The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a bi-partisan founded institution designated as our country’s National Cultural Center, has often televised arts awards and programs. With COVID forcing the closure of music festivals and theaters the Kennedy Center is now presenting several performances on line. They are free and worth a view.
For example: Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 4 p.m. ET the program has Jewish music performed live by Chloe Pourmorady and Joey Weisenberg from the National Museum of Jewish History.
Then, on Thursday, Nov. 5, at 4 p.m. ET, the Savannah Music Festival partnering with South Arts, is presenting Greenville, Georgia blues musician Jontavious Willis in a “Just You, Just Me Musical Conversation” between the Drum and the Voice. It features drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. and vocalist Juquan Vickers in African-American spirituals.
However, I can promise an entertaining evening that includes, among others Maestro Muti talking about how he misses his CSO family and Yo-Yo Ma, explaining what the orchestra means to him while he accompanies two rising cellists in separate videos.
Other voices and performers included Cynthia Yeh (principal percussion) playing Elden “Buster” Bailey’s “Two sticks in search of a waltz” and Concertmaster Robert Chen playing a Ravel sonata for violin and cello with principal cellist John Sharp plus appearances by Herbie Hancock, Mitsuko Uchida, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Hilary Hahn and Anita Rachvelishvili.
To see the event click CSO.org/tv then scroll way down to “Sounds of Celebration” and click “watch now.”
The CSO tv site is a good one to bookmark because it has links to concerts in the Sessions series that ranges from a virtual recital of the Lincoln String Quartet performing Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12 and a program of CSO members playing Mozart and Tchaikovsky.
Each session is on for a limited, date specific time. They cost $15 a ticket but can be obtained at a discount with the series. And viewers’ seats are unobstructed. And they support the CSO.
With the pandemic still haunting the indoor entertainment scene, some show venues have taken their artistry to parks and parking lots.
Among them are Goodman Theatre which has been working with the Chicago Park District and Music Theater Works which has been using the parking lot of its new home, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.
The longtime Evanston based production company formerly known as Light Opera Works, presents “Richard Rodgers’ Greatest Hits” Sept. 29, 2020 at 7 p.m. CT.
Divided into two parts of 15 numbers each, songs range from “I wish I were in love again” from Babes in Arms to “You’ll never walk alone” from Carousel.
The program is presented live in the Center’s rear parking lot, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie and then online from October 2-11. For tickets and more information visit MusicTheaterWorks/summerconcertencore.
The Goodman show, “Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak on It! featuring E. Faye Butler, is being performed in some Chicago parks. Directed by Henry Godinez and adapted from Cheryl L. West’s play “Fannie,” the show brings back famed civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer through storytelling and music.
Currently, it is scheduled for the front of Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St., for 6 p.m. Oct. 1, Homan Square in North Lawndale at 3559 W. Arthington St. at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 and in Ellis Park at 3520 Cottage Grove Ave. in Bronzeville at 3 p.m. Oct. 3. The Ellis Park performance is sold out.
To keep the music going Ravinia Festival has been broadcasting excellent concerts on Friday nights. However, the one coming up is particularly special given that the artist, pianist Leon Fleisher, won’t be heard live again. Fleisher died at age 92 on Aug. 2, 2020.
In a tribute to Fleisher, Ravinia Festival will do a broadcast of a past concert, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. CT on WFMT.
The program will bring back the “Leon Fleisher and Friends” program that celebrated his 90th birthda, performed and recorded July 23, 2018 in Ravinia’s Martin Theatre.
“Leon Fleisher was a great artist. His integrity and commitment to truth, his unerring sense of proportion, his larger-than-life persona, the sheer beauty of his sound, and the power of conviction in his playing were unparalleled and mesmerizing,” said Miriam Fried, director of the Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI) Program for Piano & Strings. Fleisher had been a program faculty member for 24 summers.
The birthday concert features Fleisher’s playing “Sheep May Safely Graze” from Bach’s “Birthday” Cantata No. 208 and Kirchner’s “For the Left Hand” written for Fleisher in 1995.
It also includes his wife, pianist Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, joining him in the four-hands piece of Schubert’s Fantasy D. 940 and Ravel’s La Valse.
In addition, the Argus Quartet and bassist Kit Polenperform alongside Fleisher in an arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12, K. 385p. The Argus Quartet was in residence at RSMI in 2017 and had won the M-Prize and Victor Elmaleh competitions later that year.
