Grant Park Music Festival ages well

 

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hosts music and dance performances. (J Jacobs photo)
Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hosts Grant Park Music Festival and other music and dance performances. (J Jacobs photo)

Grant Park Music Festival now and then

NOW

Sit on the grass or bring a chair or reserve a seat to hear great classical music interspersed with special programs. It’s summer as celebrated downtown Chicago at the Pritzker Pavilion. The Blues Fest was just here but now a summer-long music festival starts.

Grant Park Music Festival opens tonight, June 12, 2024, with the Dvorak Cello Concerto played by Alban Gerhardt and continues this week with Christian Tetzlaff playing Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto. At the podium is Carlos Kalmar who has been conduction the Grant Park Orchestra since 2000.

And so goes the Grant Park Music Festival in 2024 with free tickets for those who don’t mind sitting further back of the Pritzker Pavilion or with a low price, often $27, for reserve seats closer up.  Visit GPMF Schedule, orgpmf.org or call (312) 742-7647 for more information. 

(Common is performing July 20 so tickets are higher. Visit Common :: Grant Park Music Festival.

 

THEN

Summer concerts started in Grant Park in the 1930s and became a tradition in 1935. By 1944 the Chicago Park District started the Grant Park Orchestra to be led by Conductor Nikolai Malko. He was followed by such renowned conductors as Irwin Hoffman, Leonard Slatkin, David Zinman, Zdenek Macal and Hugh Wolff.

The Grant Park Chorus was formed in 1962 by Thomas Peck and then led by Michael Cullen and guest conductors. Christopher Bell took over in 2002.

In 1962, the Grant Park Chorus was established under the direction of Thomas Peck. It was subsequently led by Michael Cullen (1994–97) and a series of guest conductors until the appointment of current Chorus Director Christopher Bell in 2002.

As to location, the Grant Park Music Festival was in the bandshell at the south end of Grant Park then moved in 1978 to the Petrillo Bandshell named for former musicians’ union president James C. Petrillo who joined with then mayor Anton Cermak to start a music festival in Grant Park.

When Millennium Park opened in 2004 with Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by architect Frank Gehry,  it became home to the Grant Park Music Festival and other music performances and festivals.

 

 

All Mozart Program at Lyric Opera

 

 

Lyric opera preprogram shot (J Jacobs)
Lyric opera preprogram shot (J Jacobs)

 

The Lyric Opera showcased their superb chorus and orchestra in an all Mozart program including two dramatic works, “Incidental Music from Thamos, King of Egypt” and the ever popular “Requiem.”

Conducted by Enrique Mazzola, performances were presented Friday March 22 and Sunday March 24, 2024,  with soloist Heidi Stober, soprano, Elizabeth DeShong, mezzo-soprano, Matthew Polenzani, tenor and Kyle Ketelsen, bass. Michael Black is the chorus director.

“Requiem” is arguably the most beautiful choral work ever written. It is purported that while creating the work Mozart had a premonition of his own death. The composer did indeed die before the work was fully completed causing Franz Xaver Süssmayr to be engaged to complete the task. According to program notes Süssmayr, orchestrated the Kyrie and completed the Lacrymosa.

We attended Sunday’s performance to a sold out and very appreciative audience.

Featuring the exceptional Lyric Opera chorus and orchestra the program is essentially an annual event that should not be missed.

Next year Lyric will conclude its regular season with Lyric in Concert: A Wondrous Sound, April 16 and 18, 2025. Maestro Mazzola will present an original program of some of opera’s choral favorites and most thrilling overtures, perfect for opera aficionados and newcomers alike.

The program will be designed to demonstrate the truly grand scale of the more than 100 artists of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and the Lyric Opera Chorus. In addition to the two performances at the Lyric Opera House, Lyric in Concert: A Wondrous Sound will also have a pair of performances presented at venues around the Chicagoland area, with more details to be announced soon.

This season tickets are available for the Rising Stars Concert April 13, 2024.

