Longtime entertainer comes to Skokie Club
Singer-pianist Ester Hana is performing at the Skokie Club on Thursdays. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Pianist/singer Ester Hana
5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays
Skokie Club, 4741 W. Main St., Skokie
(847) 673-9393; skokieclub.com
There’s a party going on every Thursday evening at the Skokie Club.
That’s because Ester Hana is playing, singing and engaging restaurant patrons with her wit and lively personality.
On a recent Thursday, some couples danced near their tables and almost everyone joined in for sing-alongs. Hana, whose repertoire is vast, performed every song that was requested and the multilingual entertainer even accompanied one patron who sang a song in Chinese.
Entertaining and charming people is a lifelong habit for Hana who began studying the piano when she was five in her native Philippines. Her teacher was Hana’s 14-year-old cousin.
“When I was eight, my father bought me a piano,” Hana recalled. After that, she took the two-hour trip by bus to the city every week for lessons.
Each morning, Hana would do piano exercises at 4 a.m. “My sister would go at 5 o’clock and then my brother at 6 o’clock,” she said.
By the time she was 11, Hana was giving piano lessons to her younger siblings and helping students in another town rehearse for a musical.
She started playing piano professionally in her uncle’s band when she was 17.
Although she studied medical technology in college, Hana never got a job in that field because she was always able to earn a living as a performer.
Hana performed extensively in Thailand where she moved in 1972 with her Thai husband. In 1974, the couple and their two children relocated to America, settling in Chicago, where Hana earned a master’s degree in music and piano performance from Roosevelt University.
Hana’s first job in Chicago was accompanying an Italian singer at Little Bucharest. Later, she accompanied him at Europe at Night. “I think that’s the one that gave me visibility,” Hana said. “There I learned about Yugoslavian songs.” And that’s also where she began singing in addition to playing the piano.
Soon Hana was performing at some of the most popular bars on Rush Street, including the legendary theater hangout, Punchinello’s. She also played and sang at the Ark in Glenview, Sorriso, Yvette, Toulouse, Gable on Clark, Le Studio, Huckleberry’s, the Gaslight Club and other prestigious venues around the country.
Hana’s many other musical activities include creating programs for private parties and directing a choir of Filipino doctors.
The popular entertainer is pleased to add the Skokie Club to her list of regular performing venues. “This is a place that the young people should discover,” Hana said. “They must have a jumping place in Skokie.”
Nick Laris, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother George, is pleased to have Hana performing regularly. “She’s good and she’s very popular with the people,” Laris said. “It’s something unique for the customers.”