Theatre

Buzz News Chicago: Theatre and Concert Reviews

Expectations for what you might see in a concert are not always what turn out to be the reality of the situation. On my way to Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, I knew I was going to see two legendary guitar players in their respective fields. Let’s just say any preconceived notions I may have had regarding a strong showing by Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck were dismissed several times throughout this fine Sunday evening.

 

First, I assumed Buddy Guy would be opening for Jeff Beck. However, Beck took the stage first, opening with a track from his latest release Loud Hail. The song starts, vocals are heard, but no one on stage is singing. Then a woman dressed in what could be described as some kind of military uniform singing through a megaphone appears as she strolls down the aisle. She eventually gets on stage and joins the band. Now, this really wasn’t that strange for a Jeff Beck show. He has been dabbling in different genres most of his career.

 

Beck alternated between new album cuts and some of his classics like Freeway Jam. Somewhere around the fifth or sixth song a different vocalist appears and to the crowd’s approval, it was veteran Jimmy Hall who has worked with Jeff many times. Their performance of “Morning Dew” was highly inspiring and raised some goose bumps on Beck’s avid fans in attendance. “Morning Dew” was written during the turbulent 1960’s with a post apocalyptic theme. There seemed to be a bit of a theme during the show. I have always considered Jeff Beck to be a man of peace, and he conveyed this subtle message in his selections.

 

As for Beck’s guitar playing? Well, a musician in his league never disappoints in that department. Some people have claimed JB to be the best guitar player out there. Even though that I find that an impossible title to hold, he is certainly high on the list. Now here is a guy known for flashy guitar playing yet he doesn’t waste a note. We have had so many technically gifted guitar players come and go through the years, so what makes a guy like him so appealing? One word, melody. If someone claimed Jeff was the most melodic guitar player, I just might have to agree. Some say brilliant instrumentalists are often frustrated singers and when Beck plays, it is akin to a human voice. He doesn’t even use a pick anymore. This man’s music is what happens when you give someone an amazing ear uniquely interpreting each melody on a Stratocaster. Beck’s encore was his take on The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” to which he played the vocal lines on the guitar just like a singer. His voice is the guitar.

 

After Beck’s stirring set, I was sitting there thinking, “How is Buddy Guy gonna top that?” Buddy is Buddy, that’s what he is. He has been quoted as saying that’s all he can do is be himself. That’s just fine in my book. A true artist’s personality comes out in their art, no matter what the area. Guy is often manic but just so down to earth that you end up falling in love with the man before the show is over. He celebrated his 80th birthday just the day before. That’s correct, 80 years old! But Guy didn’t show his age and displayed the energy of a much younger man.

 

Guy’s attitude on stage is incredible. I have never met Buddy myself but have heard that off the stage he is a pretty shy guy. He’s just one of those artists whose true self only comes out when performing. Look out and be prepared as Guy’s shows are basically unscripted for the most part. He admitted he had no set list though his band was obviously prepared for what he was doing. His performance is almost like Buddy thinking out loud. He jumps from one thing to another.   

   

I consider Buddy to be one of the last real showmen of the Blues. His roots go back to Muddy Waters. Those old Blues cats always know how to entertain. Buddy used to do a trick back in the old club days where he would use a super long guitar cord and go out into the audience while playing. Now a wireless system makes things so much easier. Guy walked off the stage and kept going though a good portion of the pavilion at Ravinia, twice passing my way.

 

Guy was joined by Beck on one song and another featured two of his kids, one on vocals the other on guitar. The last portion of his show was Buddy teasing the audience playing just bits of a bunch of old Blues songs that weighed heavily as his musical influences. A true entertainer leaves the audience satisfied but wanting more. This was definitely the case.

 

Did Buddy Guy top Jeff Beck? Well, maybe not by his guitar playing alone. The performance actually made you forget the opening act while he was on stage. Like the title of his opening number, Buddy was “Born to Play the Guitar”. Jeff Beck was too, but Buddy was also born to entertain. At 80-years-old, won’t be performing forever, my advice being to see him while you still can. He is really one of the only living links to the old Blues cats left. After him, it’s mostly the English Blues players like Clapton. And who is Eric Clapton’s favorite guitar player? Buddy Guy. On July 31, 2016, Buddy Guy was mine was too.

