Local Treasure: Symphony of Oak Park & River Forest

SOPRF by Will Brendt - croppedby Julie Chyna, executive editor, The Oak Parker

Classical music lovers will have a special opportunity to hear our very own Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest (SOPRF) perform on April 25 at the CSO’s Symphony Center. The piece being performed is Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, and it includes a number of local choirs as well. The event also includes a pre-concert lecture at 6:15 pm, given by Oak Park resident and WFMT announcer Carl Grapentine. (Tickets are still available but going quickly – you can buy yours here.)

Jay friedman

Conductor Jay Friedman

The SOPRF is made up of amateur, semi-professional, and professional musicians who are passionate about orchestral music; some have been with the Symphony for decades while new musicians continue to join. They come from all walks of life – the group includes stockbrokers, music teachers, and instrument dealers, as well as nun who is a professor at Dominican University, where the orchestra usually performs. String internships are also available to provide high school and college students the opportunity to gain professional experience.

Founded in 1931, the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest is one of the oldest community orchestras in the country. It originally began as a church ensemble but quickly grew to a full orchestra with connections to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and other local orchestras.

One of those connections is musical director Jay Friedman, who has also served as principal trombone for the CSO for more than fifty years. In 2011, the SOPRF was named Orchestra of the Year and Friedman was named Conductor of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras.

SOPRF performs at Chicago's Symphony Center

SOPRF performs at Chicago’s Symphony Center

This season, SOPRF has been celebrating Friedman’s twentieth anniversary as musical director with a series of concerts performed in their usual location, the Lund Auditorium at Dominican University’s Performing Arts Center. The last concert of this series is taking place May 22 and will feature CSO principal trumpeter Christopher Martin – click here to buy tickets and find out more about upcoming performances. Tickets for SOPRF regular-season concerts are free for children and students up through college, to ensure that all young people have the chance to experience the magic of live orchestra music.

Everyone will have the opportunity to hear this local gem this summer, when they perform at Thursday Night Out. Follow the SOPRF on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss out on their appearances!

Photos: Will Brendt