Friday, October 8, 2021

Talk about a barnburner of a concert...

Theodore Thomas in 1898
 Alfred Cox photo/Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association

     Here’s a joke that Chicago residents told immediately after the Great Fire:
     Question: Why is Theodore Thomas different than Nero? Answer: Because one fiddled away while Rome burned, and the the other roamed away while his fiddles burned.
     Not a thigh-slapper, to be sure. And for the joke to make any sense today, you need to know that Thomas was a famous orchestra conductor. When Thomas played a program of Johann Strauss in New York, critics said he wielded the baton better than the composer himself.
     Tickets going on sale for his October 1871 Chicago performance created a furor. The Tribune predicted the concert would be “one of the most notable events in the history of music in Chicago.”
     It wasn’t. The performance was set for Crosby’s Opera House on Oct. 9, 1871 — 150 years ago Saturday. By curtain time, Crosby’s, and much of the city around it, would be ash and ruin.
     The date of the Great Chicago Fire is remembered as Oct. 8, 1871 because that’s when it began, about 9:30 p.m. in the barn behind Mrs. O’Leary’s home on the near southwest side. But by midnight it was no historic fire; just another blaze on par with a big fire the day before.
     The next day — Monday, Oct. 9 — was when it earned the word “great,” leaping across the river, twice, first ravaging downtown, then jumping to the North Side.

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  1. I don't care what that rotten crook Ed Burke says, the O'Leary's cow started the fire! Their barn was the southernmost part of the city that burned.

    1. Which one? The O'Leary's had five cows. Not everything Ed Burke says is a lie.

    2. I don't care which one & as far as I'm concerned, every single word out of Ed Burke's mouth is a lie!
      To top that off, he got T**** a huge tax break on his failure of a building here. Which is a failure, because that insane egomaniac slapped his ugly name on the side of it in 20 foot tall letters.

    3. Goes to show you how long a political issue can last after its significance has evaporated.


    4. Well, I knew Ed Burke was powerful, but I didn't realize that he controlled all history written about Chicago. Occam's Razor: which is more likely, that a woman with 5 cows in 1871 was milking one of them at 9:00 p.m., or that she was in bed, as she said?

  2. My question is why did they remove Thomas’ name from the orchestra.
    Why not “The Chicago-Thomas Symphony Orchestra”?
    Thanks for the trivia Neil. Maybe it will come in handy when we go to play trivia at The Hideout on 10/19 when there will be questions on the Fire and the Chicago Reader which is celebrating its fiftieth year.

  3. O'Leary's cow goes to show if the Legend is more interesting than the facts, go with the Legend. Never let the facts ruin a good story.

  4. I had a hunch that the big project that you referred to a while ago might involve this anniversary.

    Aside from that, was your unfortunate reaction to the double-shot deal pretty much a one-day affair, Neil? Are you back to being strong like ox? : )

    1. Yup, an afternoon in the sack, a few lingering fantods the day after, and good to go.


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