Ravinia Artists Use Virtual Reality In Creative Ways

By David Rodriguez

With the technology surrounding it getting less and less expensive, virtual reality is quickly becoming the new trend for musicians and artists looking to create unique experiences both in their concerts and music videos. This summer, Ravinia will dip its toes in as well with the Philharmonia Orchestra’s “Virtual Orchestra” experience, available July 11–23 as a free in-park event for concertgoers. Viewers will be able to experience a 360-degree 3D video and audio performance of the third movement of Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5 via VR headsets.

If you’ve never experienced VR before, you can get a sense of what the experience is like by taking a look at the 360-degree videos available online on YouTube. A number of 2017 Ravinia artists have created VR experiences, and the 360 feature on YouTube allows you to click and drag the video to pan around in a complete circle, simulating the VR experience. See how your favorite Ravinia artists are using this new medium:

Technical Tips: Note that the 360-degree videos don’t work in all web browsers. Please be sure you are using an updated browser that supports HTML5. And make sure you’re seeing the video in the highest quality possible by adjusting the resolution from the “gear” icon in the lower-right-hand corner. The default resolution can look blocky or pixellated.


Leslie Odom Jr. (360 video)

Known for playing the role of Aaron Burr in the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, the Tony and Grammy Award–winning actor/singer Leslie Odom Jr. makes his Ravinia debut on Sunday, August 13. In this 360 video, Odom literally takes center stage with his Hamilton castmates to deliver an immersive rendition of “Wait for It.”


La La Land (360 video)

While on the topic of musicals, one of the most talked-about movie nights for 2017 is La La Land in Concert on Sunday, June 18. La La Land is responsible for thousands of internet memes and fan-created content, but this VR experience by internet celebrity Sam Tsui is so good it feels like an official production.


Joshua Bell (normal video)

When the folks at Sony needed an artist to collaborate with for their new VR gaming headset, they reached out to classical violinist Joshua Bell for a live studio performance of Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No. 1 in full 360-degree VR. In the video below, Bell talks about his involvement, and the team describes the cutting-edge tech behind a deceptively simple video. Joshua Bell will perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday, July 12.


OneRepublic (360 video)

Surely the future of VR will be the ability to experience a live concert in the comfort of your own home, but in the meantime, the tech has been responsible for some very cool takes on the music video genre. OneRepublic’s video for their song “Kids” is a fantastic example of how to use VR creatively, with something eye-catching in every corner and the entire video done in only one take. Catch them at Ravinia on Friday, July 14, or Saturday, July 15.


Pentatonix (360 video)

Grammy Award–winning a cappella group Pentatonix earned widespread notoriety for their covers of pop songs and a number of Christmas tunes, so it’s not surprising that their first foray into VR would be with a cover of the Christmas classic “Up on the Housetop.” Pentatonix teamed up with the folks over at LEGO to create this fun, colorful VR experience. You can hear their powerful vocal harmonies at Ravinia on Monday, August 28.


Gustavo Dudamel (360 video)

In this VR video experience, you are transported to the stage of Los Angeles’s Walt Disney Concert Hall for a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by music and artistic director Gustavo Dudamel. Hearing the iconic opening of Beethoven’s timeless Symphony No. 5 is a treat for the ears, and the digital visualizations that accompany the video are a treat for your eyes. Dudamel makes his Ravinia debut on Thursday, September 14, leading the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela.


John Legend (normal video)

John Legend recently made headlines for his collaboration with Baobab Studios on a VR series called Rainbow Crow. Legend will lend his voice to the title character as well as executive produce the series. John Legend will put the 2017 Ravinia season into high gear on Saturday, June 10.