Published in In Concert
Wednesday, 06 July 2016 16:57

Jazz Holiday with the Great Chick Corea

I have been a fan of Chick Corea ever since I picked up a Return to Forever album sometime around 1983. Twenty-three years or so later, I was finally able to see him perform – the venue being Ravinia Festival. Corea has been involved in the Jazz scene for fifty years or more and at seventy-five-years-young, he can keep up with someone half his age. 

 

Starting off the triple bill on the evening of July Fourth was Ms. Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton. Theirs was a Jazz on the mellower side though some interesting cover material was chosen to perform. I have never heard Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” played in such a manner before. They also covered two different Rolling Stones songs, “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Gimme Shelter”. Arrangements on these particular songs were quite different than the originals as you might imagine. I must say Fischer’s voice was quite good. Her intonation was amazing. She and her band seemed to drop the word love in every song, very refreshing. After watching her performance, I can only conclude that Ms. Fischer appears to be a peaceful spirit in human form. 

 

The second set was the headlining act, the Chick Corea Trio. Always surrounding himself with talented musicians, Christian McBride was on bass and Brian Blade on drums. Both complimented Chick’s piano playing very well. McBride was a very fluent soloist on upright bass and was somewhat reminiscent of Stanley Clarke in terms of chops, while maintaining his own identity. Brain Blade was equally astounding to say the least. Chick seems to have a knack for finding some of the best players around. I’m sure his reputation attracts the attention of some fine players who line up at the chance to share the stage with such a musical legend. Throughout the entire set Corea played a grand piano. Corea’s chops were so fluid, it’s hard to believe a man of that age still has the hands to pull that off. Fans were in awe during the whole set.

 

Then it was big band time. It was interesting to see Corea in the two different settings. Bass, drums and twelve horns accompanied Chick on the final set of the holiday evening. Corea called out the names of every song and gave credit to the person who did each particular arrangement. If you love horns, it was Heaven. He even touched on a Return to Forever song, making it sound like a fresh new song. Each of the horn players had at least one featured solo, as well. Trumpets, trombones, saxophones and even flute solos were of the highest caliber. Corea didn’t hold back on the last set either. I felt he got better as the night went along, almost as though he may have just been warming up.

 

Jazz is almost a lost art form. I have said that before. It is so nice to see music still being performed by real musicians. The only issue I sometimes have with Jazz audiences is that they applaud after every solo. I guess this is a tradition but I would prefer they would wait until the end of the song. Still, they are usually deserving of the recognition it’s just that sometimes you miss the start of the next solo because of the applause. 

 

Take the opportunity to go see some live Jazz before all the great ones are gone. Ravinia is still to host some amazing Jazz acts this season. The tradition continues, but the real guys are all getting up there in age. At seventy-five, Chick Corea is at the younger end of the age spectrum.

 

Published in In Concert

Amazing times can be had at a live production. Summer concerts can be especially nice; the sun is setting, the crowd is excited, and the opening act is about to take the stage. This particular musical presentation couldn’t have gone much better. 

Opening the show was blues legend, Charlie Musselwhite. The talented musician came out blowing the harp and he gave it all he had. His entire performance was just fantastic, warming up the crowd on a chilly summer night. The audience was certainly amped and ready for the “Space Cowboy”, as the seats and picnic area were already well occupied for this amazing guitar man. 

The Steve Miller Band then took over and hit the crowd right between the eyes with “Jungle Love”, “Take the Money and Run”, and “Abracadabra”, and that was just for starters. If Miller’s performance wasn’t thrilling enough, the place really exploded with excitement when Charlie Musselwhite was invited out to join in on a few bluesy songs. They did a few old cover songs from Little Walter and Freddie King. It was a very memorable time for everyone. 

Longtime fan, Ron Marten says, “I became a fan in 1976 when I was six-years-old. My mom had just bought an 8-track player and joined Columbia house. She was stiffed with this 8-track that was the selection of the month, Fly Like an Eagle. At that time, I was really into the "Space Intro". She couldn’t send it back now. It was part of my nursery rhymes.  We ended up playing the hell out of it.”

