Prairie Winds at Unity Temple

May 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Unity Temple as a hearth form

I’ve been meaning to mention that good friends of mine invited me last week to a concert by wind ensemble Prairie Winds at Unity Temple.  The Temple’s Restoration Foundation sponsors an annual series of concerts in the sanctuary, which is an incredible place to see music performed.  The sanctuary is, of course, one of the most intimate spaces for public gathering imaginable, and as a result the audience is never further than 40 feet or so from the performers.  This concert happened to be the last of the season, but a new series will start in the Fall, and highly recommended as an opportunity to see the Temple filled with people and music.

One of the first serious papers I wrote in grad school interpreted Wright’s Prairie School work in terms of Mircea Eliade’s theory of the Sacred and Profane.  Wright’s hearths all fit Eliade’s description of sacred markers that “connect heaven and earth.”  Unity Temple represents a hearth that we can actually occupy, and it’s the only hearth form in Wright’s work that’s designed to actually enclose people, instead of just marking space (it does this pretty well, too, as an element on the Oak Park streetscape).  Wright doesn’t really figure in to my current Chicago work, except in a few footnotes, but I enjoyed the chance to revisit old themes in such a great setting.  And they played Copland’s “Simple Things,” which was a perfect match for the Temple’s spiritual and political ideals.

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