Voila! The Southside Friends of The Chicago Sinfonietta Review - A Magical Holiday Breakfast

On December 12, 2015, the Southside Friends of the Sinfonietta gathered at The Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier, Chicago for a Magical Holiday Breakfast  entitled “Voila”, The Magic of the Baton". For over 28 years, the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Friends Groups have been supporting this superb orchestra with tireless work: some  plan events, some do volunteer work, and all of them introduce the Sinfonietta to their friends and family members.The Chicago Sinfonietta is a quintessentially American orchestra based in Chicago; it bills itself as “The Nation’s Most Diverse Orchestra”. The Sinfonietta, which is larger than a chamber ensemble but smaller than a full-sized orchestra, was begun in 1987 by Dr. Paul Freeman. The same year Maestro Freeman founded the Sinfonietta, he asked Elizabeth Wilkins to develop a group to introduce area businesses and residents to the new symphony orchestra. Dr. Freeman passed away in July of 2015; this 2015-2016 season, including the Breakfast, has been dedicated to his influence and memory and to a celebration of his life.

The buffet

The breakfast was a heartfelt tribute to the great Paul Freeman, but it was also a lot of fun. An extremely sumptuous buffet was provided by Stefani Signature Restaurants, and was refreshed throughout the event, which lasted from 8:30 A.M. until approximately noon. Guests feasted on made-to-order omelets, real scrambled eggs, bacon, specialty sausages, hash browns, a super array of breads and rolls, as well as juice and hot coffee. The room itself, decorated with hanging twinkling white lights for the holidays, is a one-acre indoor botanical garden filled with sparkling fountains, lush foliage including over 80 live palm trees, and boasts a 50 foot arched ceiling over a six-story glass atrium which offers views of the lake, Chicago’s skyline and, of course, Navy Pier.

The quartet

When Dr. Freeman announced his retirement, in 2011, a search was begun for his replacement; the 2011-2012 was the first season under the baton of the incredibly talented Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, who has continued the stated mission of the orchestra “to serve as a national model for inclusiveness and innovation in classical music” and to “help America become a true cultural democracy, in which everyone can share fully in its cultural resources and in which all can contribute to its cultural richness”. Maestro Chen was on hand throughout the Breakfast, introducing parts of the program and, of course, conducting the Sinfonietta at its end.

The Sinfonietta

The morning began with a musical prelude on keyboards, by world-class pianist George T. Cooper, who regularly performs in Chicago, playing, composing and teaching music. His mellow sounds served as a backdrop throughout the morning. Master of Ceremonies Steve Baskerville, meteorologist and anchor for CBS 2 News kept the program on track with funny and cheerful repartee. There were a number of moving speeches, notably a welcome by Sharon D. Hatchett, President of the Southside Friends and a spot-on speech of acknowledgement and introduction by Breakfast Chair Loretta Hopkins Davenport.

The silent auction

The morning was filled with participatory entertainments like the fabulous silent auction, which wound around one whole side of the room, brimming with great baskets and displays of toys, books, gourmet food and liquor items and unique gifts. There was a delightful surprise appearance by Santa as well as a copious and scrumptious candy buffet. The many guests circulated happily in spiffy holiday attire. However, as was appropriate, the entire morning was a series of special musical events. Guest vocalist Karen Barbee-Dixon performed a wide range of holiday operetta selections and the Kenwood Academy High School  Saxophone Quartet made their first public appearance. Finally, the breakfast program was crowned and culminated by music from the Chicago Sinfonietta Classical Ensemble under the inimitable baton of the world-renowned Maestro Chen.

Maestro Chen and friends


For more information on how you can contribute to the Sinfonietta and enjoy their wonderful programs, contact  chicagosinfonietta website

All images courtesy of Ocken Photography



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