Students of Sistema Ravinia were in the presence of greatness on Wednesday as Gustavo Dudamel, who had his musical beginnings in El Sistema in Venezuela and inspired a character on Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle, watched their performance. Maestro Dudamel then hopped onstage to conduct the young musicians and impart some wisdom for their artistic journey ahead.
When Leonard Bernstein’s Mass was christened at the much-anticipated 1971 opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the 1¾-hour work faced a negative onslaught from critics. Typical were Harold Schonberg’s dismissive comments in the New York Times: “It is a pseudo-serious effort at rethinking the Mass that basically is, I think, cheap and vulgar. It is a show-biz Mass, the work of a musician who desperately wants to be with it.”
But in the nearly five decades since the piece’s premiere, the classical music world has become much more accustomed to the kind of stylistic cross-pollination that runs through Mass, and views have significantly changed about Bernstein the composer. Since his death in 1990, many of his works that had been downplayed or set aside have found renewed attention and respect. Indeed, virtually everything he wrote is being heard this year among hundreds (if not thousands) of concerts worldwide celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth.
The Republic of Macedonia is among the smaller nations of Europe, so it’s not surprising that few of its musicians have reached the highest ranks in the classical music firmament. Described by The Guardian as “wondrously talented,” pianist Simon Trpčeski is the most notable exception, and Chicago audiences have been fortunate to hear his consummate artistry many times over the past decade.
In 2008, the pianist made his made his Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut in Orchestra Hall with conductor Ludovic Morlot performing the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1, an event he recalls with great fondness. “The CSO is one of the top orchestras in the world, and its clear, transparent, and powerful sound is a motivation for every artist. We played four concerts, and it was amazing to constantly experience the high professionalism of the musicians as well as the wonderful reaction of the audience.”
The theme to Raiders ranks as one of Williams’s most iconic works. Spielberg credits its success to the composer’s sense of timing and restraint. “He sparingly uses it,” Spielberg elaborated. “When he uses it, it allows us to root for the hero. When he doesn’t use it, we are worried about our hero. He’s so wise as to when to release the main theme.”
When creating his movie music magic, Williams eschews computers. He uses pencils, paper, and a piano. Sometimes, Spielberg quietly pays a visit to the composer and hints for a status report. “If I feel like I’ve got something for him, I’ll play a few notes,” Williams said. “I can always tell by his eyes, his facial expression, his voice, if he’s unsure, if he dislikes it, or likes it. The great thing is that he always leaves happy.”
Christine Taylor Conda, Director of the Reach*Teach*Play music education programs at Ravinia, has been named Chair of the El Sistema USA board of directors for a one-year term. The mission of El Sistema USA is to support and grow a nationwide movement of programs inspired by El Sistema—the immersive music education process originally developed in Venezuela that puts instruments into the hands of children to begin playing in orchestras immediately—to effect social change through music for children with the fewest resources and the greatest need. Taylor Conda has been a member of El Sistema USA’s board for two years.
Ravinia President & CEO Welz Kauffman dropped by the NBC5 Chicago studios to discuss with Kye Martin the importance of the festival’s Reach*Teach*Play education programs to the development of young students. Over 85,000 community members are served through Ravinia’s RTP Programs each year, ensuring that music education remains accessible to all. The programs are designed to educate, foster diverse audience involvement, and provide the population with equitable access to live music experiences in their communities and at Ravinia.
One of the immortal composers of classical music, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, will join the ranks of such LGBT icons as Alan Turing and Sylvia Rivera with a biographical memorial in Chicago’s award-winning outdoor LGBT History Museum “The Legacy Walk.” Sponsored by Ravinia Festival, Ravinia Board Chairman Jennifer Steans, Illinois State Senator Heather Steans (7th District Democrat), and Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman and husband Jon Teeuwissen, the Tchaikovsky exhibit will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, on the Legacy Walk, which spans 3245–3705 Halsted St., Chicago. Award-winning jazz pianist-composer-accordionist Ben Rosenblum will give a street performance at the dedication and will make his Ravinia debut later that night. A “Dedication Celebration” will follow the installation at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., Chicago.
With the recent soaring temperatures, we want you to remain safe while enjoying the nature of our outdoor venue. On sweltering days, Ravinia provides a cooling station in the Santa Fe Tent where lawn guests can relax. Patrons are also encouraged to escape the heat in our climate-controlled Lawn Bar. Learn more about heat safety here.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to rehydrate.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks. These can lead to dehydration and increase the effects of heat illness.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated.
