The summer night was a glorious mid 70’s temperature with dappled sunlight filtering through the trees at Ravinia Festival. Picnickers spread their repasts across the grass behind the Pavilion and out across what patrons call The Lawn.
The music emanating from the Pavilion was an inspired duo of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 (“Jeremiah”) that opened the program, followed by Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. The Bernstein work was part of Ravinia’s tribute to the legendary composer/conductor on the anniversary of his 100th birthday.
Brilliantly played by the CSO and conducted by Marin Alsop, the works were well paired for their religious themes. Both first symphonies contained passages whose roots went back to Jewish ceremonial and folk music and both symphonies contained passages of protest.
But where Bernstein’s piece ended with “Lamentation” sung by mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, the Mahler concluded with a triumphal coda set against nature sounds originally heard in the introduction that left picnickers happily lingering a few minutes longer.
“Wasn’t that beautiful” said Trish who had come with husband Joe from Pingree Grove west of Elgin. “We enjoy just being out here,” she had said earlier after they set up under trees bordering the Lawn.
Talking about the high quality of the program and the low lawn price, Joe pointed out, “It’s a deal.”
Also coming in from Chicago’s western suburbs were Cindy and Jim from Wayne with Valerie and Steve from Kildeer whom they met at Ravinia a few years ago. “We love it here” said Valerie.
“We try to come anytime the CSO is playing,” said Cindy who added that she and Jim have been coming to Ravinia since 1982.
By the way, Sunday, Aug. 19 was the last Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert at Ravinia for the 2018 season. For Ravinia’s program during the remaining season visit Ravinia. The Ravinia Festival is between Sheridan Road and Green Bay Road just north of Lake Cook Road at 200 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park.
Hear the voices from the Broadway and opera stages at two free concerts in Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Paviion at Millennium Park
First, and this comes quickly on the calendar, is the Broadway In Chicago Summer Concert, Aug. 13 at 6:15 p.m. So grab a blanket for the grass or get there early for a seat to hear songs from the following shows on the Broadway tour:
“The Book of Mormon,” “Hello Dolly,” “A Bronx Tale: The Musical,” “ Ronald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Anastasia,” “ Miss Saigon,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cats,” “ Falsettos” and “Come From Away.”
Hosted by ABC 7 Chicago entertainment reporter Janet Davies Pre=Broadway “Tootsie” star Santino Fontana, the concert is sponsored by Channel 7 and presented by the City of Chicago department of cultural Affairs and Special Events.
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is at 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago but it’s a can’t miss venue because of its billowing steel ribbons topping The Pavilion was designed for Millennium Park by award-winning architect Frank Gehry. For more information visit Broadway In Chicago.Read More
Chicago audiences may remember how in “Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical about an historic moment in recording history, Elvis Presley was unhappy with his agent and RCA Victor. He wanted to be back in the understanding arms of Sun Records’ Sam Phillips.
We don’t see everything that led up to that notable time, an unexpected jam session of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins in December 1956, but we do learn about some of the problems he faced in “Heartbreak Hotel,” the prequel to that million dollar jukebox musical.
No question it’s hard to recapture the magic of seeing amazingly talented pianists play Jerry Lee and wonderful vocalists echo “I Walk the Line,” ”Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”
But written and directed by Floyd Mutrux who co-wrote “Million Dollar Quartet” with Colin Escott and had co-directed the show in Chicago with Eric Schaeffer, his “Heartbreak Hotel” has enough talent on stage and background videos as scenery to keep audiences enthralled.Read More
Several orchestral works by Leonard Bernstein, the composer popularly known in musical theater circles for “West Side Story” can be heard at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park as part of a world-wide celebration of the 100 birthday of this musical genius (Aug. 25-1918-Oct. 14, 1990).
On the Ravinia schedule is “Mass,”commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy for the 1971 opening of the Kennedy Center. The work will now be making its CSO and Ravinia debut with a star-studded cast, July 28, 2018.
When the Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrated Bernstein’s birthday with his one-act opera, “Trouble in Tahiti” plus other vocal works, March 10 this year, Lyric Dramaturg Roger Pines said during a phone interview, “I think it will be revelatory.”
In Chicago, food and music just go together. Ergo, no surprise that two big food festivals also feature bands and two mega music festivals include food vendors. Even a free summer jazz series is steps away from a slew of food counters and restaurants.
Diet after Labor Day. Head over to Grant Park July 11-15, 2018, to taste more than 70 restaurant favorites that have made Chicago a foodie town. The festival is free but tasting is by tickets. They are sold in strips of 14 for $10 (expect a $3 charge for Taste amenities). Also available are 1-6 tickets for smaller “Taste of Portions” from each food vendor. Look for pop-up restaurants, food trucks and five-day regular booths. New this year is the Taste Oasis tent, a cool AC place in the park’s Butler Field to hang out and taste. Taste Oasis is $50 for the day you choose.
