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Few creative partnerships in cinema have been as long-lasting or fruitful as the 20+ year collaboration between filmmaker auteur Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman. Haunting, eerie, at times chaotic and bizarre, ominous, melancholy, yet often soothing and serene: These words can be used to describe both the stark visual content of Burton's films as well as the dark drama of Elfman's music. Both artists have exquisitely distinctive styles that seamlessly breathe life into each other and -- luckily and miraculously -- are ultimately one in the same.
 
Last night, the Ravinia pavilion and lawn in Highland Park were flooded with the sounds and creations of these two artists by virtue of the talents of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lakeside Singers. A screen flashed clips from Burton's films ranging from 1988's Beetlejuice to 2012's Dark Shadows with a whole slew of others in between. Also shown were dozens of Burton's drawings of various characters, often followed by the live action scenes of those very characters, showing how vibrantly his original twisted creative vision is portrayed in the final polished work.
 
 
And of course, there was the cinematic, stunning music. The program consisted of thirteen suites (an intentional and apropos number) from Elfman's vast catalogue of musical scores. With the powerful music booming through the pavilion, even without the aid of the screen I could see the horrific clown dream sequence from Pee-wee's Big Adventure, the Penguin rising from the dank sewers into a foggy Gotham, the colorful confections of Willie Wonka's factory, the deranged headless horseman in pursuit of a petrified Ichabod Crane, the impossibly skinny form of Jack Skellington sprinting excitedly through the bright cheerful lights of Christmastown, and, in my favorite of the Burton + Elfman + Depp collaborations, I could practically feel the snowy chill in the air during the ice dance sequence from Edward Scissorhands
 
All the suites were performed beautifully by the always flawless CSO, conducted by Ted Sperling, with the Lakeside Singers choir complementing the orchestra with background vocals and unearthly soprano "oooh"s. Gorgeous, intricate piano was in the spotlight for "Victor's Piano Solo" from Corpse Bride, frenzied violin for the hair-cutting sequence from Edward Scissorhands, and, by far the most non-traditional instrument of the night, the theremin (an electronic musical instrument played by manipulating the frequencies with one's hand -- without physically touching it at all) created a high-pitched tone so weird and uncanny you almost expected to see UFO saucers descending from the night sky.Yes, the CSO pulled out all the stops, neglecting not even Mars Attacks!, decidedly the most obscure of Burton-Elfman creations.
 
Too sadly, this was a one-night performance, though it could surely draw in crowds for months and even years if an extended run was possible. While you cannot see the show in person anymore, I wish every Burton fan the same experience as I had. 
Here I've compiled a playlist of some of the songs from the concert. Listen and enjoy while scrolling through Burton's artwork for an immersive Burton-Elfman experience. I'm sure you will agree with the sentiment from Johnny Depp's program note that "Tim and Danny are a match made in the stars."
 
For more information on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, look at their event page or visit the box office at 220 S Michigan Ave.
Published in Theatre Reviews
Monday, 21 July 2014 19:00

A little Heaven on Earth

 

Ravinia is just gorgeous. For those of us who desire quality, and those of you who need some, Ravinia is truly a little Heaven on Earth. As the longest running music festival in the United States, as well as the most highly esteemed outdoor music festival in Illinois, travelers from around the world make it a destination. Tradition preserves the integrity that makes visiting this historic park something you want to share with intimate reverence.

The famous Ravinia lawn seats up to 15,000 and the main pavillion offers seating of 3500 with a second pavillion also on site. Lawn screens and courteous surroundings ensure you will enjoy the experience surrounded by lush grounds and conscientious attendees.

Thousands of visitors set up their own tables, some quite elaborately, decorating with candles and enjoying the unique experience of being able to bring their own food, wine, and creature comforts to enhance the entire show experience. The communal touch will have a lifelong impact on you and your guests. Ravinia has become a tradition that the passionate organizers take great pride in. 

Nestled in Highland Park, rich with towering trees ambient lighting artwork and the most exceptional artists in the world along with very respectful patrons and an air of what Heaven on Earth could be in the great company of others, Ravinia is accessible from all directions and has shuttle busses and it's very own train stop to make planning your day there a pleasant experience. 

This night was particularly special. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was playing a live score to the 1961 film West Side Story. With an attentive quiet courteous audience, and a sound ambiance you have to experience, the charm of Ravinia's grounds will inspire you and your guests as you attend their Summer of Love.

WST copy

 

At one point my guest leans over to me and whispers " they don't dance like that anymore", to which we quietly conspired about how passionate the performances were, how expressive, colorful, just something you rarely see in film, stage, or life for that matter these days, and it had so much to do with the marvelous atmosphere, live symphony offering the movie score as it was intended to absorb, and rich performance elements that make Ravinia unmatched.

Imagine hearing a live soundtrack by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to a film as it was created and intended to impact the senses. The film was originally designed around the score of a symphony, so there is no other way to reignite the magic of the film and it's story.

Aromatic violins and rich strings flowing right through you as your eyes capture the art of the story, where everyone around you is as deeply focused. The communal attention is unique and something that Ravinia can proudly say attracts the most engaged and intelligent patrons from around the world. Ravinia is really a social epicenter, and you can feel the sense of togetherness that carries throughout the park. The non-profit venue is as close as it gets to a utopian spirit in grand scale, from the music to the park itself.

WST2 copy

Heart, John Maher, Train, Billy Corgan, Itzhak Perlman, and a list of extraordinary entertainers are scheduled for upcoming shows coming this August. There are also children's events, additional movie nights like The Lord of The Rings Return of The King ( with live Chicago Symphony Orchestra )- ever-fitting for such a grand work. 

Ravinia Calendar

Expect to see tables with elaborate setups that you will not see at any other venue. That night we brought along a variety of Sushi and fresh fruit as well as Raspberry Tea. Popcorn never entered my mind after hearing such great things about the Ravinia experience. I was asked if I was bringing wine and cheese. In planning my visit, as I discovered that the train stop was right at the entrance of the park, I realized this was a very special destination. The setting is one-of-a-kind.

What is outstanding and unique about Ravinia is how charming the lawn atmosphere is, how subtle kinetic and communal it is to be there with thousands of respectful patrons that bring their own tables and chairs, candles, as well as elaborate food and drink arrangements. There is no comparison to Ravinia and it's excellent attention to detail over the fortified tradition that it honors. As the oldest music festival in the United States, a venue that features the greatest artists of our time, Ravinia created a special memory for us that already has me looking forward to another deep enriching experience there. 

There are extraordinary events for children, likely the most enriching you may share and attend with them this Summer Season. Lord of The Rings is one of the upcoming shows so imagine how grand the experience will be with one of the most famous orchestras on Earth accompanying it for you. This is an element and dimension of story telling that only the producers and directors themselves have seen in bringing it to life

Ravinia is host to the most famous and spirit enriching forms of art and entertainment available. Enjoy! 

Watch Ravinia's Season Preview Here.

Ravinia

Photography by Leaha White

 

 

 

 

 

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