Miller’s set continued on with more hits; hit after hit after hit! The night couldn’t be better for any true fan of Steve Miller. He performed very well and his sound is always top notch.  Highland Park was truly fortunate to get an act like this playing in their backyard. 

One fan, however, seemed disappointed during an intro the song "Wintertime". “That was the Window!” he shouted. He turned about to his friends and joined in singing, “In the wintertime ……….”. His mood couldn’t be ruined. 

Steve Miller brought out all of his classics that he could including “Serenade”, “The Joker”, “Fly Like an Eagle”, and closed his triumphant set out with another favorite “Jet Airliner”. Not a single fan in the crowd could be disappointed with the set list. Seeing this man live is like flipping on a radio. Instantly the ear candy is something you know and it hits you hard. 

Ravinia Festival in Highland Park is the place to be to see a live act and who could possibly be better than Steve Miller?                    

 

Published in In Concert

It was a triple bill of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Indigo Girls and Shawn Mullins a cool Friday night in June, the perfect atmosphere for some hot music. And though the showed started early at, 6:30 PM, there was already a surprisingly good-sized crowd on hand well before the activities were to begin. For those of you who have not experienced Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, the park contains a massive picnic area that surrounds the pavilion where the stage is held. Some stay in the lawn area until the headliner hits the stage, others remain in the picnic area and just enjoy the ambience while listening to the concert to the speakers set up throughout. This show was no different. 

 

 

The first thing I noticed when I first heard the Indigo Girls over twenty years ago was their vocal harmonies, an interesting blend. Amy Ray has a very deep voice for a female singer and Emily Saliers has the higher and much more versatile voice. This makes for an interesting vocal blend. My only issue with this is the repetition of this formula on every song though I am not that familiar with their catalog of work in its entirety. I found that even though their sound is quite unique, after a couple songs their sound could get a bit predictable. Having said that, the crowd certainly approved of what they heard, many of them singing along and dancing in place.

 

 

The Indigo Girls were backed up by three other performers, a multi instrumentalist, a violinist/vocalist and a singer/guitarist. Even with the augmentation of the line up, I still found a lot of their songs have few variables to the band’s overall sound. The tempo and harmonies were just extremely similar from song to song.

 

 

Shawn Mullins opened up the night with an acoustic guitar, his own voice and an accordion player. This exceptional baritone singer had a really folky vibe that was a great warm up for the crowd. The pavilion had a lot of empty seats still at that point as concert goers milled about the grounds, but the people that were watching his act really appeared to enjoy his music. Mullins’ sense of humor was also very refreshing.

 

 

The act of the night in my opinion was the one in the middle, Mary Chapin Carpenter. She had a typical five-piece band line up, drums, bass, keys and guitar. Backing vocals were provided by the bass and keys players. Now, I don’t know why, but Carpenter is a performer I can honestly say slipped under my radar. A real veteran, her performance was amazing, as Carpenter played a great variety of material - and played it to perfection. If I were to label her music I would say folk….no, country….no, Rock and Roll….all of the above. I hate categories because of their limiting definitions anyway.  I like variety and her portion of the show was a great example of that. I really thought Mary should have been the headliner after watching her, but the Girls have a very strong following. It’s not right to say a certain performer is better than another, so I won’t go there. Rather, I simply found Carpenter the performer of the night.

 

The Indigo Girls is still an act worth seeing. I think maybe branching out a bit may be in their best interest. Their fans would probably disagree, that’s okay. Their following is very loyal, and this could be partly due to their social position…just a couple girls doing it on their own for the most part. I should probably listen a little more clearly to the lyrics, that is probably where the variety of their material lies. I’m sure it is also somewhat difficult to provide a lot of different tempos and rhythmic variations when you play without a live drummer. Heading into the show, I wasn’t sure what their lineup was going to be since I have mostly seen Amy and Emily play as a duet.

 

 

The Indigo Girls closed the show with “Closer to Fine”, the song that really put them on the map. The crowd was probably louder than the Girls were at times during that song. That’s what it’s all about really anyway, communication. If you can get an audience to respond like that, mission accomplished. So, to sum it up my criticism of the lack of variety was clearly only in my eyes. Their audience didn’t view it like that. I guess for me Bob Dylan is the same way. To the average listener, many of his songs sound the same. Am I comparing The Indigo Girls to Bob Dylan? I guess in a way, their appeal is in the same vein. Just simple songs played with their own particular flavor. Folk music is what it says it is, music of the people. The people responded, that’s all that really matters, not the opinion of one critic. 