Normally we would be talking about what productions are coming this fall and winter to the Lyric Opera, Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Broadway in Chicago, Lookingglass, Northlight, Court, Music Works, Citadel and several other Chicago area theater stages.
And normally, what’s coming would be divided up by regions because in 2019 there were about 250 theater companies in the area.
Maybe when the coronavirus is under control and artists and patrons feel safe attending live rather than virtual shows, we will know which Chicago theater groups survived the pandemic.
But here is a sample of what we are hearing now about our next theater season.
Calling the season “Our Next Act,” Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer announced that the Goodman Theatre would have eight plays in its 2021 subscription (membership) series when safe for everyone. That number doesn’t include “A Christmas Carol” which isn’t a subscription show but details on the popular holiday show are expected to be out soon.
“We’re proud to announce four exciting world premieres, including a Goodman commission – Cheryl L. West’s “Fannie.” Directed by Henry Godinez, it is a passionate rallying cry inspired by the life of famed civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer that features E. Faye Butler in the title role,” said Falls.
Another world premiere is “the ripple, the wave that carried me home” by Christina Anderson, a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre. “It is a stunning meditation on protest, legacy and reconciliation; and we’re delighted to welcome back Christina, whose bold, imaginative How to Catch Creation was a memorable favorite last year,” said Falls.
The third world premiere is “Good Night, Oscar” by Doug Wright, directed by Leigh Silverman and starring Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) as Oscar Levant.
Falls added, “Finally, we’ll produce the highly anticipated new musical we postponed due to COVID-19—”The Outsiders” based on the novel by S.E. Hinton and Francis Ford Coppola’s film. A beloved story of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ that defined a generation it is told anew.” (Book is by Adam Rapp, music and lyrics by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Justin Levine, choreography by Lorin Latarro and directed by Liesl Tommy.)
Three Chicago premiers include “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Lili-Anne Brown that was interrupted by the pandemic, “A Paris Love Story” featuring the Music of Claude DeBussy that is written and performed by Hershey Felder and directed by Trevor Hay and “American Mariachi” by José Cruz González, directed by Henry Godinez and is a coproduction with Dallas Theater Center.
In addition, Goodman will be doing “The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci” adapted and directed by Mary Zimmerman.
“We can’t wait to welcome back our audiences for our dynamic 2021 Season that exemplifies the very best of our art form,” said Falls. “As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our artists and audiences, we remain flexible in our planning and will share production dates when the time is right.”
Subscription memberships to the upcoming season are available, including the “Whenever Membership” flexible package. A five-play Membership package starts at $100. Visit GoodmanTheatre.org/2021season. Single tickets will be available at a later date.
The Lyric will open a reimagined fall season with “For the Love of Lyric,” a virtual concert from the Lyric Opera House, that will be available for free streaming beginning at 5 p.m. CDT Sept. 13, 2020.
The event is in place of the opening night opera and ball, according to Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, president and CEO. “…we are proud to present “For the Love of Lyric- a very special concert presentation available to the largest possible audience via streaming,” said Freud.
Renowned soprano Renee Fleming teams up with special guests including Tony and Grammy award-winner Heather Headley (Aida, Lion King), soprano Ailyn Perez, bass Soloman Howard and mezzo soprano J’Nai Bridges.
Formerly called Light Opera Works, Music Theatre Works is moving from its Evanston home at Northwestern University’s Cahn Auditorium to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, beginning with its 2021 season.
A 40-year-old, not-for-profit company that has produced several highly recommended shows, Music Theatre Works has basically honored the classics with great direction, voices and orchestrations that range from the best “Pirates of Penzance” and “Mame” that I have seen to what other CTA writers say is the best “Anything Goes” and “Into the Woods” that they have seen.
Administration and rehearsals will continue at the Paul S. Mavros Center and Joyce Saxon Rehearsal Hall.
The performance move to North Shore Center’s large and small venues means the organization can do more productions and have longer runs, better parking and more exposure.
“For 40 years, Music Theater Works has been a cornerstone of high-quality professional music theater in the Chicago area. Our history demonstrates our dedication to bringing great music and great theater to our audiences. The community along with the many artists, board members and staff have built the company to what it is today,” said Music Theater Works Producing Artistic Director Kyle A. Dougan.
