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Music lovers bask in Chamber Night performances

The third annual Chamber Night concert filled downtown Flossmoor with warmth — from sunshine, music and a feeling of community, according to organizers and guests alike. 

The Bel Canto Community Choir opened the concert, followed by a string quartet of Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra musicians. 

Mario Reeves and Renee Taylor Reeves of Homewood concurred that the evening was a good experience. 

“Chamber night was amazing,” Renee said. “It was enjoyable. The weather was great. The music was great, and I can’t wait until next year. It’s just a great neighborhood time.”

From left, Renee Taylor Reeves and Mario Reeves talk about how much they enjoyed the music at Chamber Night in Flossmoor. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Friends Gloria Lippert and Monica Zachary of Flossmoor shared similar sentiments. 

“This is a remarkable evening,” Lippert said. Diverse music. Diverse citizens. Everybody is sitting here together having a joyous time on a beautiful evening.”

Zachary seconded Lippert’s comment and said she is a fairly new resident of the village and is impressed with its offerings.

“I love all the various activities that are available to the citizenry here,” she said. “What a wonderful community.”

Monica Zachary, left, and Gloria Lippert of Flossmoor said they enjoyed the rich diversity of people and music at Chamber Night in downtown Flossmoor. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

During her introduction, Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson noted that attendance continues to grow.

“This is the largest crowd we’ve had, so we must be doing something right,” she said. 

Most of the north and west portions of the traffic circle were filled with area residents in lawn chairs, with kids scampering around and local restaurants Dunning’s Market and The Bistro offering food refreshments.

Flossmoor Police Chief Jerel Jones declined to put a number on the crowd, but he said he could confirm that “we have a plethora of wonderful guests.”

Nelson described the purpose of the annual event. 

“Chamber night was started three years ago to bring people together, highlight the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra — which we are so lucky to have here in the Southland — and also to support local businesses and the Flossmoor Business Association.”

The Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored the event with the Village of Flossmoor, and chamber President Terri Winfree recounted Chamber Night’s origin during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the event was born of the critical need during the pandemic to support local businesses that were struggling from a severe economic downturn. The chamber wanted to hold an outdoor event as a safe way to help businesses. 

She credited Nelson and IPO Executive Director Christina Salerno with initiating the idea.
Nelson introduced the choir, noting that the group is only a year old.

“It has grown to be the premier and largest community choir in the Southland and in one year,” she said.

Choir Director Carrie Bonanotte said the group is an inclusive one for anyone who loves to sing.

“Our goal is just to make music accessible for everybody that wants to partake in music,” Bonanotte said. “We have people who are music teachers. We have people who have never sang in a choir before and everything in between. If you like music and think this look like fun you should come out and sing with us in the fall.”

The choir opened with “Be Who You Are,” a reprise of its performance during the Starry Nights/Pride Month concert in June that was co-sponsored by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District and the villages of Homewood and Flossmoor. After several songs, the choir concluded with “Lovely Day,” the R&B classic by Bill Withers.

Soloists included Doug Raffety, Patty DeVore and Becca Fassbender.

The choir was backed by four musicians, Tom Morris on drums, Heather Olsen on keyboard, and brothers Bill Colton on guitar and Michael Colton on bass.

The north half of the traffic circle in front of Flossmoor Public Library is filled with Chamber Night concert goers. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Chamber President Terri Winfree followed the choir with a brief explanation about what a regional chamber of commerce does. 

“The difference is we work with all of the chambers, all of the businesses” in the region, she said. “We represent 80 communities. Our role is helping businesses to grow. It’s a unified voice. We do a lot of advocacy work. We also like to have fun, so we have a lot of fun events like this.”

IPO Executive Director Christina Salerno introduces the string quartet members who will perform at Chamber Night. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Salerno introduced the IPO and the four members who were about to perform, Matthew Barwegen on viola, Lisa Bressler on cello, Kristen Wiersum and Brian Ostrega on violin plus vocalist Tatum Langley.

The orchestra was founded in 1954 as the Park Forest Orchestra, she said.

“That was a community group at the time,” she said. “So just like the Bel Canto Choir, we (were) started by people who wanted to get together and play, and 70 years later we’re a fully professional orchestra, have been so for 45 years.”

She said IPO performs six concerts per year and has from 50 to 80 musicians perform in each. In addition to pieces by familiar masters like Mozart and Beethoven, the orchestra has been exploring music by underrepresented composers, including women, people of color and people from nationalities that aren’t always represented in the classical music world.

“We’ve been really successful with that, trying to be as open as possible to what is classical music,” she said. 

IPO also provides a summer concert series at Olympia Fields Country Club. “Jazz @ OFCC” on July 26 was the last concert for the season. 

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