 

Published in In Concert

Ravinia has announced that the most honored female country performer of all time, Dolly Parton, will bring her first major U.S. and Canadian tour in 25 years to the festival at 7:30 p.m. on August 7. “We’re so excited to get out there and see the fans again,” the legend says. “I’m really looking forward to singing songs the fans have not heard in a while, as well as the hits, while premiering a few new ones off Pure & Simple.”

 

An internationally renowned superstar, Parton penned such enduring, classic songs as “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors,” and the mega-hit “I Will Always Love You.” Over her career, she has created 25 RIAA-certified gold, platinum, or multiplatinum records and 41 top-10 country albums; earned 7 Grammy Awards, 10 Country Music Association Awards, 5 Academy of Country Music Awards, and 3 American Music Awards; and she is one of only five female artists to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award.

 

Donors to the not-for-profit Ravinia Festival at the Friend level and above can make early ticket requests for this concert from now through Friday, April 1. Tickets for this concert and the rest of Ravinia’s 2016 lineup go on sale to the public at 5 a.m. on April 26, exclusively at Ravinia.org.

 

ABOUT RAVINIA

Ravinia, located right outside Chicago, is North America’s oldest and most diverse music festival, presenting over 140 different events every summer, including the annual residency of the nation’s finest orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As a nonprofit organization, Ravinia provides arts programs for over 75,000 people in underserved communities in Cook and Lake Counties through its REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs. Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute is a summer music conservatory that awards 60–70 fully paid fellowships each year to the most talented young professional musicians from around the world to work with an esteemed faculty and the headliners who frequent the festival. For information, visit Ravinia.org.

 

Published in In Concert
Wednesday, 02 March 2016 19:17

RAVINIA ANNOUNCES 2016 SEASON

Nation’s most diverse music festival presents more than 140 events from June 2 through September 11, featuring the 80th-anniversary summer residency of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

 

Longtime, former music director James Levine returns for the first time in over two decades to conduct Mahler’s Second Symphony, as he did at his Ravinia debut 45 years ago

 

Eight conductors make their Ravinia debuts, and four of those make their CSO debuts, including Kirill Karabits, Gustavo Gimeno, George Hanson, and Ben Gernon

 

Legends Paul Simon, Diana Ross, and Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons among 74 Ravinia debuts; Bob Dylan returns for the first time since 1964

 

Ten premieres include the first violin concerto by Wynton Marsalis, co-commissioned by Ravinia, and Tan Dun’s Water Passion

 

Stravinsky’s The Firebird named “One Score, One Chicago” selection as Ravinia co-commissions dramatic new staging from the puppeteers behind Broadway’s War Horse

 

Orchestras perform scores live as Ravinia shows the complete films Titanic, The Planets: An HD Odyssey, The Wizard of Oz, and Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II

 

A series of vocal programs, including Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers,” celebrates the centennial of master choral director Robert Shaw

 

Tributes to David Bowie, Oscar Brown Jr., Nat “King” Cole, Jerry Garcia, and Stephen Sondheim are featured

 

Fourteen chamber programs explore “complete” works by Haydn, Bach, and Bartók and launch a three-year cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas by Jonathan Biss

 

Ravinia welcomes guests at its grand entrance with a new aquatic sculpture by the designers of the Bellagio’s dancing fountains and a wave of water-themed concerts

 

Classical artists include Jean-Yves Thibaudet; Matthias Goerne; Gil Shaham; Joshua Bell and Chris Botti; Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma; Itzhak Perlman; Alisa Weilerstein; Lynn Harrell; Daniil Trifonov; Jeffrey Kahane; Zukerman Trio; Danielle de Niese; Midori; Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; the Juilliard, Emerson, and Takács String Quartets; and RSMI alumni in the Chiara, Avalon, and Ariel String Quartets

 