Two of Ravinia’s coming artists were given smashing notices in the New York Times last week. Performing on July 28 in the Street Chorus for Mass is Mykal Kilgore, who was hailed “a knockout performance” in Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World at New York City Center. Kilgore was last seen in the Windy City as Simon in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera. His other theater credits include Motown: the Musical and Hair on Broadway, as well as the first national tour of The Book of Mormon. He has also appeared on screen with roles in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar and The Wiz Live and the film Collateral Beauty.
In a review of Tony Award nominee Melissa Errico’s most recent role as Daisy Gamble in On a Clear Day, the paper gushed, “Any chance to hear Errico sing is a chance worth taking.” You have two opportunities to take that chance on September 8, when Errico appears in Ravinia’s most intimate hall in back-to-back performances on the $10 BGH Classics series. Other Broadway luminaries that have performed on the annual series include Jonathan Groff (Hamilton, Frozen) and Laura Benanti (Meteor Shower, The Good Wife, Nashville). You may never have the chance to see a rising Broadway star this affordably ever again!
Half a century ago years ago, four mop-topped lads from Liverpool released one of the greatest records of all time. Stuffed with classics, from the dreamy psychedelia of “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” to the pioneering production of “A Day In The Life,” Sgt. Pepper broke boundaries at every turn. Click here to read 11 facts about the album you have never heard before—you won’t be able to contain your giggles at number five! Sing along to the songs of the The Beatles when Classic Albums Live plays the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album note for note, cut for cut this Saturday night.
Ahead of last week’s Classical BRIT Awards, broadcaster Classic FM published a list of 30 classical artists under age 30 across the instrumental spectrum that have been captivating concert stages, including two of the big winners that night, saxophonist Jess Gillam and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who also made headlines last month with his performance at the royal wedding.
The list contained a few more familiar names: accordionist Ksenija Sidorova, who returns to Ravinia on July 3 in the Martin Theatre after a pair of sellout BGH concerts last summer, and violinist Ray Chen, who makes his own return in the Martin on July 25 following plaudits from his CSO debut at the festival last summer. (“Chen takes a back seat to no fiddler when it comes to lofting long lyrical lines … his fast vibrato lending expressive intensity to the phrasing,” said the Chicago Tribune.)
Also featured were pianists Lucas Debargue, who brought a pair of signature programs to his Chicago debut in BGH in 2016, and Benjamin Grosvenor and Daniil Trifonov, who electrified their Chicago debuts on the same stage in 2013 and 2012 respectively.
As a touring band, The Beatles visited Chicago three times in the 1960s to play at two South Side venues that no longer exist: the International Amphitheatre (1964 and 1966) and Comiskey Park (1965). But in a way, the Fab Four have been in the Chicago area for decades. That’s because John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s personal handiwork is residing at Northwestern University’s music library in Evanston. The library refers to the collection as the Beatles Manuscripts—they comprise handwritten lyric sheets for seven songs The Beatles released in 1965 and 1966.
Specifically, the library holds the original lyric sheets for six songs from the 1966 album Revolver: “Eleanor Rigby,” “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “And Your Bird Can Sing,” and “For No One,” as well as the lyrics for “The Word” from 1965’s Rubber Soul. Go behind the glass with Chicago Tonight for a rare look at the historic manuscripts, and experience the music of The Beatles’ groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band live when it is performed note for note, cut for cut by Classic Albums Live on July 7.
June is Pride Month, and Ravinia is celebrating all summer long with a diverse lineup of both LGBT stars and allies. Tonight, catch YouTube stars Well-Strung performing universally recognized classical pieces while singing pop music hits from the likes of Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, and other stars for a uniquely engaging experience. Learn more about the “singing string quartet” in an interview with Ravinia Magazine here.
On Sunday, you can go back to “seventeen” and experience the legendary Janis Ian. Additional LGBT artists with upcoming performances include Alan Cumming, Michael Feinstein, and Boy George. Our Bernstein Centennial celebration will highlight the career of America’s most famous (gay) composer, and we will host the Chicago premiere of Considering Matthew Shepard, a piece that explores the life and death of the gay martyr to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy that spawned the Hate Crimes Act.
Where can I grab a burger? What Ravinia swag can I buy at The Festival Shop? And where is the bathroom!? For all these answers and more, look no further than our Hospitality Hosts, easily identifiable by their red “Ask me about Ravinia” aprons.
