PART EIGHT: My Choir, Your Choir, Chicago's Choir: A History of Wicker Park Choral Singers, 2008 - 2012
My next visit was no less nerve-wracking. It turned out that one of Chicago’s top lawyers moonlighted as a member of the choir. I’d seen him before outside of the courthouse, but only from afar as I jostled with other reporters in the hopes of a statement. And here I had a one on one audience. I wondered momentarily if I could slip in a question about last week’s double homicide, but decided I should probably just stick to my script. I handed over my card to the clerk at the front desk and then headed upstairs under the escort of a guy who would give Mr. Magnificent a run for his money. Another John at the door to the office plucked my notebook out of my hand and scanned my set of questions. He nodded without expression and handed it back to me. He pushed the door open.
Jon Schildt took one look at me, at my notebook and press badge, and spun his chair toward the window. “No comment.”
I stopped in the middle of a gigantic Persian rug, shaded by a Swarovski chandelier. “I’m here about the choir,” I said.
“Oh right.” He swung the chair back toward me. The lamps from the chandelier caught his suit and sent rays of light pin-wheeling away from his glittering houndstooth. He pulled a gold pen out of his breast pocket and shoved a piece of paper across the desk. “Sign that.” He tossed the pen down.
“What’s this?” No one had mentioned any contract when I called about the appointment.
“It’s a document stating that you will refer to me only by my alias so as to keep my dreadfully important work from being interrupted by silliness and nonsense and…reporters asking questions about my hobbies…” He crossed his arms. “I owed ‘The Gentleman’ a favor, or you wouldn’t even be here.”
I looked up from the contract in wide-eyed astonishment. “You’re Billy Flynn?”
“Is it that hard to believe?”
“Yeah, ok, alright.” I added my John Hancock to the contract and took a seat. Schildt seemed to relax a bit once he had my signature under lock and key, and headed over to his liquor cabinet for libations.
“So I have here that you joined at the very beginning of the third season of the choir,” I began the interview.
“I did.” He responded, measuring out the drinks. “My first concert was ‘Star of Wonder’ performed on December 4th and 5th, 2010. And then the following spring we sang a concert called ‘How Does Your Garden Grow?’ That was on the 9th and 10th of April.” He brought our glasses over and set one before me.
“Pretty impressive, having all this stuff committed to memory.” I noted.
“I had a clerk write it up for me. I just memorized it, like any other self-respecting hotshot.” He took a sip of scotch. “Next you’re going to ask me about our ‘Assembling the Masses’ concert on July 9th and 10th of 2011, and ‘Eat Drink and Be Merry’ on December 10th and 11th, same year.”
“Alright, but those are just dates. I’d like to see someone write out your opinion of these concerts.” I challenged.
“People write my opinions on things all the time. I read them over breakfast.” He looked smug.
“Well, I guess you can just give me those written opinions, and I’ll be on my way.” I snapped my notebook shut.
“Oh, settle down, I’ll tell you something about choir, direct from me to you.” I slowly opened my notebook, maybe looking a little smug myself. “Please, I had this planned out from the get-go,” he read my expression. “You, dragging out my heart and soul.”
“That hard to find ‘em, eh?”
“Hilarious. No. It’s just, you know, I can’t let it getting out that that grand piano over there isn’t just furniture. I’m a music theory geek, you know that? I accompany the choir sometimes. Hell, I even enjoy it.” He smiled at his piano like it was an old friend.
“So you do actually have fun, here?” I asked.
“Sure. In fact, as a choir we had this one day of performances,” he sat up in his chair and leaned forward with glee. “So, we started at 7:30 AM singing a segment on the morning news, then we did a noon time concert at 4th Presbyterian on Michigan Avenue, then we caroled the same evening at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, and THEN we had ourselves a choir Christmas party. I had to do the whole thing incognito, of course, and it was completely crazy, but that was the most fun I’ve had in years.”
“Why don’t you want people to know that?” I asked. “Off the record.”
“Well, if it gets out how much I love an audience, people might start to think that I don’t practice law solely out of a genuine sense of human decency.” He touched his hand to his heart, flashing a couple of rings.
“This is Waterford, right?” I finished off my scotch and eyed the glass.
“I think we’re done here.”
To Be Continued......