Details: Lyric Opera of Chicago is at 20 N. Wacker Dr. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Opera Chicago.

 

Reno Lovison

Beautiful tells how King classics came to be

 

(Kaitlyn Davis as Carole King in “Beautiful” at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire)

3 1/2 Stars

The audience at the Wednesday Marriott opening of “Beautiful: the Carole King Musical,” are likely familiar with such classic songs as “You’ve Got a Friend,” “So Far Away,” “Up on the Roof,” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”

But I wonder if they know that the person who wrote them started out as a teenage songwriting phenom who had skipped two grades in school and whose mom wanted her to continue her classical piano studies.

Or that she started out as a pop composer whose first husband, Gerry Gofin, did the lyrics while she wrote the music.

Or that the grand piano on stage at the show’s start would actually reappear at the show’s end in Carnegie Hall.

With terrific dance and song examples, “Beautiful’s” long Act I showed  how the music of the King-Gofin partnership was picked up and performed by well-known groups.

(“Beautiful” at Marriott shows how major performers adopted the King-Gofin songs) 

The shorter Act II is about that partnership’s on-off crises and split up that led King to going it alone and her concert at Carnegie Hall. The show could have an Act III about all her awards, more partnerships and more songs plus her award-winning “Tapestry” album.

However, King’s “Beautiful” journey as performed at the Marriott Theatre is in the wonderful, over-the-top hands of Kaitlyn Davis from the national tour of “Beautiful.” BTW, Davis is also an accomplished pianist and songwriter.

Her co-star, Andrew Mueller, who is the brother of the Mueller sisters who performed “Beautifu”l on Broadway and the national tour, has impressive credits in Chicago area theater. He does an excellent portrayal of Gofin.

(Song-writing rivals and friends, Cynthis Weil (Erica Stephan) and Barry Mann, (Justin Albinde) )

A good picture of the song business is the delightfully done inclusion of couple Cynthis Weil portrayed by Erica Stephan, and Barry Mann, played by Justin Albinder. 

Well directed by Jessica Fisch, “Beautiful” is basically a “jukebox” show that will bring back lots of musical memories.  

“Beautiful: the Carole King Musical” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, Il now through Dec. 31, 2023.

For tickets and more information visit Beautiful/MarriottTheatre

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

 

 

 

 

Lolla alternatives

 

'Marvelocity" has original artwork by Alex Ross and superhero figures and busts. (J Jacobs photo)

Nothing wrong with “Lolla” but if you’d rather detour this weekend away from Lollapalooza’s half-million people filled Grant Park, there are a few alternatives. They range from family friendly to something for youngsters, oldsters and “Grateful Dead” fans.

Anyone who appreciates Marvel’s art and characters should head to “Marvelocity, the Art of Alex Ross.” It fills the walls at the Elmhurst Art Musem after drawing fans further north at the Dunn Museum in Northwest suburban Libertyville. The museum is at 150 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst. *(see related Marvelocity note)

Visit elmhurstartmuseum.org/ or call 630-834-0202 for ticket info.

Those folks who appreciate West Town’s restaurants and craft beer scene plus understand its “Dancing in the Streets name and dates of Aug. 4-6, will appreciate the an annual West Town Chamber festival. People in the know understand Aug. 4-6. Think the “Days Between” that celebrate Jerry Garcia. His b-day was Aug. 1 and he died Aug. 9.

For food, beer, art and more festival info visit Dancing in the Streets | West Town Chamber

Those music lovers who like to relax on a blanket in a tree and sculpture-filled park while listening to Mozart, Rachmaninoff or Beethoven, should head to Ravina Festival in north suburban Highland Park this weekend. Hear Mozart’s The Magic Flute with Marin Alsop and the CSO. Also featured this weekend are the music of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff with Marin Alsop, Yunchan Lim, and the CSO.  Ravinia is at the southeast end of Highland Park and accessible by train.

