Another View of Margaret Hills | Letters | Chicago Reader

Another View of Margaret Hills 

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To the editors:

I chaired the contract negotiating committee for the Chicago Symphony Chorus referred to in Lewis Lazare's April 12, 1991 Culture Club column under the headline, "Two Developments at the CSO." At no time did Henry Fogel, executive director of the CSO, speculate whether Ms. Hillis would be director of the chorus when the next three-year contract would be negotiated. The negotiations, in fact, were conducted in a thoroughly professional manner, and significant gains for both sides were accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

The Chicago Symphony Chorus is composed of approximately 200 people with skills ranging from professional solo singers to amateurs. When such a diverse group of people undertakes a common activity, there will be those who are always disgruntled for one reason or another. Those reasons vary: being treated too much like children, being treated too much like professionals, the rehearsal room temperature, the number of bathrooms, whether women will be permitted to wear jewelry during concert performances, and so on. And these are all valid concerns as diverse as the spectrum of humanity in the chorus. I am, however, appalled that Mr. Lazare would mar his usual fine journalistic practices by reporting the speculations of an individual source with respect to the competency of Margaret Hillis.

When will we in the arts community give up our penchant for bitchy tidbits of irrelevant information? It is acknowledged that the arts have little support in this great city. Perhaps we would better use our time and skills to promote our performing organizations, both world-class and those of local stature, which deserve the financial and moral support of a diverse municipality like Chicago. Instead of reinforcing the somewhat bad image the arts have to the general public by publishing irrelevant and unsubstantiated nonsense, we ought to honor those individuals like Margaret Hillis who have unselfishly devoted their lives, their talents, and their skills to their chosen endeavors.

In 1989, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus performed at the London Proms and the Salzburg Festival. The performances of the soloists, the orchestra and the chorus under Maestro Solti were received in a way never before witnessed by this writer. The press consistently cited the magnificent sound and clarity of diction from the Chicago Symphony Chorus. And judging from recordings and comments of others, such excellence in choral singing has not been heard before or since those concerts in Europe. And believe me, that praise is the result of the effort of Margaret Hillis, who has set a hallmark for choral singing, not only in America, but also around the world.

Allow me to report that I am proud to be one of her "children" and can never thank her enough for the enormous appreciation of music and the human endeavor required to make it which she has provided me and countless other artists. May I suggest that Mr. Lazare resume his fine journalistic practices by interviewing and writing about the achievements of this fine woman, pedagogue and human being.

William Diana

N. Sheridan

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