Hillis @ 100: A Special Message from Duain Wolfe

Duain Wolfe has served as director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus since 1994.

Todd Rosenberg Photography

"What is it like to be the successor to the legendary Margaret Hillis?” It is a question posed to me many times by curious musicians and patrons. It’s not an easy question to answer, because there are so many variables involved, but I think that the first thought that comes to mind is probably the best: It is a profound honor.

In 1994, I had the great honor of taking on the daunting role of director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus — a remarkable musical ensemble that was Margaret Hillis’s sterling legacy. And what a wonderful legacy she passed to me, indeed, an honor. This renowned Chorus glowed with Hillis distinctions: a warm, vibrant and bold sound that could match the grand soundscape of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; pristine pitch that reverberates throughout the large membership; and rhythm — yes, dynamic, exciting and exacting rhythm. Who could ask for a greater gift than this beautiful Margaret Hillis legacy? Now it was my responsibility to maintain it and inspire new levels of artistry from the ensemble. It has been a challenging responsibility, and I have truly cherished this extraordinary honor.