To the accompaniment of a kaleidoscopic soundtrack that reflected Andrew Patner’s myriad interests, Chicago remembered the beloved music critic at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center on Wednesday evening.
Friends and family recalled a man of brilliance, a unique wit, someone who could never have too many friends and, despite his many travels, a man fiercely devoted to Chicago.
“I will remember the last almost decade of my life as the Patner era, in which great new universes of music, of food and conversation, literature and politics and history were opened up to me,” said David Polk, WFMT-FM’s program director.
Patner died unexpectedly on Feb. 3 at St. Joseph Hospital, after succumbing to a bacterial infection. He was 55.
Andrew Patner died on Feb. 3. He was 55. | Israel Wright photo
Since 1998, Patner had been WFMT’s critic-at-large, hosting the station’s weekly program “Critic’s Choice.” He also commented on “Critical Thinking.” He was also a contributing classical music writer for the Chicago Sun-Times. He had written for the Wall Street Journal and his work appeared in countless magazines, including The New Yorker and The Nation.
Reflecting his vast and varied musical interests, Wednesday’s selections ranged from Mozart to Aaron Copland to Chicago jazz piano great Willie Pickens.
“We were trying to convey the essence of what Andrew’s life was all about: a deep enthusiasm for connecting people, culture, politics and social justice,” Polk said.
Kenny Blum, who grew up with Patner in Hyde Park, described the music critic as his “soul brother.”
“He was always brilliant, he was always funny, he was always gregarious . . . always loyal,” Blum said.
Blum said Patner’s death leaves a “terrible, irreparable hole.”
He said the way to keep Patner’s memory alive is, for Blum, to be more like him.
“I’m telling more stories, I’m sending more group emails . . . I’m striking up conversations with strangers and I’m trying to stay close to my friends,” Blum said.
Patner attended Kenwood High School, where he edited the Kenwood Kaleidoscope. He studied at the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin. He was a 2003 Getty Annenberg Arts Journalism Fellow and won a Lisagor award in 1984 for his coverage of Mayor Harold Washington’s 1983 mayoral campaign.
Violinists Rong-Yan Tang (left) and Max Raimi perform Wednesday night at a public memorial for Andrew Patner at Orchestra Hall. | Ashlee Rezin/For Sun-Times Media
Josh Patner speaks at a public memorial for his brother, Andrew Patner, on Wednesday night. | Ashlee Rezin/For Sun-Times Media
Pianist Bethany Pickens performs at a public memorial for Andrew Patner Wednesday night. | Ashlee Rezin/For Sun-Times Media
Kenny Blum talks about his lifelong friend Andrew Patner on Wednesday night at Orchestra Hall. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media