For ticket, schedule and other info visit Ravinia Festival – Official Site | Online Schedule / Calendar

Jodie Jacobs

(Marvelocity note: for Dunn Museum article visit A ‘Marvelocity’ of Alex Ross and superheroes – Chicago Theater and Arts)

 

A couple of July Fourth Weekend to Weekday options

 

Washington DC Fireworks co-sponsored by the National Park Service
Washington DC Fireworks co-sponsored by the National Park Service

Cruise Lake Michigan

Instead of worrying about getting around downtown Chicago with the NASCAR Race July 1 and 2 in 2023, consider taking a fireworks cruise on Tall Ship Windy that Saturday before or Wednesday after July 4.

It goes from Navy Pier so you get the Pier’s Fireworks without the downtown hoopla and street closures. You can also come down a day early  and stay in the Sable Hilton Hotel right on Navy Pier to enjoy fun rides, a beer garden, restaurants, art exhibits and a vacation with great views.

On the Fourth

Tune in to PBS at 8 p.m. CT July 4 for “A Capitol Fourth,” a really special annual concert from Washington D.C. that features international stars and patriotic music.

Among this year’s headliners are Renée Fleming, Boyz II Men, Belinda Carlisle, the Broadway cast of “A Beautiful Noise (Neil Diamond) the Muppets, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets and the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

Then, stay tuned for Washington DC Fireworks shooting over the National Mall at 9 p.m. CT, co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

Happy Fourth!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

This Weekend

 

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hosts music and dance performances. (J Jacobs photo)
Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hosts music and dance performances. (J Jacobs photo)

 

Midsummer Concert

While it is still “Midsummer,” that sometimes mystical time of year around the Summer Solstice, go to the Grant Park Music Festival in Millenium Park to hear Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The concert, with Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra, is June 23 at 6:30 p.m. and June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The concert is free for lawn sitters and asks for donations for reserved seats.

The Grant Park Music Festival is presented by the Grant Park Orchestral Association with support from the Chicago Park District and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). For programs and other information visit Grant Park Music Festival.

 

Up close with exotic and other animals

For a peek at some exotic animals and those you thought you knew, watch NBC’s Earth Odyssey series on Brookfield Zoo.  Presented by Hearst Media, it starts 9 a.m. CT beginning June 24 with host Dylan Dreyer. She brings you up close to some of Brookfield’s 500 species such as a tamandua. For more about Brookfield Zoo visit Chicago Zoological Society – Brookfield Zoo Home (czs.org)

 

Free Joffrey Ballet Performance

Back in Millennium Park, the Joffrey Ballet is holding a free, pre-perfomance dance class at 4:45 p.m. June 25. It is followed by a free program at 5:30 p.m. that features the Joffrey Company Artists, the Joffrey Academy and the Joffrey community Engagement Students. For more information visit Joffrey Ballet.

Jodie Jacobs

Pride fun and festivals

 

Chicago Pride Parade, (Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago)
Chicago Pride Parade, (Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago)

It doesn’t matter if a member of the Pride community. The City of Chicago takes pride in supporting LGBTQ+.

Everyone is invited to what has become huge, fun, food and entertainment events such as Pride Fest in the Halsted Street area, a food and entertainment festival in Grant Park, and voila, one of the country’s largest Pride Parades that swings through several of the city’s neighborhoods.

Those events are in addition to some that already took place in neighborhoods and suburbs last weekend and events still to come at Navy Pier and the Chicago area. See the details and mark the events on the calendar.

Chicago Pride Fest, a two-day annual festival in Northalsted 

What to expect: Held the weekend before the Chicago Pride Parade, the Fest features music on three stages, good Chicago drag performances, the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, a Pet Parade, a high-heel race, a Youth Pride Space for teens and several merchandise and food vendors.

In addition, SHAB, a pop artist and Iranian refugee, will be among featured guests performing on the Bud Light North Stage on Saturday. She is just back from a UK tour centered on her new video Indestructible.