Non-classical artists include Seal; Train and Andy Grammer; Bonnie Raitt; Hollywood Vampires with Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Johnny Depp; Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters and Marty Stuart; Don Henley; Bryan Ferry; Barenaked Ladies; Seth MacFarlane; Duran Duran; Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck; Tony Bennett; Patti LaBelle; Phillip Phillips and Matt Nathanson; and Chris Cornell

 

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill.—Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman today announced the 2016 summer season comprising more than 140 events, featuring the 80th-anniversary summer residency of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In this special anniversary year, maestro James Levine will return for the first time in more than two decades to lead the CSO in Mahler’s Second Symphony—the piece he conducted as a last-minute replacement when he made his Ravinia debut in 1971. Eight conductors will make their Ravinia debuts—four of whom concurrently are making their CSO debuts—during the 17-concert residency. The 15-week season, which is nearly 65 percent classical, features 74 artist debuts—including legends Paul Simon and Diana Ross—and 50 classical works never before performed at the festival. New works include the Ravinia co-commissions of a reimagined staging of Stravinsky’s The Firebird, created by the company behind War Horse on Broadway and the West End, and the first violin concerto fromWynton Marsalis, performed by Nicola Benedetti, for whom it was written. Four films, including Titanic and The Wizard of Oz, will receive live orchestral accompaniment. Several concerts pay tribute to musical giants, from Robert Shaw to David Bowie. Fourteen concerts offer “complete” works, including the launch of a three-year Beethoven project by pianist Jonathan Biss. Tickets go on sale March 9 to donors to the not-for-profit festival and April 26 to the general public.

“Nothing compares to the enviable relationship between Ravinia and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, so it’s a real pleasure to announce the 80th-anniversary summer residency, featuring something for just about every taste in orchestral music,” said Kauffman, who programs the festival, also noting that typically festivals and orchestras are a single entity, such as Tanglewood and the Boston Symphony. “Ravinia, with its welcoming outdoor environment, low prices, and inviting summer programming is well poised to help build the audience for this important art form. If venue loyalty can get just 5 percent of the audience that comes to see Train or Paul Simon to return for a CSO concert, that would be a sea change. We’re especially excited to respond to audience demand by introducing six conductors standing before the CSO at Ravinia this summer, four of whom are also making their CSO debuts.”

For the second year in a row, Allstate has signed on to be Ravinia’s Lead Classical Sponsor. “We are pleased to once again partner with Ravinia on their efforts to bring classical music to the Chicago area,” said Don Civgin, President of Emerging Business at Allstate and a Ravinia Trustee. “We applaud Ravinia’s commitment to education, public outreach, and making world-class performances accessible to all. Allstate and Ravinia recognize the importance of serving the community—together we are a force for good.”

 

$25/$10/FREE

Ravinia’s popular pricing returns this summer, with most Pavilion seats for all CSO concerts selling for just $25 apiece. Most lawn tickets will be priced at $10 each, and lawn admission for all classical concerts—CSO, special events, recitals and chamber music—is free for children and students through college. A 10-punch lawn pass will also be sold, granting lawn admission for as little as $7 per concert. On film nights, the $25 price for a reserved seat in the Pavilion is the same for a lawn ticket, so patrons can choose the experience they prefer—a seat under the roof with a view of the orchestra or a picnic on the lawn before the giant movie screen—without cost being an issue. The $10 BGH Classics series offers up-close-and-personal musical experiences in Ravinia’s most intimate concert space, the 450-seat Bennett Gordon Hall, for only $10 for a reserved seat, less than the cost of a movie ticket.

 

JAMES LEVINE RETURNS / GALA

James Levine will celebrate the 45th anniversary of his Ravinia debut by returning to the festival for the first time since completing his music directorship in 1993. On July 23, Levine will conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Mahler’s Second Symphony. This was the first piece he conducted at Ravinia on June 24, 1971, when he was brought in as a last-minute replacement for the Ravinia Women’s Board Gala. Levine’s return headlines the 50th gala, the only performance fundraiser to support the festival and its REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs.

“Little did I know when I first came to Ravinia how important my time there would turn out to be, and the significant development it would stimulate in my artistic growth,” Levine said. “With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I felt as though we were an ideal match, each provoking the other to strive for the best.”

