ESO Celebrates 50th Year Yo Yo Ma Kicks off Season with Special Performance

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Byline: Jennifer Patterson Daily Herald Staff Writer

ESO celebration

Yo Yo Ma enchants audience at Hemmens

The Elgin Symphony Orchestra had a special friend to help celebrate its 50th anniversary at a gala celebration Friday night.

Yo Yo Ma, perhaps the most honored cellist in the world, brought his special magic to the Hemmens Auditorium in Elgin to make an already magical occasion extraordinary.

"Looking at Elgin, here you have an orchestra for 50 years, and a music director that has been here for 25 of those years, and you have a community that fully supports it," Ma said. "For me to work with people who really want something to happen is the most wonderful thing."

The anniversary gala was an opportunity for patrons who have watched the orchestra grow and flourish to see it at its best.

Ma's performance with the group kept the audience spellbound, evoking laughter as he broke into a boyish smile and tears as he finished a particularly impassioned version of Haydn's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in C Major.

"It's the most exciting thing that's happened in Elgin in a long time," said Cheri Lee Lewis, a former symphony board member.

With a boyish smile and a warm handshake for music director Robert Hanson, world-renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma kicked off the Elgin Symphony Orchestra's 50th anniversary season Friday night.

Ma brought his special brand of magic to an already magical milestone for the orchestra during a sold-out evening that left audience members nearly in tears.

"Oh, that was just wonderful," one man exclaimed while dabbing his eyes at the end of the group's performance of Haydn's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in C Major.

"We'll never be the same," a woman echoed.

Nor will the Elgin Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra organized in 1949 as an amateur group of musicians who simply wanted to make music. It has since flourished, for the last 25 years under the direction of Hanson. …