“Music Theater Works’ move to its new performance home at the North Shore Center is a testament to our community’s support for our art. In addition, this outlet strengthens Music Theater Works’ pledge to explore the full spectrum of music theater with the availability of multiple performance spaces within the North Shore Center,” Dougan said.
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts General Manager Michael Pauken said, “It is very exciting to welcome this well-respected organization and its productions to the North Shore Center as I have long admired them as an audience member.”
Pauken added, “I know Music Theater Works’ customers will find the North Shore Center’s location near numerous restaurants, convenient access to public transportation and free parking to be an enhancement to their theatergoing experience and Music Theatre Works performers will enjoy ample backstage space and the technical capabilities of our facility.”
In advance of its formal move to the Center next year, Music Theater Works presented two sold out performances of “Richard Rodgers’ Greatest Hits,” August 28 and 29, as part of the North Shore Center’s outdoor concert series, “Out Back Summer Sessions.”
Except for the falling leaves, it’s hard to believe that Labor Day Weekend is almost here.
With the pandemic changing our lifestyle, vacation plans and the events we usually use to mark off warm weather months such as the Chicago Air and Water Show, the usual Labor Day holiday might feel like just another weekend unless we plan something special.
Chicago’s most popular destination will close Tues., Sept. 8, 2020 until sometime in spring of 2021 so plan an outing to the Pier Labor Day Weekend.
Stretching out into Lake Michigan at 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago’s arguably most popular destination will close Tues., Sept. 8, 2020 until sometime in spring of 2021 so plan an outing to the Pier Labor Day Weekend.
Of course, it had to happen. Calling itself Lolla2020, instead of drawing thousands of fans to Grant Park this year, the mega entertainment festival can be seen, enjoyed and danced to for four nights on YouTube beginning 5 p.m. CT, July 30, 2020.
Its free of charge but donations to Lollapalooza donate campaign for the Equal Justice Initiative, When We All Vote and the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund are appreciated.
What to expect
See classic performances from Lolla sets and new ones from more than 135 artists including Paul McCartney, Chance The Rapper, OutKast, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Metallica, Lorde, Kehlani, Alabama Shakes, Run The Jewels, LCD Soundsystem, H.E.R., Tenacious D, Tove Lo, Ellie Goulding, Vic Mensa, Kaskade, Alison Wonderland (Live Set), and others.
The full schedule, posted Wednesday, July 29 on the Lollapalooza subscription YouTube channel, can be found by clicking here .
In addition, Lolla2020 will feature conversations between sets from Perry Farrell, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, LL COOL J, Selema Masekala, and others.
It doesn’t matter that some of the memorable concerts conducted by Pierre Boulez or Sir Georg Solti were during the 1990s. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has pulled some of their programs from the Rosenthal Archives so that music aficionados still have great music to enjoy while Orchestra Hall is dark.
Calling the initiative “Gems From the Vault,” the online program lists historic broadcasts available with a click on a free subscribe link.
Among the offerings is Boulez conducting a 1999 concert that starts with Stravinsky’s The Song of the Nightingale followed by CSO principal harpist Sarah Bullen with Debussy’s Sacred and Profane Dances then concluding with Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.
Another CSO initiative brings its musicians and guests from their homes to yours.
Ravinia Festival has joined the growing list of arts organizations presenting special programs while their in-person venues are shuttered. Dubbed RaviniaTV, the program is a 20-minute weekly variety show that can be found on YouTube and Facebook. Fridays at 7 p.m. CDT.
The series starts with Ramsey Lewis performing from home on July 3 and with Chicago performances recorded last year.
Future episodes will include CSO concertmaster Robert Chen, pianist Kevin cole, vocalist Sylvia McNair, and other performers.
“It broke our hearts when the Covid pandemic forced Ravinia to cancel a season for the first time since the Great Depression, so the whole team got together to create ways to stay connected to the Ravinia Family, our artists, and audiences in what would otherwise be our silent summer,” said Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman.
“So many of the longtime legends, as well as nascent stars, associated with Ravinia shared the same sense of urgency to keep the music playing as we all struggle with the hardships of this strange new reality. The solution was a show that not only shares music but offers a casual, conversational feeling like you would have on the Lawn at Ravinia,” Kauffman said.
The series, the brain child of Ravinia Communications Director Nick Pullia, is a mix of new, past, home and in-house (on Ravinia’s stage) concerts.