Details; Centered at Halsted and Addison, June 17-18, 2023, it opens at 11 a.m. Saturday and ends at 10 p.m. Sunday and attracts about 60,000 people over the two days. A $15 donation is requested to cover expenses. For more information visit Chicago Pride Fest 2023 | 06/17/2023 | Choose Chicago.

Pride in the Park

What to expect: an annual, two-day music festival that includes food, merchandise and art. It draws big name stars  that this year includes  Zedd, Zara Larsson and Saweetie.

Details: Grant Park, June 23 and 24, 2023. For more information visit Pride in the Park 

Back Lot Bash

What to expect: Dedicated to women, it’s a highly attended block-party of food and music that this year features DJ Mary Mac and Lauren Sanderson.

Details: Held in Andersonvilee, June 24, 2023. For hours and location or more information visit Back Lot Bash Chicago.

Navy Pier Pride

What to expect: Music in three Navy Pier venues.

Details: Entertainment June 24-25 on the West Performance Platform from 11 a.m. to noon and more entertainment on the Orsted Wave Wall Performance Platform from noon to 7 p.m. Entertainers at the Navy Pier Beer Garden from 2 through 11 p.m.

For more information and entertainment schedule visit Navy Pier Pride 2023 | Navy Pier

Chicago Pride Parade

What to expect: Begun as a protest march in 1970 following New York City’s Stonewall Riots, it has become one of Chicago’s largest parades with close to 200 entries and attracts more than a million people. Street closures start around 8 a.m. at Montrose, Irving Park and Wellington at Broadway and Addison and Grace and Roscoe at Halsted. Streets and fully reopen by 8 p.m.

Details: The parade is June 25. It assembles at 10 a.m. then starts at noon in the Uptown neighborhood at Montrose and Broadway. Then, it winds through neighborhoods including East Lakeview and ends in Lincoln Park near Diversey Parkway and Sheridan Road.  

For more route details and other information visit Chicago Pride Parade.

Some fun early June weekend events

 

A lot of what happens on in Millennium Park is in the Pritzker Pavillion (Photo by J Jacobs
A lot of what happens on in Millennium Park is in the Pritzker Pavillion (Photo by J Jacobs)

Chicago Blues Festival

Go to Downtown Chicago to Millenium Park for the Chicago Blues Festival, June 8-11, 2023.

It celebrates Chicago contributions to soul, R&B, gospel, rock and hip hop. And it’s free. Visitors can bring a chair or spread out but lots of folks stand to watch because others are standing.

Hours: Thurs: 5:30-9 p.m., Friday-Sunday: noon – 9 p.m. Enter from Michigan Ave. at Washington St. or Madison St., Randolph St. or Monroe St. Millenium Park is free and has a Welcome Center on Randolph Street that is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. but open later on performance nights. For Blues Festival information visit City of Chicago :: Chicago Blues Festival

Or go to Skokie for MadKap Productions’ 2023 Short Play Festival June 10 at 7:30 p.m. and June 11 at 2 p.m. It’s just $15.

Plays are each about 10 minutes and written include pieces by David Alex, DC Cathro, Eric Coble, Eva Schultz and Judy Schindler

For more information visit Skokie Theatre. The theater is at 7924 Lincoln Ave., downtown Skokie near the S.W. corner of Lincoln and Oakton Avenues.

 

Navy Pier (J Jacobs photo)
Navy Pier (J Jacobs photo)

In addition, there is Chi-Soul Fest, a free, two-day music/comedy festival throughout Navy Pier.

The Fest runs from 2 to 11 p.m. June 10 and 2 to 8 p.m. June 11. For the entertainment line-up and location on the Pier visit CHI-SOUL FEST 2023 | Navy Pier. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave. Phone is 800 595-PIER (7437).

