Chicago Symphony musicians honor Golden Spike anniversary with Union Station concert

Station's Great Hall plays host to ensemble playing 19th-century music
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Musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform a free concert on Friday, May 3, 2019, at Chicago Union Station’s Great Hall.
Bob Johnston

CHICAGO—Union Station’s Great Hall reverberated with music, mostly from the middle of the 19th Century, in a free lunchtime concert performed by six Chicago Symphony Orchestra members on Friday.

The ensemble played more than a dozen selections spanning the pre-Civil War to Reconstruction period, attempting to replicate the way music was performed by brass bands during the period.

Tuba player Gene Pokorny told the crowd he wished to thank “the citizens of Chicago and the world for supporting us in our recent work stoppage” and celebratethe 150th anniversary “of one of the biggest industrial events that ever occurred in 19th-century America: the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.” The strike of the renowned orchestra’s 102 musicians had been settled earlier in the week.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari provided commentary to passengers waiting in the Great Hall that explained the significance of the music, which included a rendition of “Hail to the Chief” that was played for President Abraham Lincoln when he entered Fords Theatre on April 14, 1865, the night he was assassinated. Descriptions of Lincoln’s funeral train journey and construction of the transcontinental railroad were also accompanied with other musical selections from the era.

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