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Holinger: Elgin Symphony Orchestra to perform at Batavia Fine Arts Centre

Published: Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 5:10 p.m. CST

Conduct it, and they will come.

No, not nine ghostly has-beens heaving a baseball in a dusty Iowa cornfield.

I’m talking about the Elgin Symphony Orchestra – or ESO – the closest thing to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this side of I-294.

For some Kane County Chronicle readers, however, the ESO home – the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin, as comfortable, intimate and close as it is – demands upward of a 20-minute drive, an odyssey reserved for basketball tournaments and in-law dinners.

So, when Joyce Dlugopolski, a friend and member of the ESO Board of Directors, told me the orchestra was coming to the Batavia Fine Arts Centre on Jan. 10, I got on the ESO website and ordered tickets before my Tchaikovsky-loving neighbors scooped them all up.

And if I can order tickets online, your beagle can.

To find out why the ESO was venturing south, I talked to Wendy Evans, personnel manager, education manager and orchestra violinist.

“We’d seen very little of Batavia residents and school groups, so we looked for venues there,” she said. “We heard about the beautiful new concert hall affiliated with Batavia High School. After a tour, we had a great feeling that it would be a good fit for the orchestra. The Batavia teachers and administrators became excited about our visit, and we are now working on bringing ESO musicians into the schools to work with the students. The Batavia High School orchestra program is one of the best in the state.”

My kids went to Geneva schools, where they played a recorder, flute or whatever that “toooooot-tooooooooot”-sounding instrument is called, so I hadn’t heard of Batavia’s terrific reputation.

“It’s an experiment, bringing the symphony there,” Evans said. “The best-case scenario would be to turn it into a series, maybe four times a year, like we do with Schaumburg.”

OK, Tri-Cities, let’s show the ESO we have as many or more classical-hungry ears here, among our soy fields and blue heron hangouts, as Schaumburg does. Give tickets for Christmas presents and be twice as happy!

“Before every concert,” Evans continued, “the Listener’s Club presents a free, two-hour talk by Jim Kendros about the upcoming concert. He’ll be at the Batavia library [at 1 p.m. Jan. 5]. On performance night, we’ll have a half-hour pre-concert lecture at 6:30 in the Batavia Fine Arts Centre for anyone coming to the symphony.”

Hmm. Wonder if you have to take notes.

And, I learned, in the center’s lobby, starting about 6:30 p.m., the Maud Powell String Quartet will play chamber music. Young area musicians, part of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, audition for scholarships to play in the quartet, which is named after the superstar classical violinist from Aurora. One of them, violist Hallie Gaitsch, attends Batavia High School.

Wow. Next, I supposed, she’d tell me the conductor was related to a giant in world literature.

“Conducting will be Ignat Solzhenitsyn, the famous novelist’s son. He’s also a pianist, and as brilliant as his father,” she said.

“Oh, and the soloist, Jennifer Frautschi, an Avery Fisher career grant recipient, has appeared with every major orchestra in the U.S.,” she added by email.

Is it heaven? No, it’s ESO.

To learn about the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, visit www.elginsymphony.org, email boxoffice@elginsymphony.org or call 847-888-4000.

• Rick Holinger has taught high school English and lived in the Fox Valley for more than 30 years. He has published poetry, short fiction and nonfiction in many national literary journals. His latest chapbook, “Not Everybody’s Nice,” won the 2012 Split Oak Press Prose Chapbook contest.

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