Mahler’s 8th Symphony

fairy fountain

A small pond I found just off the train station in Highland Park

This last week was a crazy one, but fun. It was the end of an insanely rough summer for me. I was finally at a point where I could get through a performance without worrying about ten more things that needed doing for the next project or event.

After a long day of walking with my sister, and a day trip to the Lyon & Healy harp facility, it was finally time to get ready for my choir concert. I was staying with my sister for almost a week to prepare for a a joint concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

We were performing Mahler’s Symphony No 8, often called “Symphony of a Thousand”. This piece is HUGE.  It is a beast to learn.  Each part when played or sung on it’s own makes no sense, yet somehow it all comes together to make something amazing.  The first half of the piece is the Latin hymn Veni Creator. The second half is based on the end of Goethe’s Faust. One of the ladies in my section tried to get a tally of all the musicians on stage and I’m not sure we came close to the Thousand people, though we probably came close.

Here’s a list of every group that participated.

  • The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Chicago Symphony Chorus
  • Chicago Children’s Choir
  • Milwaukee Symphony Chorus
  • Marin Alsop-Conductor

Are you kidding me???  3 SOPRANOS AND TWO MEZZO-SOPRANOS ON STAGE AT ONCE?? There were also 3 male soloists who were FAR outnumbered by the ladies.  It was amazing. It was huge. It was an experience. I have never been on a stage with that many people at once.


  • Angela Meade, soprano
  • Leah Crocetto, soprano
  • Jeanine De Bique, soprano
  • Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
  • Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano
  • Clay Hilley, tenor
  • Paulo Szot, baritone
  • Ryan Speedo Green, bass

A word about the soloists.  They were great. In the second half, the men were given capes and the women floral coronets. Their voices were warm and amazing. The Faust portion was almost staged, with the soloists paced around and behind the choir, sometimes entering from the wings.

If you’re interested in a more refined opinion of the concert, there was a review posted in the Chicago Tribune soon after. It’s worth a look. (Although I don’t agree with one small opinion in there.  It refers to one soprano as the “smallest voice”. Im not sure if that refers to her actual voice or if it refers to her role as the smallest portion of the piece. Her voice was by no means small.  She was standing right behind the choir. Her voice carried. It floated.)

I’ve been to the Ravinia Festival maybe twice in my life.  Once was in high school for some choir trip.  I can’t remember the concert we went to see.  I’m guessing it was a singer.  It might have been Bryn Terfel.  I can’t remember.  Then, I had a friend with an extra ticket take me some time after college. Also, can’t remember which concert it was.  (I was in my early 20’s. There was wine).

The point is, I NEVER would have imagined that I would be given the opportunity to perform on the stage. That goal had never even crossed my mind.  It is a beautiful venue. They book so many world-class performers and musicians.  Yet, somehow, this experience just…happened.

(BTW-The patrons there have some of THE FANCIEST picnics I have ever seen.  Tablecloths, wine bottles, silverware. I heard there was even a competition for best table scheduled).

What I’m trying to say is that I would most definitely do it again. All of it.  The extra months of rehearsal, the last minute rehearsals added on.  The train trips back and forth from downtown Chicago to Highland Park, even missing a few days of work unpaid. It was worth it. The downside: I can’t get this piece out of my head.  There are a few very strong ear worms stuck in there now.

Now, for your enjoyment, the few photos I took when I remembered to.



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