On Sunday evening, the world tuned in for music’s biggest night, with past Ravinia stars highlighting the winners’ list and performing center stage! Congratulations to Chucho Valdés, Dolly Parton, Fantastic Negrito, James Conlon, John Scofield, John Williams, Lalah Hathaway, Ted Nash, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble, and Zuill Bailey on their monumental Grammy wins!
In 1966, LBJ was president, miniskirts were quickly gaining popularity, and Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" became a hit. This was also the year that WBKB aired The Sound of Ravinia, an hour-long television special that showcased the many sides of Ravinia including classical, jazz, opera, pop, and folk music. It aired on Thursday, August 11, and contains footage from four separate concert dates.
The covers of Ravinia's programs from its opening in 1904 through the 1930s were gorgeous “mini-posters” designed by well-known Chicago-area illustrators. I’d run across them in used bookstores and junk shops, where they were usually mixed in with old magazines and comic books. By the time I left for college, I’d been able to gather together most of the run. You’ll notice names like Hamilton King, James McCracken, Stark Davis, and intaglio artist Allan Weary. There’s also a 1930 program cover designed/illustrated by then Chicagoan Hal Foster, who was between Tarzan strip assignments.
There is something magical in viewing vintage advertisements, especially from the ’50s and ’60s. From the photographic/illustrative choices to the verbal style of the copy, it’s possible to get a small sense of what culture was like back then. Ravinia’s old program books contain a wealth of these vintage advertisements, with companies pitching such varied products as stereos, records, fashion, pianos, jewelry, and more. Some make overt references to Ravinia, many containing photographs or illustrations of the park itself to make the Ravinia connection that much stronger. The selections in this post focus on these very ads.
August at Ravinia has seen a number of high-profile artists and happenings which our fantastic audience graciously documented through social media. Below are some of our favorite moments from the end of Ravinia's 2016 season.
As a classical musician, there is nothing I hate more than people ridiculing my art. When the only representations of opera singers in the media are fat, sweaty tenors and sopranos the size of battle cruisers, you tend to be pessimistic as to whether or not it is possible to portray a passion for classical music in a way that a modern audience would find inspiring.
In the most unorthodox way, Florence Foster Jenkins proves that classical music, though often seen as stuffy and alienating, stems from a burning adoration for the art of bringing music to life.
Because I was a still very young, I chafed at the appropriation of harpsichord music by pianists—especially since I was studying harpsichord—and it seemed rather obvious to me that one ought to perform music on the instrument for which it was composed. This was the bedrock assumption of the “original instrument” school of “authentic” performance practice, which was just beginning to go mainstream at the time and which today dominates the field of Baroque music performance. What I’ve learned since then, however, is that the whole subject is far more complex than it first seemed to me.
Regardless of the genre they ultimately become associated with, most musicians worth their salt can cite a varied list of influences that helped create the performer they’ve become. And surely Bonnie Raitt’s list is as eclectic as they come.
“Any artist should be so lucky to have one song in their career that people still want to hear,” singer-musician Seal intoned in a 2015 interview with Details magazine.
He was, of course, speaking of “Kiss from a Rose,” the multimillion-selling, triple Grammy-winning pop hit from the soundtrack of the 1995 film Batman Forever that changed his life.
Before Andy Grammer made his national debut in 2011, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist was at turns getting a crash course on entertaining a crowd from his father, Red Grammer (a Grammy-nominated children’s recording artist), or busking on the streets of Santa Monica, hoping to be discovered. And once he was, the floodgates of fame flew wide open, from the platinum-selling smash “Keep Your Head Up” and its equally contagious follow-up “Fine by Me,” to tour dates alongside Train, Gavin DeGraw, Colbie Caillat, Plain White T’s, Natasha Bedingfield, Mat Kearney, and Parachute, among others.