Wednesday
Jun202018

Well Strung: A Quartet with Entendres of Inspiration

This band’s brand is something unique, indeed. A zip through their albums and YouTube videos reveals an astonishing level of stylistic eclecticism and virtuosity, from fresh-spirited traversals of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to envelope-pushing fusions of Grieg’s First String Quartet with Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” and the down-home vocals of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” merged with bits of Bach. Listen to that last one and try to keep your feet still. “We don’t stick to any one genre,” Bagnell explains, “We pull from both a wide breadth of pop and a wide breadth of classical. We respond to music we like. Good music is good music, and if something speaks to our instrumentation and voices, we go for it.”

The ensemble’s artistic soul is probably best displayed in the pop–classical mashups they have amusingly dubbed “popssicals.” “Our first popssical was Kelly Clarkson mashed with Eine kleine Nachtmusik. They had a similar energy,” Bagnell remembers. “We have another with Taylor Swift and Aaron Copland. There was such joy in the Copland piece and fun in the Taylor Swift.” Sometimes their choices juxtapose in unexpected ways, as in a marvelous amalgam of the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria with Radiohead’s “Creep.” “We look for thematic elements, like this deeply religious music mashed up with ‘Creep,’ where a guy speaks about an unattainable woman with this almost obsessive, worshiping quality. They just kind of spoke to each other.”

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Tuesday
Jun192018

New Haute-ness: Ravinia opens the doors and floors of the Dining Pavilion with new cuisine from Chef Michael Tsonton

For many people, catching a show during Ravinia’s summer season is all about setting up blankets and tables, spreading out a picnic with wine and cheese, and hanging out with friends on the lawn while taking in a night of great music. But for many more, the Ravinia experience includes visiting one of the handful of restaurants onsite. With the 2018 concert season, which features a different act nearly every night through September 16, Executive Chef Michael Tsonton is introducing what he calls “micro-seasonal” dining, highlighting locally sourced ingredients on a continually fresh menu, keeping in line with the musical bills.

Even more exciting, Chef Tsonton will do this all with some brand-new concepts within the rejuvenated Dining Pavilion. On the ground floor, the new Lawn Bar and its two full bars will also serve small plates and entrées, and the Ravinia Market will feature five hot stations with different cuisines, as well as grab-and-go food and drinks. And the second floor is now home to both reservation-driven restaurants: the new Tree Top and its outdoor, covered Porch will offer a micro-seasonal prix-fixe menu in serve-yourself style, and the popular Park View will feature a refreshed menu. Ravinia Magazine spoke with Chef Tsonton about the new spaces, what makes him excited and his approach to seasonal cooking.

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Thursday
Jun072018

Building Bridges: The iron is hot for fusing jazz and classical in RSMI's composition competition

It was in the spirit of the intense and aspirational goals of RSMI’s ambitious programs for jazz and classical musicians—as well as the bold musical vision of Leonard Bernstein, whom Ravinia has just gotten underway celebrating with an expansive multiyear tribute—that Bridges, an international jazz and classical fusion composition competition, was born. It offered an imaginative challenge for artists ages 17–30 (the same age range as the 60–70 performers invited to RSMI each year) to compose original works specifically for a string quartet and a jazz trio. “The Bridges competition was conceived to help give young professionals a place on the map—if not the world stage—which is precisely what RSMI has been granting singers and instrumentalists for the past three decades,” Kauffman said. The directors of the RSMI Program for Jazz had long dreamed of such a competition, having written many works combining jazz and classical music and players themselves.

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Thursday
May312018

Pack Mentality: Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin Howls at the Band’s Unlikely Tracks of Success

Steve Berlin remembers exactly when he first heard the band that would come to define his career. But that first encounter 40 years ago was not a magical one. Things didn’t go so well for Los Lobos that night, and it wasn’t at all clear to Berlin that he would eventually join them and help the band evolve to a place of collective fame and fortune.

In 1978, Berlin was a young musician who’d left his hometown of Philadelphia to make his way into the music scene in Los Angeles. He was a session player and soon-to-be producer when he went to catch a punk show, headlined by Public Image, at an enormous venue. “It was at a boxing arena called the Olympic Auditorium,” Berlin recalls. With his penchant for blunt talk, he quickly adds some colorful descriptors: “It was a real shithole—just a horrific place for anything other than boxing.”

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Wednesday
May022018

Get Ready to buy Your 2018 Ravinia Tickets

Ticket Sales Split Up Over Two Days: To reduce customer wait times, June and July concerts will go on sale on at 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 8, and August and September concerts will join them at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 10, exclusively online at Ravinia.org. Make sure you share the new ticket sales dates and times with your Ravinia crew and mark your calendar.

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Tuesday
Apr032018

Remembering Jesus Christ Superstar at Ravinia in 1971


Ravinia favorite John Legend wowed audiences in NBC’s Easter-night, live concert production of the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Ravinia famously presented the groundbreaking musical on August 6 and 7, 1971, (read the
Chicago Tribune story) to what were then record-breaking audiences. One fan remembers the event.

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Monday
Oct022017

The Other Adams: Samuel Adams's Music Blends Multifarious Influencers

Several concerts on the just-concluded 2017 Ravinia season were devoted to the music of John Adams in celebration of the American composer laureate’s 70th birthday year. But there is another Adams in town, John’s son Samuel Adams, who is beginning his third and final season as composer-in-residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Along with co-composer-in-residence Elizabeth Ogonek, Adams is also co-curator of the CSO’s MusicNOW series, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this season.

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Tuesday
Sep262017

Music Was No Balm for L. Frank Baum

In 2005 and again in 2016, Ravinia audiences were treated to a screening of possibly the most beloved movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz, with the musical score performed live. But as old as that screen classic is—the film was released in 1939—it was not the earliest film adaptation of one of the 13 Oz novels that Lyman Frank Baum would eventually write. The earliest attempt was part of a project the author himself oversaw 31 years before Judy Garland sailed over the rainbow—and it was seen at Ravinia over a century ago.

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Friday
Sep082017

Robert Chen: The CSO Concertmaster Musters a solo concert

It's an oft-told tale. A little girl, attending her first live symphony concert, is enthralled by the imposing conductor waving a baton. She turns to her parents: “Mommy, Daddy, that’s what I want to do when I grow up.” A little boy, hearing a flute or a clarinet or a violin or a tuba for the first time, is mesmerized. He clamors for an instrument of his own. Decades later, that little boy and girl have become internationally acclaimed musicians accepting the applause of audiences from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia.

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Friday
Sep082017

Tim Fain and Nicholas Britell Bring Wide(screen) sounds with "Once Upon a Score"

Even just a decade or two ago, classical musicians might look back occasionally to the Baroque era or try out a new work, but most stuck to Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, and the genre’s other tried-and-true standard bearers. But today, many of the field’s younger generation of artists, who can access music from virtually any time or place in seconds on their iPhones, don’t feel nearly so confined. They might play a quartet by Ludwig van Beethoven one night and then join forces with an indie-rock band the next.

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