Citizens Report American Irish Culture

Danahey On The Loose with CSO at Morton Arboretum

Danahey more Morton

But for Saturday’s weather, while there was nothing overtly Irish about my recent weekend, it felt very Celtic in a Van Morrison way. If you don’t know what that means, read on, John Donne – or look it up online (

See, for my day job, on Friday I covered the Chicago Blackhawks parade and rally. You can read about it here:

My favorite image of the day came from getting lost, winding up along the Chicago Riverwalk-in-the works, and seeing some youngsters in Hawks t-shirts approach an older man to see what he was painting on the canvas on his easel.

Danahey river .jpg-large

It was a welcome respite from the hockey Mardi Gras finale going on in Grant Park, a gentle reminder that not everyone downtown was a yahoo, that many if not most were just people enjoying a perfectly pleasant Friday – and if something right out of the Impressionist playbook crossed their paths, their first instincts weren’t to blow a vuvuzelas at it and swig a light beer through a funnel, but to be politely curious.

That image stuck with me Saturday night when I attended one of the initial performances of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ( at the Morton Arboretum ( in Lisle.

Among the trees, with cloudy Irish skies, and winds not quite to Cliffs of Moher levels, the CSO played an all-Tchaikovsky bill.

The setup was such that patrons brought in their own chairs and blankets and could bring in their own food and soft drinks. As is custom during our summer festing, my buddy Tom and I set up close to the place where they were selling beer and wine.

Tom bought Firebird sandwiches from Bub’s Subs (, which would have been more fitting if the CSO played Stravinsky, which is a very Fraser Crane kind of joke.danahey CSO

The crowd of about 3,500 was refreshing in that it actually heeded a request not to use phones during the performance, meaning you didn’t have a sea of hands held high trying to record everything before them in front of you so that they could enjoy the performance later on a computer instead of in the actual moment in which it was occurring.

Instead of surfing the Internet on her smartphone, a young woman in front of us apparently was doing her homework, reading Voltaire’s “Candide” and Oliver Sacks’ “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” An engaging redheaded woman in a  baseball cap with one of those ribbons-for-a-cause embroidered on it listened attentively to the music.

My mind wandered as it does, a victim of the age of short attention spans. I noticed the airplanes flying overhead, and the sound of traffic on the interstate not too far away droning during soft passages in the music. I read in the program about Tchaikovsky and his troubled life and wondered if beauty had to come from suffering or if that was just a cliche.

And that’s when the Van Morrison hit me. Yes, Morrison can be a colossal crab longing for a misty past. But “Into the Mystic,” “Inarticulate Speech of the Heart,” and “A Sense of Wonder,” came to mind.

Sure you needed a coat in late June, and I was tempted to chop down an Arboretum tree or two to build a campfire. It still felt so peaceful sitting there outdoors listening to one of the world’s best symphony orchestras, my belly filled with giardiniera and Italian lunch meats, and me satiated with food and great music.

I thought, despite all the bitching we all do about the way things are, how wonderful a time we live in can be  – that I could head downtown with a friend one day to see a parade for the best hockey team in the NHL and among 2 million revelers happen upon unexpectedly placid images, then the next night hang out with my best friend and enjoy food, drink, and a symphony, like a middle class king of the suburbs.

Moments, more so than grand gestures, reveal possibilities.

Maybe that’s Irish, a Morrison tune for the first weekend of summer.

Danahey photo

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