Great a great mix of country music and food at the Windy City Smokeout, July 13-15, 2018. The event stretches between Grand Avenue and the Chicago River. What to expect: barbeque flavors and styles from all over including Nashville and Chicago plus such folks as Renee Blair and Brett Young. For tickets, hours and other info go to Windy City Smokeout.
Four-day tickets to the mega (more than 170 performances) music festival at Grant Park, Chicago, Aug. 2-5 are on sale at 10 a.m. today, March 20, 2018. It features more than 170 performances from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Get the calendar out. It’s time to plan which Ravinia Festival concerts should be marked down, which ones need tickets ahead of time and which might be good for a picnic on the lawn or a seat in the Pavillion. The 2016 season goes from June 1 through Sept. 16.
Donors can get tickets March 20. Tickets will be available to the public May 8 for June and July concerts and May 10 for August and September programs.
New this year: There are more programs inside Bennett Gordon Hall and the Martin Theatre. The season will celebrate the late conductor, composer, pianist Leonard Bernstein’s 100 anniversary of his birth and ; the 30th anniversary of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI).
And the dining spaces and menus have been redone. Park View, a contemporary American restaurant featuring local and seasonal dishes is upstairs the dining pavilion. Mirabelle is still there but specializes in guest chef and themed dishes. The casual Ravina Market take-out menu has expanded but kept popular dishes. Tree Top will go in where PNC Private Dining used to be and the Lawn Bar with indoor and outdoor seating for drinks and small plates will be located on the lower level, north side of the dining Pavilion. The FreehlingRoom is still the Donor Dining Club but will add casual fare on pop concert nights.
Ravinia Festival Park is at the south end of Highland Park from Sheridan Road on the east to Green Bay Road on the west. But best option is to take a free shuttle from the Ravinia or Highland Park train station. For tickets, directions and transportation options visit Ravinia.org.
Enjoy the summer by planning now.
Some Program highlights:
Diana Ross, June 2, Anita Baker June 10, Jackson Brown June 15, Seal June 19, Jill Scott debuts at Ravinia June 22, Roger Daltry and the Who’s Tommy come June 23 and June 25 and Bryan Adams performs June 29.
Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang July 8, Zukeerman Trio does Brahms July 11, Joshua Bell and the CSO performs Bernstein “Candide Overture” and “Serenade” plus Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” July 12, The CSO and Chorus do Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on July 14, vocalist Audra McDonald and the CSO do a “Sunday in the Park program for the Ravinia Gala July 15, the annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular is July 22, Misha and Cipa Dichter are in Bette Hall then Leon Fleisher with Katherine Jacobson Fleisher perform Bach and Brahms in the Martin Theatre July 23, Makoto Ozone plays Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” July 24, Jorge Fredrico Osorio is in the Martin Theatre for the Debussy and Ponce concert July 26, a double Bernstein program starts with a Young People’s concert in the morning then features his “Mass” in the evening July 28.
Whoopie Goldberg comes Aug. 3, CSO does Stravinsky, Strauss and with Garrick Ohlsson on piano Mozart’s concerto No. 20 Aug. 9, Steve Martin and Martin Short plusThe Steep Canyon Rangers and Jeff Babko are in the Pavilion Aug. 12, Michael Feinstein and Kristin Chenoweth are there Aug. 14, opera stars Frederica Von Stade and Laurie Rubin come Aug. 16, Earth Wind & Fire are in the Pavilion Aug. 17, Sugarland returns Aug. 23, The Beach Boys and Righteous Brothers are in town for an evening of oldies but goodies Aug. 24 there are “Good Vibes with Jason Mraz and Brett Dennen on Aug. 25, Culture Club, B-52s and Thompson Twins perform Aug. 31 and Sep[t. 1
O.A.R. and Matt Nathanson come Sept. 2, Sir James Galway returns Sept. 4, Peter Serkin comes Sept. 5, 50 Cent debuts at Ravinia Sept. 6. Tony Bennett’s stylish songs are Sept.8, “Considering Matthew Shepard by Craig Hella Johnson with the Conspirare chorus (poems set to music to mark the Shepard murder that ledto the Hate Crimes Act Sept . 12 and Los Tigres del Norte end the season Sept. 16.
The only problem with the Lyric Opera’s “Celebrating 100 Years of Bernstein” last Saturday, March 10, was that it was a one-time program.
Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, baritone Nathan Gunn in the first half featuring Bernstein’s short opera Trouble in Tahiti and joined in the second half in a variety of his works, by Broadway star Kate Baldwin, deserved their prolonged applause and standing ovation. Indeed, the audience didn’t seem to want to leave but encores were not part of the program.
The audience also appreciated the really fine voices of Ryan Opera Center members soprano Diana Newman, tenor Josh Lovell and baritone Emmett O’Hanlon who added a light touch to the opera which has some seriously funny moments. And they, plus Ryan Center members soprano Ann Toomey and bass-baritone Alan Higgs, joined the stars in the second half.
