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Conductor Challenges Palates at Wine and Music Tasting Event

 Classical Connoisseur serves wine and music, and asks patrons to "taste" both.
Classical Connoisseur serves wine and music, and asks patrons to "taste" both.
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SOUTH LOOP — Guests of an upcoming fine arts class won't quite be asked to taste music and listen to wine, but Monday night's workshop-cum-concert does promise some degree of sensory mix-up.

Led by Kim Diehnelt, music director of the South Loop Symphony, "The Classical Connoisseur" will guide attendees through samplings of wine and classical music on Dec. 10.

Diehnelt was inspired to combine wine and music consumption after realizing that both are experienced in similar ways.

"With listening and tasting, the same sort of thing happens in your head," Diehnelt, a studied musician and wine aficionado, said. "When we're tasting, I'm going to solicit qualities — cold, warm, bright — and then say, 'When we listen, can we listen for qualities? We'll go back and forth and let the listeners shape the music. 'OK, let's add brightness, let's take out something, let's give it more warmth.'"

On the menu are two whites, two reds and two South Korean musicians: violinist Soran Sophia Lee, in town for a performance as part of the Chicago Cultural Center's Dame Myra Hess concert series, and pianist Yoahn John Kwon.

Kwon and Lee will play samples of music for participants to "taste," and Diehnelt said she'll help isolate and identify characteristics in both the wine and the music. Later, the duo will perform a mini-concert while students put their skills to the test.

Hosting the gathering is the PianoForte Foundation, a South Loop-based organization dedicated to promoting piano performance and appreciation. PianoForte's "intimate" performance space can accomodate 40 participants, and tickets are still available, Artistic Director Susan Heiserman said. She called the pairing of wine and classical music, and the experience of "tasting" both, "a natural pairing.

Bernie Conroy, 73, a retired former humanities professor at Harold Washington College, is "looking forward to" the event.

"I think it'll be a learning experience for me," the avid classical music fan said. "They're both very sophisticated arts, winemaking and music-making ... I'm looking forward to the comparison of the two palates."