Episodes also have interviews with such guests as Ravinia Chief Conductor and Curator Marin Alsop and such topics as how civil unrest and the pandemic and its economic fallout might affect the art produced in this era, or how to help your kids keep sane while social distancing.
Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed lots of towns’ and parks’ Fourth of July celebrations in the Chicago area with most fireworks canceled including those at Navy Pier.
But many restaurants, particularly those with outdoor seating are open, cruises are going on area waterways, music is lifting spirits at some bars and eateries and you can tune into two concerts with live fireworks at Capitol Fourth from Washington D.C. and at CNN’s The Fourth in America streaming live from New York and Washington D.C. for subscribers on CNN.com’s homepage and via CNN’s apps for iOS and Android. It can also be viewed on CNNgo.
Try something different this Fourth of July weekend. Take a lunch or dinner cruise on the Odyssey on the Chicago River or Lake Michigan.
Navy Pier Restaurants and Music
Go over to Navy Pier, open 10 a.m. to midnight to eat outdoors at Harry Caray’s Tavern, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and other outdoor spots. Find a seat at the Miller Lite Beer Garden for its “Live on the Lake” from 2-11 July 3 and all day on July 4. Stop at the Wave, Wall, Wax platform to hear DJs from 5pm to 7pm. Face coverings required. Visit Updates Navy Pier .
For great celebrity performances, meaningful tributes to heroes and spectacular fireworks go to your PBS station or online for Capitol Fourth. This year, the annual program has taped performances from 7 to 8:30 p.m. CT followed by live fireworks.
“For four decades “A Capitol Fourth” has paid tribute to our nation’s birthday and the hopes and dreams of all Americans,” said Executive Producer Michael Colbert. “This year, our broadcast will reflect what we as a country have faced and the challenges ahead, while showcasing our message of inclusion, patriotism and love.”
Aired from 7 to 11 p.m. CT, T the program will be hosted by CNN’s Don Lemon from New York and CNN’s Dana Bash from Washington, DC.
Performers include Jewel, Barry Manilow, Martina McBride, Kenny Loggins, Andy Grammer, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana, CeCe Winans, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, The O’Jays, Don McLean, Jesse Colin Young and Little Kids Rock, Billy Ray Cyrus, Burt Bacharach & Musicians from the Berklee College of Music, Harlem Gospel Choir.
In addition, there will be the original Broadway cast of Girl From the North Country, inspired by the Bob Dylan’s songs and the cast of Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations.
Orchestral numbers are performed by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, the US Navy Band and the US Army Field Band, the new York Philharmonic and youth symphonies from San Francisco, Colorado, Houston, Chicago and New York.
Fireworks highlights from New York, Washington Houston, Jacksonville and Nashville will be shown throughout the program which will be available to subscribers on CNN.colm’s homepage and CNN’s apps for iOS and Android.
So much has moved to virtual experiences that it is arguably easy to miss another fundraising concert. However, Ravinia fans who miss their picnic on the lawn this summer have a chance to create a unique, virtual experience, this Saturday.
Ravinia is holding “Living Room Lawn Party” at 8 p.m. CDT on June 27, 2020 that features Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress/singer Kristin Chenoweth as the emcee.
A pre-show slideshow starts at 7:45 followed by performances from Chenoweth, soprano Patricia Racette, pianist Kevin Cole and Jazz artist Ramsey Lewis with Ravinia Jazz scholars, plus other entertainers.
Sponsored by Allstate, BMO, The Dancing Skies Foundation, and the Ravinia Women’s Board, Living Room Lawn Party will benefit the non-for-profit festival and its mission, especially its efforts to bring music back into schools through its Reach Teach Play education programs serving more than 85,000 community members across Lake and Cook Counties. Even though those programs are virtual now, Ravinia is ensuring music education remains accessible and alive (and fun) for all students, according to a Ravinia Festival statement.
“Music is a vital part of our students’ lives, and although they are not meeting with teachers and peers in person right now, it has not stopped us from providing the support and guidance to continue to musically enrich them,” said Ravinia Festival President and CEO Welz Kauffman.
“From moving our in-person programs to a virtual setting, to providing easy access to sessions and lessons on YouTube to our students, parents and educators and to mobilizing the entire Ravinia Family to assemble and deliver musical care packages, we continue to keep music alive for all,” said Kauffman. Listeners tune in to the Living Room Lawn Party at Ravinia.org/LawnParty.