 

RAVINIA DEBUTS

Legendary artists Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons (June 12), Paul Simon (June 18), and Diana Ross (July 27) make their Ravinia debuts this summer. Bob Dylan (June 24) returns for the first time since 1964, when he was billed as “Robert Dylan,” with Chicago’s own Mavis Staples.

“There remain a handful of artists whose style and careers seem so custom-built for Ravinia’s environment that some people are amazed to discover they are making their festival debuts. This was certainly the case when I first booked Crosby, Stills & Nash in 2010, and I predict it will be that way this summer for legends like Paul Simon and Frankie Valli,” Kauffman said. “You can just picture them on our stage. They belong here.”

Also among the nonclassical artists making their Ravinia debuts this summer are Duran Duran and CHIC featuring Nile Rodgers (July 8/9); as seen on the recent Grammy Awards, the Hollywood Vampires, comprising Alice Cooper,Joe Perry, and Johnny Depp (July 17); Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters and Marty Stuart (Sept. 2);Barenaked Ladies and OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) with Howard Jones in his second visit (June 9);The Commodores (June 23); Shawn Mullins (July 1); Neil Finn of Crowded House with Guster, similarly making its second appearance (July 7); Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog (July 3); guitarist Jeff Beck on a double bill with festival favorite Buddy Guy (July 31); Bryan Ferry (Aug. 6); Mariachi Flor de Toloache(Sept. 5); and Katharine McPhee, star of TV’s Smash and Scorpion, opening for the return of Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane with the Ravinia Festival Orchestra (June 22).

Ravinia is proud to welcome the following classical artists making their debuts at the festival. Ensembles: Ariel Quartet (Aug. 30), Avalon String Quartet (Aug. 31), Chiara String Quartet (Sept. 7/8), Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (Sept. 11); Conductors: Mei-Ann Chen (June 16), Cristian Măcelaru (July 12/13), Vasily Petrenko(July 20), Ben Gernon (July 26), Gustavo Gimeno (Aug. 2), Kirill Karabits (Aug. 5), George Hanson (Aug. 12), and George Daugherty (Sept. 11); Vocalists: Klea Blackhurst (Aug. 17) and Ryan VanDenBoom (Aug. 17);Sopranos: Delaram Kamareh (June 10), Ying Fang (July 23), and Danielle de Niese (Aug. 4); Mezzo-soprano:Karen Cargill (July 23); Bass-baritone: Stephen Bryant (June 10); Violinists: Shalini Vijayan (June 10) andAlejandro Loguercio (Aug. 19); Cellists: Cecilia Tsan (June 10), Christoph Richter (July 6), Adolfo Gutiérrez Arenas (Aug. 16), and the Juilliard String Quartet’s incoming member, Astrid Schween (June 27); Double bassist:Roberto Koch (Aug. 19); Pianists: Shani Diluka (June 10), Julia Hsu (July 22), George Li (July 24), Paul Lewis(Aug. 5), Christopher Park (Aug. 16), Michael Abramovich (Aug. 19), Lucas Debargue (Aug. 25), Lindsay Garritson (Aug. 30), Ran Dank (Sept. 1), Joseph Moog (Sept. 3), Dmitri Levkovich (Sept. 4), and Simon Savoy(Sept. 6); Guitarists: Reentko Dirks (Aug. 19) and Jason Vieaux (Sept. 2); Harpist: Yolanda Kondonassis (Sept. 2);Accordionist: Ksenija Sidorova (Aug. 19); Percussionists: Theresa Dimond (June 10), John Wakefield (June 10), and Itamar Doari(Aug. 19); Sound engineer: Yuanlin Chen (June 10); and Actor: Jack Gilpin (Aug. 30).

 

NONCLASSICAL CONCERTS

The final live national broadcast from Ravinia of A Prairie Home Companion with host Garrison Keillor is set for June 11, featuring special guests pianist Jeremy Denk, a former fellow and faculty member of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, and Chris Thile, the new host of the internationally beloved program who has previously appeared at Ravinia variously as a member of Nickel Creek and The Punch Brothers, as well as with Yo-Yo Ma in The Goat Rodeo Sessions.

