Community Symphony Review – A Spring Treat at the Music Institute of Chicago

Community Symphony group with Conductor, Larry Eckerling
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I attended the Community Symphony performance on May 9th, 2018 at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, with Conductor, Lawrence Eckerling and pianist, Abraham Stokman. It was a wonderful concert and probably the best-kept secret on the North Shore. The music was glorious and the performers were very dedicated.

Nichols Concert Hall

I have had the pleasure of hearing Abraham Stokman performance many times in the past. The improvisations that are his specialty tickle the ear and the mind, but not this evening. Rather he performed with an orchestra, which I had not experienced previously. And being introduced to the Community Symphony was a gift. The musicians in the group are “seasoned” and I couldn’t say they were “spry”, but their enthusiasm. skill, and energy were inspirational.

Lawrence Eckerling, Conductor

I learned that members of the Community Symphony meet with Conductor Lawrence Eckerling as he teaches an orchestra class. The class concludes with a performance twice a year. Conductor Eckerling is also the Music Director of the Evanston Symphony Orchestra and for concerts member of the Evanston Symphony fill in if more players are needed for the concerts. Conductor Eckerling selects the works to be performed, and this evening the selected pieces were beautiful.


The works performed for this concert were:


Overture to “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss, Jr.


Piano Concerto No 1 in G minor, Op 25 by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy,

Abraham Stokman, pianist


Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97 (“Rhenish”) by Robert Schumann


As the performance began the energetic sounds of Overture to “Die Fledermaus were almost starling and very much in contrast to the slower movements some of the players exhibited walking across the stage during the warm up. Die Fledermaus premièred in Vienna on 5 April 1874. The Overture is a delight containing polkas and waltzes, sudden tempo changes, memorable melodies that foreshadow the operetta that often follows.

Abraham Stokman, pianist

Mendelssohn‘s Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25, was written in 1830–31. Mendelssohn himself a pianist met another pianist on his travels in Italy that inspired this work. Attending Abraham Stokman performances in the past I heard solo piano performances, but the blend of piano perfection with the orchestra was wonderful. I could barely remain in my seat, wanting to get up and move to the music.


Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97 (“Rhenish”) by Robert Schumann was composed from 2 November to 9 December 1850 and comprised five movements. It received with mixed reviews when first performed by gained in popularity over time. The orchestra performed this work admirably and was enthusiastically appreciated by the audience that attended.


Following the performance, I had the opportunity of speaking with pianist, Abraham Stokman who shared that this was the first time he had played with this orchestra. He enjoyed working with the Conductor Lawrence Eckerling and thought this conductor was very skilled in bringing out the best in the orchestra. Stokman has been part of the Music Institute of Chicago for many years. He is a graduate of Julliard and has been part of the Chicago music scene in many capacities. He loves the opportunity of sharing and educating audiences about contemporary music and enjoyed the series, “Music for a While”, that allowed him to do what he believes in, “offer education that will nourish the future”.  The series continued for eight years at MIC.  Currently he works with student in the Academy at MIC, coaching chamber music and teaching improvisation to piano students. He felt playing with this orchestra was a good experience. More about Abrahm Stokman

Arlene and Abraham Stokman, Photo: B. Keer

Though I didn’t have the opportunity of speaking with Conductor Eckerling, it is noteworthy that, “The Illinois Council of Orchestras (ICO) named Lawrence Eckerling its 2014 Conductor of the Year.  Mr. Eckerling is Conductor and Music Director of the Evanston Symphony Orchestra and the  Music Institute of Chicago Community Symphony and Quartet Strings. More about
 Lawrence Eckerling


For over eighty-six years, the Music Institute of Chicago has been enriching the lives of our students and the community we serve. MIC presents a full array of programs that promise to entertain, inspire, and educate. What could be better than free concerts in a beautiful, intimate setting with great acoustics?



Photos: Courtesy of the Music Institute of Chicago unless otherwise noted.










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