Marking ten years of CCR with a note of gratitude

Wed May 08, 2019 at 3:42 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

It was ten years ago today that I launched Chicago Classical Review—from a table in the Cosi restaurant in Illinois Center since I had just moved back to Chicago two days earlier and had no internet hookup yet in my apartment.

I’ve always felt that the best arts journalism focuses on the music and those who create and perform it rather than getting into the less-than-scintillating process that goes on behind the scenes. Still, a decade is a milestone of sorts and offers a good opportunity to thank the people who have made it possible for CCR to thrive for ten years (which led to expansion with sites covering music in Boston, New York, Washington and other markets).

Following the launch of South Florida Classical Review in the summer of 2008, while visiting Chicago that fall I was struck by how greatly arts space had been cut back in the two legacy newspapers. Then, as now, the Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony Orchestra were the Big Berthas of the local classical beat and took up the lion’s share of newspaper coverage. My friend John von Rhein was continuing the good fight at the Tribune, energetically covering as much of the city’s music beat as possible; but there’s only so much one person can do with limited space and freelance funds.

After discussions with many people, I decided to move back home to Chicago and start up CCR. While acknowledging the status of the two largest classical organizations in the city, Chicago Classical Review was never planned as a site that would write only about CSO and Lyric—neither of which were suffering for lack of coverage. Rather, the primary motivation of CCR was to create a platform to cover everybody else.

With thousands of reviews over the past decade, many of events and performances not covered elsewhere, I think we’ve succeeded pretty well in our mission—reviewing a wide swathe of organizations in the city, large and small, with quality writing and criticism that is passionate yet fair, honest, entertaining and even enlightening.

First, I’d like to thank all of those who encouraged me to start CCR and who believed there was room for an additional source covering Chicago’s rich and lively classical scene in depth—none more than my good friend Jack Zimmerman. After my return to town, I greatly appreciated the support and renewed collegial friendships with John von Rhein, Wynne Delacoma and the late Andrew Patner.

I also want to thank all of my fellow CCR contributors who have kept the quality high over the past decade and allowed me to take the occasional night off: Bryant Manning, Dennis Polkow, Wynne and Gerald Fisher in the early years, down to Michael Cameron, Hannah Edgar, John Lawrence, Tim Sawyier, Wynne and JvR today.

I want to acknowledge all the organizations who have provided crucial advertising support over the years that helps us pay the rent and maintain the site—even when they didn’t necessarily love every review. I especially want to thank Karen Fishman, Declan McGovern and Jen More at Music of the Baroque, Amy Iwano at University of Chicago Presents, Patricia Barretto at the Harris Theater, and all our friends at the Grant Park Music Festival, Illinois Philharmonic, Chicago Philharmonic, Newberry Consort, Orion Ensemble, North Shore Chamber Music Festival and the defunct Ars Viva. It’s no exaggeration to say that without all of you, CCR would not have been able to last a decade and still be doing what we do.

Finally, I want to thank CCR’s readers. I don’t think any classical music journalism outlet in the country has a more engaged, passionate, and literate audience. This was made strikingly manifest last month with the huge response generated by my column on the CSO strike. While my refusal to hew to the union’s party line elicited a few nasty comments and emails from CSO musicians, the vast majority of the 121 comments from those who weighed in on both sides were civil, intelligent, knowledgeable and constructive.

Thanks again to all and, hopefully, I’ll be writing a column marking 20 years of CCR in May of 2029.

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9 Responses to “Marking ten years of CCR with a note of gratitude”

  1. Posted May 08, 2019 at 4:56 pm by Jill Chukerman

    Congratulations, Larry, and thanks for all your support of chamber music and other non-large musical organizations in Chicago! I just shared this on Orion’s Facebook page.

  2. Posted May 08, 2019 at 7:26 pm by Florence Diehl

    The gratitude is ours.

    Here’s to ten more, Larry.

  3. Posted May 08, 2019 at 9:52 pm by Anne-Marie

    Congratulations, Mr. Johnson, from an avid follower of your very well-written, honest, intelligent, and enlightening reviews. Here’s a toast to many more years of engaging CCR columns!

  4. Posted May 08, 2019 at 10:58 pm by Benson

    Thank you Lawrence. CCR is an absolutely indispensable resource for Chicago music lovers!

  5. Posted May 08, 2019 at 11:00 pm by Bruce Tammen

    I am grateful that you pay such attention to us smaller fish. It means a lot to us!

  6. Posted May 10, 2019 at 2:44 pm by Charles Brown, III

    Dear Mr. Johnson,

    I just moved to Chicago in February and became aware of your publication. I read it several times per week. As the recently-retained Composer in Residence for the Lake County Symphony Orchestra (LCSO), I very much value your focus on reviewing lesser-known musical ensembles in the Chicago area.

    I join the LCSO in wishing you many more years of success. Your work is a tremendous contribution to the Chicago arts community.

    – CB3

  7. Posted May 11, 2019 at 2:11 am by Gerry A

    Well Done Lawrence.

  8. Posted Jun 02, 2019 at 9:53 am by Henry & Ellen Criz

    Congratulations on this important milestone! It’s a pleasure to come to this site for reviews, and to have occasional discussions at the CSO.

  9. Posted Jul 06, 2019 at 4:51 pm by Jonathan Levine

    Even 10 years ago your work was informative, interesting, and well-written. It is now the premier website of its kind for Chicago and is the only address that is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in Chicago’s classical music scene.

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