 

Ravinia looks forward to welcoming back Train and Andy Grammer (Aug. 26/27); Seal (Aug. 28); Bonnie Raitt(Sept. 3); Los Tigres del Norte (Sept. 5); Tony Bennett (Aug. 15); Patti LaBelle (June 23); O.A.R. (Sept. 4); Don Henley (Aug. 14/15);Indigo Girls (July 1); Steve Miller Band (July 2); Chick Corea, with his trio and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and Lisa Fischer (July 4); Phillip Phillips and Matt Nathanson (July 10); Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Sweet Honey in the Rock (July 11); Lyle Lovett & his Large Band and Emmylou Harris (July 18); and War and Los Lonely Boys (Aug. 11).

 

PREMIERES

Ravinia will present 50 classical and orchestral works never before performed at the festival, including 10 regional or world premieres. 

· Tan Dun’s Water Passion(June 10):Ravinia presents the Chicago premiere of Tan Dun’s Water Passion after Saint Matthew, featuring the Los Angeles Master Chorale conducted by Grant Gershon. It’s one of four Passions (based on each of the Gospels) commissioned for the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death, a set that also included Golijov’s Passion According to Saint Mark, which received its Chicago premiere to great acclaim at Ravinia in 2002. East meets West in this quasi-theatrical telling (that the LA Times called “unexpectedly alien and visceral”) of the powerful Passion narrative, building on Bach’s majestic chorale tradition with Tan’s layering of a variety of vocal styles from his own heritage, ranging from Mongolian overtone singing to what he calls the “calligraphic” writing of Peking opera. Tan also draws upon the vast instrumental wealth of the Silk Road, ingeniously using the familiar violin and cello to evoke the sounds of the East. Water has long played an important role in traditional Chinese festivals, and Tan was drawn to its symbolism of renewal and rebirth, focusing on those joyous, cyclical aspects inherent to the Passion. Soloists include soprano Delaram Kamareh, bass-baritone Stephen Bryant, violinist Shalini Vijayan, cellist Cecilia Tsan, and percussionists David Cossin,Teresa Dimond, and John Wakefield.

· Richard Wernick’s Quartet No. 9 (June 27): Hailed as the “quintessential American string quartet,” the legendary Juilliard String Quartet celebrates its 70th season with an evening of introductions, including the Chicago premiere of Richard Wernick’s String Quartet No. 9 and a performance of Schubert’s String Quintet with new-member cellist Astrid Schween, who will succeed Joel Krosnick in the fall of 2016.

· Wynton Marsalis’s first violin concerto (July 12): The 2016 CSO residency opens with the American premiere of the first violin concerto by jazz legend Wynton Marsalis, co-commissioned by Ravinia Festival for violinistNicola Benedetti, who will mark her third Ravinia appearance. “Working with Wynton Marsalis on his violin concerto has been life-changing,” said Benedetti.“I am so excited to play the piece again at Ravinia with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.” Cristian Măcelaru, winner of the 2014 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award and conductor-in-residence at the Philadelphia Orchestra, makes his Ravinia debut on the podium. He made his CSO debut in 2013 as a replacement for the then ailing Pierre Boulez and has been a frequent guest conductor since then, even leading the orchestra’s outdoor performances at the Morton Arboretum.

· The Planets: An HD Odyssey (July 13): An out-of-this-world program of space-themed music features the Midwest premiere of a new film with jaw-dropping new images from NASA’s most recent missions, set to Holst’s The Planets. Măcelaru returns to conduct. The film will be shown on high-definition video screens in the Pavilion and on the lawn.

· Stravinsky’s The Firebird / One Score, One Chicago (July 26): Ravinia presents the Chicago premiere of Stravinsky’s The Firebird in a production created by Janni Younge of Handspring Puppet Company, widely praised for its London and Broadway spectacular War Horse. Ravinia co-commissioned this new interpretation ofThe Firebird and has made the piece its 2016 One Score, One Chicago selection. Ben Gernon makes his CSO and Ravinia debuts conducting the program, which also includes Debussy’s La mer and Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes.