 

 

COVID gave birth to a remarkable play

 

The Porch on Windy Hill, Morgan Morse, Lisa Helmi Johanson, David M. Lutken. (Photo courtesy of Northlight)
The Porch on Windy Hill,
Morgan Morse, Lisa Helmi Johanson, David M. Lutken. (Photo courtesy of Northlight)

It is impossible not to move the shoulders or tap the feet when Lisa Heimi Johanson as the bi-racial Mira, David M. Lutken as her Appalachian grandfather, Edgar “Gar,” and Morgan Morse as her boyfriend, Beckett, pick up their instruments and treat audiences of “The Porch on Windy Hill” to a couple of hours of well-played, traditional bluegrass.

The three actors, make up the cast of a show playing now through May 14, 2023, at Northlight Theatre in Skokie. 

Lisa, a Broadway, national tour, regional and tv actress/singer/musician, David Lutken, a noted Broadway, Carnegie Hall, Nashville, musician/actor, and Morse, a talented musician and popular regional actor, are also three of the show’s four writers.

They are led by international, off Broadway and regional playwright/director/choreographer Sherry Lutken who conceived the play.

Arguable, there is another cast member: the play’s traditional Appalachian music.

“We used music to tell the story,” Sherry said, noting that people from different backgrounds could amicably come together when appreciating music.

And thus, “The Porch On Windy Hill” was conceived to incorporate a beloved regional music form into a fragile family reunion as a healing lotion. Its writers hope the show will spark discussions on COVID’s disturbing byproduct of anti-Asian sentiment.  

A recent telephone interview with Sherry delved into how the show and its theme came to be. After all, except for one-person celebrity interpretations, most theater productions don’t have the play’s writers doubling as the cast.

Sherry Lutken (Photo courtesy of S Lutken)
Sherry Lutken (Photo courtesy of S Lutken)

It started with COVID changing what Sherry could substitute in her theater schedule. The venue wanted something small, instead of the multiple set and costume changes required by the slated production.

“It was a scary time for a lot of people. There was all this messiness. We had a show scheduled for 2021. We still hope to do it. It had a large cast.”

The “we” are Sherry and husband David. He co-devised and starred in the multi-award-winning Woody SEZ: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie which included other talented musician/actors and has played internationally and in the United States including Chicago.

So, while stuck indoors, sheltering from COVID but looking for a different play, “a story that would resonate,” Sherry said, her thoughts turned to how a close, bi-racial friend would be feeling given all the hate expressed against Asians and what her friend would tell her children.

“There was a mindset out there leading to rising aggression,” she said.

Explaining that Lisa who was passionate about justice was biracially white and Korean, Sherry said, “We thought of Lisa and how she expressed herself in her poetry on social media.”

The Lutkens then added Morgan, an actor/musician, writer they knew from his regional work. The four of them started developing what became the script for “The Porch on Windy Hill.”

“We’d dive into ideas developing the basic premise,” Sherry said. “We were on zoom with long discussions on the subject matter, adding and then cutting. It was creative. It became magical.”

She compared the process to a sculpture that starts with a block of wood or stone. “You whittle and chip away until a bird emerges,” she said.

She added that during this time, “David was mining the American landscape of music. Its roots.” 

Lisa Helmi Johanson, David M. Lutken, Morgan Morse in The Porch on Windy Hill
Lisa Helmi Johanson, David M. Lutken, Morgan Morse in The Porch on Windy Hill

“We often talk about how music melds the sounds carried to this country. Music is part of our culture. There are the indigenous peoples, the enslaved, the folks who try to forge a better life. Music speaks to people at a very deep level.”

She thought it brought people “who deserve to be in the same space, together.”

“In our personal life, I was thinking of my friend and what she experienced and that started me thinking about using the idea of Korean/white, and what it means to be different, to be biracial… what it feels like. I imagined my friend whom I dearly loved, speaking to her children.”

She added, “This story needs to be told.”

That became a seed for the basic plot of feeling different. Plus it could combine with music and see where music could lead.

