November 20, 1905
Frederick Stock and the Orchestra first performed at the Ravinia Park Theatre (now the Martin Theatre) on November 20, 1905, in a program that included Wagner’s Huldigungsmarsch, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, Saint-Saëns’s Phaeton, Massenet’s Scène religieuse from Les Erinnyes and Liszt’s Les préludes.
Ravinia Park had opened the previous summer to great fanfare. “The first patrons to enter Ravinia’s gates arrived on August 15, 1904, to enjoy the entertainment offered by an amusement park that boasted a dazzling electric fountain, a baseball field with a grandstand, a merry-go-round, a theater with a pipe organ, a casino for dining and dancing, and soon a concert pavilion,” wrote executive director Edward Gordon in 1985, in the foreword to Ravinia: The Festival at Its Half Century.
The first orchestra to perform at the new park was the New York Symphony Orchestra* under Walter Damrosch on June 17, 1905. “Not since the Summer Night Concerts of blissful memory [led by Theodore Thomas] given in the old Exposition building by the local seeker for summer pleasures been offered musical entertainment so satisfying in quality and so delightful in environment,” wrote the reviewer in the Chicago Tribune.
Frederick Stock and the Orchestra at Ravinia Park in November 1905
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra appeared at Ravinia Park semiregularly—frequently performing as part of the popular seasons of grand opera that began in 1912—through August 1931, after which the park was closed for most of the Great Depression. In August 1936, the Orchestra helped to inaugurate the first season of the Ravinia Festival, and it has been in residence every summer since.
*Founded as the New York Symphony Society by Walter Damrosch’s father Leopold in 1878, the orchestra merged with the Philharmonic Society of New York in 1928.