera violist (and my wife!) Melissa Trier Kirk and I met there and still enjoy spending time in the Southwest each summer.

Mark Fisher - trombone

Two highlights from this past summer were performing at the Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, CO as part of a large brass ensemble playing an all-John Williams concert. The brass section consisted of members from the Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony. I also enjoyed playing an all-Rachmaninoff program with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Music Center.

Diane Duraffourg-Robinson - violin

I enjoyed teaching and performing at the Opus 74 music festival in the French Alps. Lots of great hiking too!

Jeremy Moeller - trombone

The 2023 Grant Park Orchestra summer season was an unusual one. Performing outdoors, we’re always prepared to deal with some weather issues, but we’d never faced a summer like this. We opened in June with unexpectedly cold temperatures (as it turns out, it’s not as much fun playing outdoors when the temps are in the 50s). Unfortunately, it went downhill from there. Over the following 3-4 weeks of concerts, we dealt with heavy rains at times, and the awful smoke from the Canadian wildfires. We even had to abruptly end our patriotic July 5th concert and scurry offstage about four measures into Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” while they evacuated Pritzker Pavilion when the downtown tornado sirens started going off! Fortunately, the second half of the summer got much better. The weather improved, the sun came back out, and most of our remaining shows went uninterrupted. By the end of the season, it felt like classical music had won out, and it still ended up being a wonderful summer of concerts in Millennium Park!

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