But if we’ve piqued your interest already, here are the answers to those questions:
1. Hit up 847 Burger in the market for our signature 8.47-ounce, 100% Angus beef chuck burger, cooked to perfection and topped with hand-sliced smoked brisket, melted cheddar, Texas sweet BBQ sauce, and fried pickles.
2. Sweatshirts and blankets, light-up hats, picnic gear galore and more!
3. There are four buildings with bathrooms along the perimeter of the park.
Three of Beethoven’s seismic symphonies are featured on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia residency this summer, and Alsop heads up the pack on July 14 with the world-moving Ninth, featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus and soloists soprano Tamara Wilson, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, tenor Paul Appleby, and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green. Gustavo Dudamel makes his eagerly awaited debut leading the Seventh on July 18 with an all-Beethoven program that also features his longtime, equally starry collaborator Yuja Wang performing the First Piano Concerto. Last, but not least, of Ravinia’s triptych is the Fifth, fated to be feted in the hands of Vasily Petrenko on August 4.
When pianist Inon Barnatan returns to Ravinia on July 21, he’ll be there to extend the history of an institution. The festival has been hosting a high-spirited, evening-long celebration of Tchaikovsky every season for now 40 years. The Russian composer’s tuneful, dramatic ballets and symphonies are among the world’s most beloved classical pieces, and every year since the early ’80s, Ravinia’s “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” has ended with a rousing version of the 1812 Overture, complete with live cannons. This summer, for the first time, the ever-popular event occupies a full weekend, July 21–22, with concerts featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ken-David Masur. The Violin Concerto—with Miriam Fried, the venerable, 25-year lion of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, as soloist—is the centerpiece for July 22, the traditional Sunday concert, and Israeli-born Barnatan is joining the CSO as soloist in the First Piano Concerto.
“I thought, what I want for the Ravinia audience, if we can pull it off, is somebody who’s going to see the full picture of Bernstein, had a personal relationship with him and can conduct the stuff like crazy. I want somebody who I enjoy talking to. There’s selfishness to it, I guess. I’ve just always found her to be extraordinary,” says Kauffman, who was an artistic administrator with the New York Philharmonic when Alsop made her guest-conducting debut there in December 1999 as part of an Aaron Copland festival.
In addition to holding a succession of conducting posts, including her current roles as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra in Brazil, Alsop has followed Bernstein’s beat as an articulate spokeswoman and innovative advocate for classical music. She has also been a leading champion of his music; a boxed set of her complete Bernstein recordings on the Naxos label was released earlier this year. As a testament to her multifaceted accomplishments, she is the only conductor to win a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”—an honor she received in 2005.
Once rehearsals began for the new tour, Stirling almost instantaneously realized that it would be quite the experience. “I have never co-headlined with anyone, so I went to an Evanescence show, and it was very different. I think we are definitely going to be looking to take a page out of each other’s books, especially when we see that both ways work,” says Stirling, who is no stranger to crossing performing practices, having finished as the runner-up on Season 25 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars teamed up with dance pro Mark Ballas. “It will be a different experience for anyone coming to this concert because there will truly be these seamless transitions between rock and electronic and classical. People are going to be blown away.”
Add that to the fact that the tour will be backed by a full orchestra, and it literally gives her a case of the goose bumps. “The orchestra is going to add this amazing layer behind my wooden violin,” says Stirling, who already raises hairs on YouTube, where her audience continues to make her one of the most influential musicians online. “There is a real vibration that you will be able to feel within your soul, especially in an outdoor venue. Physically you will be able to feel it.”
“It makes you focus on a completely different part of your performance. I have a lot more stage to truly focus on musicianship, which is cool, but it’s also kind of scary because it’s very vulnerable. There are moments during the show that are very raw and quiet. You just have to embrace that silence and be totally comfortable in your own skin, focus and make something beautiful. I think for me this show is a lot more focused on the emotional side—I can’t help but get choked up almost every night at some point.”
Although Lee is an enthralling entertainer who can command a stage of any size, she’s also incredibly relatable as a songwriter who isn’t afraid to bare her soul on record or before a live audience. Selecting from her catalogue of songs for either incarnation of Synthesis was literally like going back through her diary, from her teens through getting married and becoming a mother in young adulthood, but the symphonic setting and ongoing reactions from listeners finally allowed her to embrace even the oldest entries.