EDGEWATER — World-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma dazzled about 1,000 neighbors who packed into Senn High School's auditorium Thursday night to hear the acclaimed musician perform Richard Strauss' "Don Quixote" with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
For a second time, the free "open rehearsal" attracted more people than Senn High could handle — when tickets became available a few weeks ago, they ran out in just a few days.
"It was awesome the first time, and it'll be awesome the second time," said Senn principal Susan Lofton while addressing the audience before the performance alongside Karen Dreyfuss, Ald. Harry Osterman's 48th Ward educational aide.
Dreyfuss expressed the alderman's regrets that he couldn't attend — Osterman was at his own child's musical rehearsal elsewhere, she said.
To the amusement of the audience, Lofton announced: "I got to touch his cello."
Ma took the stage alongside 23-year-old composer and conductor Matthew Aucoin.
Before starting, Ma complimented the school, describing Senn's recent rise to the top tier of Chicago Public Schools as "extraordinary."
The musical master had spent the day visiting classes at the school.
Ma and the orchestra went on to perform "Don Quixote," based on a Spanish novel about a character who sets out on a journey to dispel wickedness from the world.
Ma, Aucoin and other members of the orchestra paused intermittently to explain the plot behind the music.
"He's a master," said Joe Palla, of Andersonville, after the performance.
Palla, a 49-year-old former ballet instructor who had seen Yo-Yo Ma perform before, appreciated Ma's ability to not only perform but also teach the audience about music.
"It's great to see teachers like this," he said.
Following the performance, Ma took questions from the audience, leading a curious young boy to ask, "When you, like, started how often did you practice?"
The audience laughed.
"I practiced all the time," Ma said.
"Like," the boy continued, "on the weekends?"
The second line of questioning solicited even more laughs as Ma counted on his fingers, saying the days of the week out loud.
"Yeah, I think on the weekends."