Every Monday morning, Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman boldly goes to the WGN TV studios for the on-air “Ravinia Minute” with announcer Mike Toomey. He previews the events Ravinia offers in the coming week. This week, his delivery was "Spock on” as he got into character to discus the Aug. 16 presentation of J.J. Abrams’s 2009 Star Trek, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing the score live. See what it takes for an Earthbound CEO to beam up to the Enterprise.
Need to get some work done? Going on a road trip? Just want to kick back and relax? Our versatile Coffee Shop playlist is a mellow mix of acoustic tracks by this season’s artists that is the perfect background music to make you roll up your sleeves or un-tuck your shirt and enjoy the day.
Perhaps the question I’m asked most frequently is, how far in advance does Ravinia book its artists? This one came up twice this week; oddly enough, on the Ravinia grounds. The answer is...
“Once you put a little distance between the ’90s and what is being done right now, those times start becoming cool again,” claims McGrath, who believes that Sugar Ray might have another hit in their future.
So I am always happy to tackle the question posed to me this week at Back Yard Grill: Why does Ravinia even have a gala?
The traditions of jazz and classical music have enjoyed parallel histories but relatively few intersections. Yet players from Benny Goodman to Wynton Marsalis have famously commuted between the two realms, and composers from George Gershwin to Duke Ellington to Leonard Bernstein have negotiated areas of artistic agreement that have linked certain of their traditions in often exciting ways, creating the bedrock of symphonic jazz.
I would like someday to give a lecture or write an article making a case for disliking classical music—at least some of it. I fear that people new to classical music may hear something they really detest and, not knowing the infinite variety of classical music, incorrectly conclude that they don’t like any classical music at all. But just about everyone, no matter how knowledgeable or devoted to music, must admit that there are portions of the repertoire they don’t enjoy.
In my case, there are numerous swaths of the classical repertoire that simply don’t appeal to me. Most pertinent at present, I don’t like Wagner.
So on ghastly summer days with 99-degree heat and 99 percent humidity, that's where I went in my imagination. Lying on my bed, I would put Scheherazade on the phonograph while nibbling grapes and sipping lemonade, as if I were the Persian ruler to whom the stories were being told. It didn't dispel the heat, of course, but somehow, in that setting, the climate seemed more natural and bearable--at least for as long as the music lasted.
But music is a living art. And no matter how glorious its past, in order to be fully alive, it must be constantly replenished by sounds that reflect the world as it is today, not as it was 300 or even 75 years ago. This season’s Ravinia schedule includes a range of artists who will be playing the music of the here and now as well as masters of the past.
Everyone knows that the key to a good run is a good playlist. Our newest mixtape mirrors your workout by starting off slow, like a warm-up, and slowly building into a full sprint of great tracks by this season’s artists. It will be sure to keep you moving while simultaneously enjoying the Ravinia summer sound.
In this column I like to address real questions about Ravinia Festival posed to me by fellow Highland Parkers who I bump into at various locations around town. It seems a lot of these questions have been building up over the winter, so now that summer is here (or as Ravinia says, “summer is hear”), here are the top 10 questions so far:
Seth MacFarlane is jazzed.
Hollywood’s most prolific hyphenate (animator–director–writer–voice artist–actor–producer) is taking time this summer to indulge in another of his passions—
In looking back over my years at Ravinia, it is almost impossible to gather my thoughts in a linear fashion. The memories are so many; the musical experiences so rich, varied and exciting; the immense presence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra so monumental, that it is difficult to condense into words.
Since I became music director of the CSO’s residency in 2005, I have been struck by how many music lovers I have met around the country and even overseas, who have told me that they heard their first concerts at Ravinia.
I recently had one of those conversations that only occur between opera lovers and non-classical-music-loving friends. I mentioned having attended a performance of Debussy’s opera Pélleas et Mélisande with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, an offering in their recent French festival. “An opera?” my friend asked, with a puzzled look. “Don’t operas have to be in Italian?”
“When you make a record on a major label, especially if you’re not a huge artist, you end up having to make demos. A lot of demos. When you record a song more than once, it loses something every time. I really loved getting to make a record where those moments—albeit less refined than if we’d worked them out—those moments sound like the songs still had control over us, as opposed to the other way around.”
There is something about growing up and living in the Midwest. There is something about the mentality of the people that live here, the passion in which they live their lives, and the consistent way in which they continue to plow on as the world around them changes and evolves.
There is something about the Plain White T’s that make them awfully like us.
To today’s audiences, who have heard nearly two centuries of music after the Symphonie fantastique received its premiere in 1830, Berlioz’s music sounds safe, melodious, beautiful, and brilliantly constructed, but nowhere near as jaw-droppingly shocking as it did to its first audience.
When Disney released Fantasia in 1940, it was so revolutionary in its scope, design, and use of technology that few knew what to make of it. Critics, often an impatient lot when confounded, mostly shunned it, as it fit no particular category. Was it a highfalutin cartoon, an animated anthology for longhairs, or a music-appreciation lesson for lovers of Mickey