Just a few days before the Chicago Symphony Orchestra launched its 2013/14 season with a community concert, CSO horn Dave Griffin and his wife, Lyric Opera clarinet Susan Warner, organized a chamber concert at Unity Temple in Oak Park as part of the CSO’s Citizen Musician initiative.
Along with fellow CSO musicians Dan Armstrong, Cornelius Chiu, So Young Bae, Daniel Katz, Dennis Michel and Diane Mues, Griffin and Warner put the event together to raise funds for two organizations, Oak Park’s Hephzibah Children’s Home and Grace & Hope for China. After the event, Dave Griffin took a minute to answer a few questions:
What inspired you to perform this concert for these organizations in particular?
Griffin: Our 6-year-old daughter, Pearl, was born in China, and we adopted her in 2008. My family has discovered the wonderful network of families in the Oak Park area who have been touched by adoption.
Hephzibah Home is an important part of Oak Park’s foster-care community. Oak Park is rightfully proud of the fine service that the Hephzibah Home provides for children in need of group foster care. Grace & Hope for China is an organization with which my family has close personal ties. I thought that a fund-raising concert would shine the spotlight on Hephzibah’s success story and introduce people to Grace & Hope as well.
And why Unity Temple?
Until recently, Unity Temple had a regular chamber music series. We know some people in the area who miss it now that it’s gone, and so we thought the concert would allow us to not only present great music to both new and returning audiences, but also to raise money through ticket sales in order to benefit the children at Hephzibah Home. Plus, it’s an absolute pleasure to perform in the space.
What was the planning process like for the Unity Temple concert? How did other Oak Park organizations get involved?
On the artistic side, my wife, Sue, and I selected repertoire that we thought would draw people in, recognizing that many in the audience would not be chamber music aficionados. We started the concert with Beethoven’s Septet in E-Flat, a longer piece, and a nice long ride, but not too long. We broke for intermission — Hephzibah served everyone coffee and home-baked cookies in the shapes of little celli — and then performed Mozart’s clarinet quintet, a shorter and highly melodic piece, and ended with Dan Armstrong’s arrangement of “Till Eulenspiegel Einmal Anders!” by Richard Strauss, a wilder closing piece, something to wake people up before they drive home.
Our meetings with the staff at Hephzibah were focused on ways to reach their vast network of supporters via email, social media, advertising and direct mail. The other recipient organization was Grace & Hope for China, a U.S. charity that provides funds enabling Chinese orphans to receive foster care in China. A lot of effort went into getting an audience at the concert, but in the end, it was uplifting knowing that all the proceeds would be benefiting children in need. We were all glad to introduce the audience to some of our favorite chamber music and two very special organizations all in one pass.
PHOTO: Dave Griffin and fellow CSO musicians perform a benefit concert at Unity Temple in Oak Park. | Todd Rosenberg Photography