On Monday evening, May the thirteenth, the Merit School of Music in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, in collaboration with the International Beethoven Project welcomed Christopher O’Riley to the school’s Joy Faith Knapp Music Center. O’Riley, a dynamic pianist dazzled the audience in the school’s intimate space with selections from his album of Liszt transcriptions entitled: O’Riley’s Liszt. Additionally, he performed compositions of Chopin and Berlioz concluding with Mozart and Richard Wagner. The roughly ninety minute concert with no intermission showcased Mr. O’Riley’s formidable talent and technical virtuosity. O’Riley, who boasts an impressive resume including host of the very popular National Public Radio program, From the Top was both charming and informative as he walked the audience through each piece of music with an in depth description. He warmed up the audience with two Chopin offerings before launching into the massive Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz. This part of the performance was truly a marathon. O’Riley’s technical prowess, tempered with great emotion and heartfelt interpretations left everyone spellbound. As if this weren’t emotionally and physically exhausting enough , the evening continued with O’Riley performing selections from Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde as well as several Mozart transcriptions.
As I mentioned earlier, the evening’s success was due in part to the intimacy of the performance space as well as Christopher O’Riley’s ability to engage his audience. Prior to performing each selection, he regaled the audience with insightful background information and anecdotes which added to the enjoyment and better understanding of the music.
In addition to providing access to great music performed by world class talent, the Merit School of Music does rightfully take its place among Chicago’s cultural treasures. The mission statement of this not for profit institution is as follows:
“To provide high quality music education to students in metropolitan Chicago.”
Its primary goals are to help young people achieve their full musical potential, to remove economic barriers to participation, and to stimulate personal and emotional growth through music. The Merit School of Music was founded in 1979 by Alice S. Pfaelzer and Emma Endes-Kountz in response to the elimination of music education from the Chicago Public Schools elementary school curriculum. Following several moves from various venues in Chicago, the Merit School finally settled into its present location at 38 S. Peoria Street in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. The school offers numerous programs in music education from beginner to advanced levels. Tuition free programs and scholarships are available to those who meet the qualifications.
Regarding future concert dates, the Merit School will be hosting the Beethoven Festival: Love 2013 from September 7th through September 15th. Christopher O’Riley among others will once again be participating in this event.
For more information, please contact the Merit School of Music at:
Photo by: Merit School of Music