The Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra is Chicagoland’s unique orchestra of attorneys, judges and law students.
Founded in 1986 by two lawyer-cellists who shared a stand at a Do-It-Yourself Messiah performance conducted by Margaret Hillis, it was she (via the Chicago Symphony's Evelyn Meine) who recommended David Katz, her Elgin Symphony associate conductor, to be the group’s music director. Growing from just a handful of musicians at its first rehearsal, many of whom still play with the ensemble, the group now regularly fields an orchestra of 75 musicians or more, virtually all affiliated with Chicago’s legal community.
Among notable performances in the orchestra’s long history are the first performances anywhere of Gilbert & Sullivan’s courthouse operetta, Trial By Jury, in which the entire cast—soloists, chorus and orchestra—was made up entirely of legal professionals, performing in a working courtroom. The CBASO has collaborated with such notable soloists as Grammy Award winners William Warfield (Copland’s Lincoln Portrait) Robert Black (Glazunov’s Saxophone Concerto), Chicago Symphony principal tubist, Gene Pokorny, and former Lyric Opera concertmaster Henry Criz.
The ensemble has performed for many public events of the Chicago Bar Association, its prime sponsor, including annual Law Day observances on Daley Plaza, the culminating event commemorating the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, and the recent celebration dinner for retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. To mark its 20th anniversary in 2005, the CBASO presented Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at Navy Pier on the final evening of the convention of World Bar Associations. The choral ensemble formed for that performance became the CBA Chorus, now celebrating its fifth anniversary. Under the direction Rebecca Patterson, the Chorus has performed many times with the CBASO in repertoire ranging from Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Haydn’s Creation to the Faure Requiem and Poulenc Gloria.
The CBASO & Chorus join together next season for an evening of opera choruses. Additional repertoire for the 2011-12 season includes Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, Gershwin’s Concerto in F and the Schumann Piano Concerto, all presented at the CBASO’s performance home, St James Episcopal Cathedral, Wabash at Huron, Chicago.