That part of the program was an interesting mix of popular and lesser known works. For instance, it started with Baldwin’s delightful rendition of “I Hate Music” from the 1943 cycle of “Five Kids Songs for Soprano and Piano.”
It would have been interesting to have seen a show of hands from people familiar with the cycle.
Then, the Ryan Center singers did Candide’s “The Best of All Possible Worlds.” They and the leads closed with the lovely and appropriate “Some Other Time” from On the Town.
What came in between was glorious.
Baldwin sang Eileen’s charming “A Little Bit in Love” from Wonderful Town followed by Gunn doing a fine “Lonely Town” from On the Town.
Based on intermission chat and looks through the program, many in the audience were hoping for something from West Side Story. There were two selections.
Baldwin and Graham each soloed and then beautifully blended their voices in “I Have a Love.” Then Baldwin did a remarkable “Somewhere” that moved people to tears.
At this point, about half way through the second half, comic contrast was needed and provided by Gunn coming up through the floor as Captain Hook from Peter Pan.
Bernstein wrote “Captain Hook’s Soliloquy” for the original 1950 Broadway show but it was supposedly eliminated as unworkable with the voice of Boris Karloff who played Hook.
Wearing a wig that resembled a large black mop, Gunn hilariously interpreted the song somewhat in the manner of King George in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.
Other songs seldom heard were “So Pretty” written by Bernstein for Barbra Streisand to sing in a peace protest against the Vietnam War that was sung by Baldwin and ”To What You Said,” a Walt Whitman verse put to music in Songfest that touched on homosexual attraction and sung by Nathan Gunn.
Peter Pan was on the menu again. This time with Graham singing “Dream with Me.”
A show which didn’t make it long on Broadway was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue written with Alan Jay Lerner in 1976. But after cuts and revisions it was released in 1990 as A White House Cantata.
Kate Baldwin as Abigail Adams sang “Take Care of this House” which is on the Cantata release. A lovely piece, the song is still heard on occasion.
Before the company’s “Some Other time” closing number, Baldwin ended with another lively ditty, “I Can Cook, Too” from On the Town.
There were many reasons the program left people wanting more.
There was the spot-on direction of Peggy Hickey who had the singers actively move around the stage as if in a musical instead of a concert. The staging was also clever with props and furniture moved on, off and coming up from below.
Another plus was Conductor David Chase’s warm interaction with the audience. He introduced and explained the opera and the musical numbers’ background. Experienced with working on musicals as conductor, arranger or supervisor of more than 30 Broadway productions, Chase had a relaxed attitude that made the entire program fun.
Instead of organizing the desk (or you name it), and wishing the groundhog prognosticators were wrong about six more weeks of winter, take in a show, find a special event to dispel gray skies and moods and take advantage of museum free days.
If the family has a Saturday available, get tickets to ‘Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at The Yard, Chicago Shakespeare’s newly added theater on Navy Pier . The show is a fun 75 minutes that merges the Bard’s humorous mismatching of characters in his comedies. The production is offered Saturdays now through March 10, 2018 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.. To get tickets visit Chicago Shakes Plays.
Listen as famed tenor Lawrence Brownlee performs ‘Cycles of My Being,’ a recital that puts forth what it is like to live as a black man in America. Co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, Lyric Opera/Lyric Unlimited and Opera Philadelphia, the program will only be in chicago Feb. 22, 2018 at 7 p.m. at the DuSable Museum of African American History. For more information visit Lyric Opera Cycles or call (312) 827-5600.
Go to the Chicago Botanic Garden Feb. 10 through March 25, 2018 to see orchids with an Asian accent. This year, the Garden’s Orchid Show blooms among kimonos, parasols and Asian plants. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. plus open later Thursdays to 8 p.m. For more information visit Chicago Botanic Garden orchid.
How about a night at the museum, that is among the fish?
For Presidents Day weekend stay the night Feb. 16, 2018 in a special program at the Shedd Aquarium that allows participants to explore the museum, see an aquatic presentation and do a scavenger hunt. The cost is $75 per person ($60 members). For tickets and more information visit Shedd Aquarium Overnight.
Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday when most schools in Illinois are closed to celebrate Presidents Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays, is Feb. 19, 2018. Fortunately, some of Chicago’s museums are free that day.
The Adler Planetarium’s general admission is waved for Illinois residents Feb. 19-22. For more information visit Adler.
Art Institute of Chicago has free admission to Chicago residents under age 18, every day. See ARTIC.
Chicago History Museum is free every day to children under 18 who are Illinois residents. Visit Chicago History.
The Field Museum has free general admission for Illinois residents all of February. Visit Field Museum free days.
The Chicago Cultural Center has a new exhibition on its fourth floor. Titled “Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush,” it was organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The Cultural Center also has other exhibits on its first floor. While in the building go to the third floor to see gorgeous glass domes and rooms. Admission is always free. Visit Chicago Cultural Center.