On November 16, 1925, Frederick Stock and the Orchestra inaugurated a series of Popular Concerts at Chicago’s Union Stock Yards. “The International Amphitheatre, as many thousands of persons know, is customarily devoted to horse shows, stock shows, contests, exhibitions generally,” wrote Edward Moore in the Chicago Tribune. “Last night its scheme was considerably altered. A stage surmounted by a heavy awning had been erected at the east end for the Orchestra and the arena filled with chairs for the audience. Instead of four-footed animals seeking prizes, it was inhabited by two-footed humans seeking—and finding—good music.”
“Buyers and breeders of butcher’s meat will throng next week to the great amphitheater at 43rd and Halsted streets, as the International Live Stock Exposition gets under way,” reported the Chicago Daily News. “But last night people came with a different hunger and listened to something far removed from the lowing and bleating of beasts. . . . [Following the concert, Stock said] ‘Oh, it is too bad we waited so long to try this. We will have many, many more people here next time, don’t worry; and I am looking forward to these concerts as a most extraordinary feature of the season. I think this is a service all orchestras should undoubtedly perform. I am going to enjoy the concerts tremendously.’ ”
Throughout its history, the Orchestra has presented affordable as well as free concerts in a variety of Chicago community locations. During the summer of 1934 at the Swift Bridge of Service (which linked the mainland with Northerly Island at 23rd Street), 125 concerts were given as part of the Century of Progress International Exposition. Symphony in the Streets concerts were given in 1971 at several outdoor locations in Chicago neighborhoods. In the summer of 1935, the Orchestra performed many concerts during the first season of the festival in Grant Park and it has returned on numerous occasions, including concerts celebrating new music directors: Daniel Barenboim at the Petrillo Music Shell on September 21, 1991, and Riccardo Muti at the Pritzker Pavilion on September 19, 2010.
This article also appears here.