The Evanston Symphony’s upcoming concert Sunday afternoon, Feb. 12, has a special resonance for the orchestra’s board, music director and musicians.

David Ellis

It will be dedicated to the memory of general manager David Ellis, who passed away last summer.

Ellis, a longtime Evanston resident, was ESO general manager from 2005 to 2022. He was named Illinois Council of Orchestra’s General Manager of the Year for 2012.

“It is a rare orchestra general manager that is so effective at working with finances, audience members and all the duties required of that role, and at the same time has a deep understanding, love and respect for the music side, i.e. the artistic process,” said Evanston Symphony Music Director Lawrence Eckerling. 

“Yet David Ellis was one of those. It was refreshing to discuss finances without having to state and restate the artistic position of any issue. He already knew. David will be greatly missed.”

A free preconcert lecture will take place at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10 at The Merion, 1611 Chicago Ave. During his tenure as general manager, Ellis often co-led these wonderful events and added a distinctive, highly articulate and humorous perspective regarding the concert musical selections.

The Feb. 12 concert begins at 2:30 p.m. at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, at the south end of the Northwestern campus. It features ESO favorite Irina Muresanu, returning to the orchestra for her fifth appearance, performing the Prokofiev Second Violin Concerto. The program opens with Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and concludes with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.

The Mahler symphony is a particularly apt choice for the program dedication because Ellis was a devoted fan of his music, his wife Marcia said. “Music was his escape and his passion,” she said. “He was an avid collector and owned thousands of CDs.”

There is a moving tribute in the Feb. 12 concert program, by ESO board member Kelly Brest van Kempen, who wrote that Ellis “knew all of the musicians and all of the ESO’s subscribers, including their concert hall seat numbers.

“He had an encyclopedic knowledge of classical music and a head filled with a galaxy of facts ranging from every Mozart Köchel number to which recording of a Mahler symphony – he had them all – was the best, to arcane funny anecdotes about eccentric conductors.

“David, 75, died on July 26 from heart complications. The loss to his family, friends and the Evanston Symphony is immeasurable.

Elllis is survived by his wife of 46 years, Marcia, whom he met at the Bent Park tennis court in Evanston; his children Michael, Matthew, and Peter; and his siblings and their families.

The ESO has established the David B. Ellis Memorial Fund and is accepting donations at Evanston Symphony Orchestra, PO Box 778, Evanston, IL 60204. All contributions are tax deductible and will be listed in the next concert program.

For more information call the ESO at 847-864-8804. For more on the concert and the season, visit the orchestra’s website.

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently four consecutive Northern...

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