Backstage at the CSO: Gerald Virgil, senior content editor

Gerald Virgil, senior content editor, also is an accomplished singer.

For more than 20 years, Gerald Virgil has played a key role in producing the high-quality program books read by thousands of patrons at Symphony Center each season. Also an accomplished singer, Virgil was a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus for nine years, performing under directors Margaret Hillis and Duain Wolfe during the tenures of CSO music directors Sir Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim.

How long have you been working for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association?

I’ve worked for the Association since September 1997, which marked the opening of Symphony Center, a period remembered as well for the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales; Mother Teresa; and Sir Georg Solti.

Could you describe your job duties as senior content editor?

My responsibilities include preparing program book materials for print, including biographies, program notes, images, and texts and translations, as well as special projects such as Merry, Merry Chicago! I also review most other materials across all our series, and consult regularly with our Content Director Frances Atkins, Designer Kristin Tobin, Program Annotator Phillip Huscher, and Archivist Frank Villella.

What was your career path before your current position, and what led you to the CSO?

I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, but previously worked in the corporate offices of MetLife and TransUnion here in Chicago.

In August 1997, friend and colleague Frank Villella, now director of the Rosenthal Archives, encouraged me to apply for the position of editor of the Symphony Center Presents series. I interviewed and was hired after testing and receiving the highest score.

What’s one of the most rewarding parts of your job?

I have the privilege of working in music, great music as great art, simply put, with some very fine colleagues. And then I get to witness that music come alive in performances by our Orchestra and all the great artists of our time, with the satisfaction that our program book materials meet a very high standard.

Do you have a favorite concert or memory from your time at the CSOA?

Yes, I have many, including Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Verdi’s Falstaff performed by the Orchestra, Chorus and soloists under Maestro Muti; pianists such as Maurizio Pollini, Murray Perahia and Oscar Peterson also come to mind; as do vocalists Thomas Hampson, Shirley Horn, Renée Fleming, Kathleen Battle and Anne Sofie von Otter.

Of course, my first encounter with the Orchestra was as a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus under Margaret Hillis and Duain Wolfe, a cherished time of unforgettable music-making, including performances of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust here and in Salzburg and London, Verdi’s Otello here and at Carnegie Hall in New York, Bach’s Mass in B minor, and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, all under Sir Georg Solti.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Singing whenever, wherever possible; listening to great music, especially by great pianists and singers of any era, and old-time radio and film noir; reading and literature; collecting perfumes, mostly vintage (Guerlain, Lanvin, Caron, Coty, Bienaimé, Patou, among others) for wear, bottled symphonies, really; and studying French privately, a work in progress.