Jamie O’Reilly: The Home Edition

This October Jamie O’Reilly returns as Salonnière, hosting Harvest Home, the first of a series of seasonal soirées at Tre Kronor Swedish Bistro.

A Note from Jamie
Thoughts on Home Part 1

It was not a pretentious house nor was it furnished in grand style but it was comfortable and warm with love and happiness. The south parlor led into a large kitchen dining room which was the heart of the whole place…

Dorothy (Dottie) O’Reilly

It’s raining cats and dogs today. The kind of torrential rain that comes down hard, fast,
flooding basements, soaking rugs, and blinding if you try to drive in it. I’m inside my second floor apartment, sitting at the table where I’m typing and facing East, in a hundred plus year-old Sandegren designed two-flat, a few blocks from the jewel of the Midwest. Lake Michigan. Fitting for today. Feng shui literally translates to wind and water.

Jamie’s dining room
Carl Larrson watercolour Getting Ready for a Game

Hemmet är där hjärtat är
(Home is where the heart is.)

My first fall concert is at Tre Kronor Swedish Bistro, 3258 W Foster, Chicago, Il 60625, the venue where performed concerts in the garden these past few summers, but we’ll be inside this time. The building itself hearkens back to the early 20th century, when Swedish immigrants settled here, with design elements in its facade: like the Swedish stuga (cottage) and touches of Falu red, “Falu rödfärg,” their distinctive paint.*

Tre Kronor Swedish Bistro
Tre Kronor spring

Inside the restaurant are decorative touches one might see in a Carl Larsson print.
It’s these images that come to mind today as I consider the theme of HOME.

Hearth at Jamie’s

Listen to Jamie sing Annie Laurie

Larsson, Sweden’s most famous artist, has long been a favorite of mine. His subjects were his strawberry blonde children and wife, walking wild gardens among nasturtiums and sunflowers, picnicking among the birch trees, and picking apples in autumn. Idyllic views of familial bliss.

Karin Larsson woven table runner at Sundgren
Family party upper room at Tre Kronor

But it is the interior of the famous homestead Sundgren, decorated with his wife Karin that intrigues me most. Itself a living work of art, with rustic furniture of her design, the textiles and embroidered cloths, sunlit corners and stenciled archways. Their color choices — the Arts and Crafts palette of greenery-yallery (olive green), lilac blue, lily white and geranium red — would be mine.

Jamie’s Dining room, another view

Enchanted by Tre Kronor Restaurant for several years, I was thrilled to find an enclosed garden with dill, zinnias and nasturtiums one summer morning at breakfast. Owner Patty and I talked about Larsson and his garden, and struck up a friendship.

When Covid hit hard, Tre Kronor kept the garden open for dining. Michael Smith and I ate his last restaurant meal there, and he fed the sparrows his leftover crusts of bread.

With a second year of protocols upon us, in spring of 2021, I asked owner Patty Rasmussen if I could sing in the garden. Three concerts and two years later, we’re moving inside. I chose the upstairs room there, an oak-trimmed dining room with touches of Scandinavian charm and a warm feeling of hearth and home.

O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

Siegfried Sassoon Everyone Sang

Carl Larsson, Brita at the piano

Just a song at twilight: Parlor Songs
Harvest Home will be performed as a parlor concert, a centuries-old performance tradition. I will sing accompanied by John Erickson on piano. Among the styles of music will be drawing room ballads, folksongs, waltzes, Americana anthems, French pop, WWII blitz songs, art songs, jazz standards, lullabies, novelty tunes, a few Swedish songs, and originals from Jamie and late partner Michael.

Featured songs will include Siever’s, a Spoon River Anthology monologue set to music by Michael Smith and Goin’ Home, the hymn Williams Arms Fisher adapted from Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony.

Jamie classical headshot by Brad Baskin

I began singing parlor concerts in the 1980s, accompanied by Peter Swenson on guitar. A founding member of the Irish American Heritage Center, Mary O’Reilly heard me sing, and asked me to learn pieces she considered Irish art songs; the drawing room ballads one would sing from sheet music with the piano in the parlor, in settings by Herbert Hughes, Clifford Page, Thomas Moore and others. These were songs of halcyon days, suitable for the classical singer, ripe with sentiment and beauty. My mother and Aunt sang them too. I performed some of these at my vocal debut at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall for the John McCormick Centenary, the centenary of the World Columbian Exposition at the Chicago Cultural Center, Smart Museum, History Museum and other venues seeking songs in this style I mastered. In time, I’ve expanded my song catalog to such a degree, I choose the songs with stories and melodies best suited to me, singing parlor songs less often, but there will always be a soft spot for the songs I ‘cut my teeth on’.

I first sang Swedish songs as the featured vocalist in a ballet at the famed Woodstock Opera House in Memories of Sweden, with the Judith Svalander Dance Theater. I will sing two of those songs: Så skimrande var aldrig havet and Ach Varmeland in the Harvest Home concert.

John Erickson, pianist
Judi Cogan Heikes

Call the faltering, the least to the harvest table feast.
Serve the drink, re-tell the tale…

Judi Cogan Heikes from Doing Witch Work

Judi Cogan Heikes and I will perform poems of harvest and home: of heart and hearth, where we lived and loved, of pride of place, cities and towns, of the homefront during wartime, of haunted houses, and home as a final resting place.

Ruth Comfort Mitchell, author of Vinegar Man

Poets featured include Carl Sandburg, Zelda Fitzgerald, Muriel Rukeyser, Dora Read Goodale, Gabriela Mistral, Emma Lazarus, Wendell Berry, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Lee Masters, Lini De Vries, Ruth Comfort Mitchell, Siegfried Sassoon, Dorothy (Dottie) O’Reilly, and Judi Heikes.

Listen to Vinegar Man

Listen to Love’s Sweet Song

Listen to Waltz of the Years

Join us Sunday, October 9 at 7:00 PM
Harvest Home
at Tre Kronor Swedish Bistro
3258 W Foster, Chicago, Il 60625 (upstairs)
Tickets available on the event page
Or purchase tickets here.

Support the work of Jamie & CO on our patron’s page.


Visit The Sweden Shop
home goods, gifts and foodstuffs
3304 W Foster Ave
Chicago, Il 60625

(*Falu red is a waste byproduct, made from leftover rocks and ores containing iron, and makes the famous red color).

Blog Credits
Written by Jamie O’Reilly, all rights reserved
Jamie photo by Iwona Biedermann
Posters and logos by Nia O’Reilly Amandes