“Once music was in (the play), we still had to start a conversation.  It became what we’re hoping to achieve. We all wrote together. And we worked on it some more in a workshop with dramaturg Christine Mok”.

There was a lot of the talk is not in the play.”

In “The Porch on Windy Hill,” music led Mira, a biracial Korean-white classical violinist, to “Gar,” her estranged Appalachian, banjo-strumming grandfather and change their conceptions and misconceptions of previous family interactions. 

The music and action is facilitated by Mira’s boyfriend, Beckett who is doing his doctoral dissertation on American folk music.

“David and I were talking about it – what was in my head. It’s how different people coming to America brought their music and how indigenous people and enslaved people had theirs.  Music evolved in this country,” said Sherry.

“We all wrote together. And we worked on it some more in a workshop with dramaturg Christine Mok.”

The play premiered at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut, fall of 2021.

“It’s an exciting way to create theatre. We were living the theater process when we were all stuck inside wondering what would happen to theater.

 “Music can be really purposeful. As a healing concept, it’s perfect.”Sherry said.

“The Porch on Windy Hill” will be at Northlight Theatre in Skokie through May 14, 2023 before moving to Weston Theater in Vermont in August and Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, MA, April 2024.

Jodie Jacobs

For tickets and other information visit  Related:  The porch where music reconnects a family

 

 

The porch where folk music reconnects a family

 

The Porch on Windy Hill, Morgan Morse, Lisa Helmi Johanson, David M. Lutken. (Photo courtesy of Northlight)
The Porch on Windy Hill,
Morgan Morse, Lisa Helmi Johanson, David M. Lutken. (Photo courtesy of Northlight)

4 Stars

 Maybe I’m a sucker for how folk music tells stories of other cultures while also leading to life changing experiences.

I loved “Once” since seeing it downtown Chicago years ago and just recently at Writers Theatre in Glencoe.

Steeped in Irish folk music and movement, the play brings an Irish musician/songwriter back from the brink of self-destruction as “Girl” whom he meets, convinces him his music is listening-worthy.

Then, this weekend, I fell in love with “The Porch on Windy Hill,” a bluegrass musical presented by Northlight Theatre in Skokie.

The play reunites Mira, a classical violinist, with Edgar, her Appalachian grandfather, a noted blue-grass musician living in the North Carolina mountains.

Ostensibly, the reason they see each other again is because Mira’s partner Beckett’s doctoral dissertation is on folk music cultures and they needed a break from their Brooklyn apartment where they were cooped up during the pandemic.

Lisa Helmi Johanson, David M. Lutken, Morgan Morse in The Porch on Windy Hill
Lisa Helmi Johanson, David M. Lutken, Morgan Morse in The Porch on Windy Hill

All three characters are really fine musicians and Mira, played by Lisa Heimi Johanson, has a terrific voice. So basically, audiences are treated to an exceptional “wingding” or “hootenanny.” But there is a backstory.

Beckett, portrayed by Morgan Morse, keeps trying to get Mira to explain why there appears to be a disconnect between her and her grandfather, called “Gar,” played by David M. Lutken.

Clues are dropped along the way by Mira who is biracial as she notices some changes around the old homestead. When Gar mentions that new families are moving into the area, she wonders if and how they are accepted.

When pressed again by Beckett, Mira, whose mom is from Appalachia and whose father is Korean, finally said, “It’s complicated.” Later, she admitted she felt her grandfather didn’t approve of the union because of his behavior towards her and her family.

Conceived and directed by Sherry Lutken, “The Porch on Windy Hill,” was written by Sherry Lutken and its actors: Lisa Heimi Johanson, Morgan Morse and David M. Lutken.

Set designer Mara, Ishihara Zinky, came up with the perfect porch and housefront for the play’s joyful music and serious discussion. 

Details: “The Porch on Windy Hill” continues through May 14, 2023, at Northlight Theatre in the Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie. Running time: 2 hrs., 10 min. with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Northlight Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago