Dinner and a Symphony
For many of us, exposure to the Lake Forest Symphony (LFS) was limited to their spectacular annual performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture at Festival and Fireworks behind Deer Path Middle School as the sky exploded in a flurry of color and light. It was always riveting, always moving, and remains a cherished community memory for many families in town. But just because the featured Festival and Fireworks’ acts have shifted to folks like Rick Springfield and The Village People, it doesn’t mean our access to the LFS has been cut off. They perform five gorgeous programs a year, dedicated to the giants of classical composition in the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts at the College of Lake County. And three years ago, as the LFS celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Lake Forest Symphony Bravo Society was formed to turn the premium cultural events of the year into the not-to-be-missed social events of every season.
“We wanted to make this a social occasion as well as a wonderful evening for enjoying the symphony,” says Elizabeth Butler Pruett, one of the members of the Bravo Committee, the group of women who organize the Bravo Society. “There was definitely a big interest in terms of how many people are participating. We have a great group, and it continues to increase through word of mouth. Anybody’s welcome; the more the merrier.” The Bravo Society is a group whose members all meet for a dinner out before heading to the symphony together, where they enjoy further perks, such as premium seating and private invitations to special members-only events.
The Bravo Society was originally created with the objective of bringing the social element that our community expects from an evening out to a night at the symphony. It’s a way for members to enjoy food, drinks, and conversation before reveling in some of the greatest music ever composed.
“The Lake Forest Symphony is a unique experience, particularly in a community of our size, because it’s an all professional orchestra,” says Deirdre Carroll Erulkar, a Bravo Committee member. “Our musical director is of the highest caliber. Our first violinist is world-renowned. We attract some of the finest and most highly regarded professional musicians in their fields. To be able to provide that, virtually in our own backyard, is a very rare opportunity. I don’t know of any other communities our size that have their own symphony.”
For committee members Elizabeth and Deirdre, organizing the Bravo Society is a way to expose some of their peers who may not be familiar with the LFS to one of their most revered Lake Forest institutions. Both of their fathers, Rhett W. Butler and Barry J. Carroll, served on the Lake Forest Symphony Board of Directors since early in its existence, making the beautiful classical melodies woven by the LFS an unforgettable part of their formative years.
Prior to the start of the Lake Forest Symphony season, the Bravo Society congregates for an annual kickoff party, historically held at the Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest. There they choose three of the five symphony programs that will be Bravo Society events. Members can then choose how many they wish to attend. That’s another one of the wonderful aspects of the Bravo Society, amazing access and flexibility without having to hold a season pass.
Three programs remain in this concert year. In January, they’ll present works by Rossini, Respighi, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Vivaldi, in what they call Italian Fest; in March, they’ll perform Symphony No. 5 in B flat by Bruckner; and they’ll be concluding this season with a program of Beethoven’s concertos featuring Ilya Kaler on violin. The masterful Alan Heatherington will conduct all performances. For interested parties, all shows are preceded by a lecture from music researcher Jim Kendros, and performances are directly followed by receptions with refreshments and an opportunity to meet members of the orchestra.
With the wonderful social aspect introduced by the Bravo Society and the already exquisite performances by the LFS, the only thing left standing in between some community members and a great night of culture is the drive out to the College of Lake County. “We were spoiled for years in terms of the proximity of the symphony when they were playing at Barat College,” says Walt Nielsen from the LFS Board of Directors. “However, the venue at Barat was terrible. That little theater had just awful acoustics. Now, we travel a little bit, it only takes about 20 minutes to get [to College of Lake County] via the toll road, but the acoustics at the Lumber Center are superb and the sight lines are excellent, so there is all that upside.”
For more information on the Lake Forest Symphony or the Bravo Society, visit lakeforestsymphony.org, or call 847-295-2135.