Ravinia Magazine

Don't Blink: Unintimidated, Lila Downs Casts Danger to the Wind


Lila Downs sings in many languages, but her listeners need only be fluent in the language of the heart to understand her.

You can hear it throughout her new release, Salón Lágrimas y Deseo (Room of Tears and Desire), just released at the end of May. “It’s also the most emotional album we’ve ever done,” Downs observes. “It’s not from the brain; it’s from the heart. And”—she adds with a modest chuckle—“from below.”

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Rewind: June 17, 1957

You can’t miss it. Nestled in the center of Ravinia and gazing upon the festival’s grand entrance is the Martin Theatre, the immaculate Arts and Crafts–style concert hall that has stood since the park first opened in 1904. But over Ravinia’s 113-year history, it hasn’t always been a stage for the premier chamber musicians—and even small orchestras—of the world. During the first decade of the park’s existence, it was largely used for motion pictures.

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Pixel Perfect: Become virtually part of the music in The Virtual Orchestra

In today’s high-tech world of digital sampling and music streaming, the symphony orchestra is a wonderful if curious anachronism, with many of its instruments and much of its repertoire dating back centuries. Even for regular attendees of symphony concerts, the alchemy of how 80 to 100 or more diverse musicians come together under a conductor to produce one coordinated body of sound remains something of a mystery.

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He's Good: Andy Grammer Has Become More Than A Guy With A Guitar

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.

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Squeezing Out Of The Box: Ksenija Sidorova Adds To The Classical Tradition Of The Accordion

An hour’s conversation with Ksenija Sidorova flies right on by. The comely, Latvian-born accordion virtuoso may be a darling of the contemporary classical music industry, with appearances in A-list concert halls and, as of this year, a lucrative recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon to her credit, but she is also a refreshingly down-to-earth charmer.

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The Management Regrets... but is sometimes witness to history in the making

It happens all the time. A famous, beloved artist falls ill (or, as is sometimes the unpleasant case, gets what may be regarded as a better offer). It even happens at Ravinia. A famous, beloved artist cancels, and management scrambles for an appropriate replacement.

Some cases become memorable, star-making events. Other cases are quickly, even mercifully, forgotten.

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Rewind: July 25, 1936


July 25, 1936: George Gershwin's Sole Ravinia Performance

After the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took residence at Ravinia on July 3, 1936, perhaps the next great highlight of that summer came just a few weeks later. Thousands descended upon the freshly reinaugurated festival in hopes of seeing—but most certainly for the chance to hear—the inimitable pianist, composer, and songwriter George Gershwin.

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On the Fly: Jorge Federico Osorio Made Highland Park the Home of His International Career

Jorge Federico Osorio is a classical artist with an international career. Born in Mexico, he could make his home anywhere. Yet after living in New York City for seven years, followed by London for another 11, he chose Highland Park, IL, to be the place where he and his wife, Sylvana, put down their roots and raised their two sons, Dario and Santiago.

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Something In The Way He Blues: Buddy Guy Keeps Chicago's Blues Electrifying

The first time Buddy Guy came to Ravinia, it was as an audience member to see George Benson. “I got there and they looked at me and said, ‘Buddy, we’ve been trying to get you for years!’” Guy recalled in a recent exchange for Ravinia magazine.

In 1999, the festival got him. “It took me a long time to get to a venue like that,” Guy reflected. “I’d play with Junior [Wells] in the early days at Navy Pier, or over by the lake with Stevie [Ray Vaughan], and I imagined those were the biggest places I’d ever play. But they finally got me and I’ve done quite a few shows there since then. I love playing Ravinia, man.”

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Nothing But 'Net: Anthony McGill is Soaring on the (Wood)wind

When clarinetist Anthony McGill visits Ravinia on July 15 to perform the Brahms Clarinet Quintet with the Takács String Quartet, the occasion will be the latest of numerous homecomings the Chicago native has enjoyed since he left the nest for the Interlochen Music Academy and the Curtis Institute of Music many years ago. Originally from the Chatham neighborhood on the city’s South Side, McGill and his unlikely rise to the summit of the clarinet world was fueled by a supreme talent, supportive family, several key local mentors, and an unflagging determination.

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Learning to Fly: Janni Younge Makes a New "Firebird" With No Strings Attached

Janni Younge believes passionately in the power of puppetry. Although the centuries-old art form might seem passé in a world where video games and other online diversions are available in seconds, she believes it is even more needed than ever as a tangible antidote to such high-tech escapism. “People are relating to a very ancient instinct,” says the South African puppetmaker, “which is to enjoy the animation of an inanimate object. Particularly in contemporary puppetry, where you see the performers creating life in a thing that is clearly not alive, there is a kind of electricity that happens. We relate to it on a very primal level.”

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Fiddling Around: Wynton Marsalis Trumpets Human Connections in His Violin Concerto for Nicola Benedetti

Legendary trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis has worn many musical hats across his remarkable career. Thus, the idea that Ravinia would co-commission a concerto from a guy who studied at Juilliard and performed Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto with his hometown New Orleans Philharmonic when he was a mere 14 years old is not so strange.

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