· James Cameron’s Titanic with live orchestra (July 29/30): The large screens return on July 29 and 30 for one of the most successful films in history, James Cameron’s towering Titanic. The international sensation tied Ben-Hur for winning the most Oscars ever (11), including awards for Best Song (“My Heart Will Go On”) and Best Original Score for composer James Horner, who died tragically last summer. Titanic remains the number-one selling orchestral soundtrack of all time. For this Midwest-premiere presentation, the music has been digitally removed from the film so the CSO, conducted by Ludwig Wicki, can perform the score live as the film is shown. A chorus and soprano, who’ll sing the Irish-tinged vocalizations throughout the film as well as the celebrated theme song made famous by Celine Dion, will join the orchestra onstage.

· David Ludwig songs (Aug. 15): Ravinia presents the world premiere of its third commission from David Ludwig for participants of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute Program for Singers.

· Wally Gunn’s The Ascendant (Aug. 21): The Grammy Award–winning a cappella octet Roomful of Teethexplores the depth of its vocal range with the Chicago premiere of New York–based composer Wally Gunn’s The Ascendant. Named after a collection of poetry and setting the corresponding text by contemporary Australian poet Maria Zajkowski, the group of songs coupling Roomful of Teeth’s haunting vocals and percussion with Zajkowski’s word painting creates a sudden sense of free-fall for the audience.

· An Unlikely Muse (Aug. 30): Following a July world premiere at Chamber Music Northwest, the stirring music theater work An Unlikely Muse: Richard Mühlfeld, the Last Inspiration of Johannes Brahms will premiere to Chicago audiences in the Martin Theatre this August. Stirred out of retirement by the talent of 19th-century German clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, composer Johannes Brahms created four clarinet-centric chamber works, whose genesis will be brought to life by actor Jack Gilpin, performing as Mühlfeld, pianist André Watts, clarinetist David Shifrin, and the Ariel Quartet.

 

FILM WITH ORCHESTRA

Building on the success of screening great films with their scores digitally removed so that orchestras can play them live, Ravinia will present five film nights in 2016, with video screens in the Pavilion and on the lawn. 

· The Planets: An HD Odyssey (July 13): Winner of the 2014 Solti Conducting Award, Cristian Măcelaru will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a presentation of Holst’s The Planets accompanied by a new film of startling and vivid images of the solar system collected over NASA’s many space explorations. The program also features Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra—known in pop culture as the theme from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Discovering the mysteries of our universe continues to be one of our greatest achievements. Gustav Holst, in his Planets, brings to life perfect descriptions of these wonderful worlds and depicts their astrological characters,” says Măcelaru.

· Titanic (July 29/30): Ravinia embarks on a first-class film experience by presenting the Midwest premiere of one of the most successful movies in history, James Cameron’s Titanic, with Ludwig Wicki conducting and the CSO performing its score. The international sensation tied Ben-Hur for winning the most Oscars ever (11), including awards for Best Song (“My Heart Will Go On”) and Best Score for the late composer James Horner. Titanicremains the one of the top grossing films of all time, and its soundtrack is still the number-one selling orchestral soundtrack of all time. The Chicago Children’s Choir, directed byJosephine Lee, and vocalist Clara Sanabraswill sing the Irish-tinged vocalizations throughout the film as well as the celebrated theme song made famous by Celine Dion.

· The Wizard of Oz (Sept. 10): Ravinia presents of one of the most beloved films of all time, The Wizard of Oz, with Emil de Cou leading the Chicago Philharmonic in its unmistakable music. This marvel of the late 1930s has been stunningly remastered frame by frame and is accompanied by entirely new transcriptions of Harold Arlen’s brilliant lost score. Hearing Judy Garland’s original 1939 studio recordings, backed by lush, live orchestration, will transport children and adults alike. With this version of The Wizard of Oz on the big screen, moviegoers will be treated to the Oscar-winning film as it has never been seen before.

· Warner Bros. Presents Bugs Bunny At The Symphony II (Sept. 11): Perhaps the most fondly remembered integration of pop culture and classical music from the likes of Mendelssohn, Rossini and Wagner (whose “Ride of the Valkyries” takes on new life as “Kill the Wabbit”) projected on the big screen while their extraordinary original scores are played live by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, in its Ravinia debut. Conducted and created by George Daugherty, this collection of classic (directed by the masters Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng) and recent shorts starring the world’s most beloved Looney Tunes characters—Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Sylvester, and more—has delighted concertgoers around the world, and spotlights such classics as “What’s Opera, Doc?”and “The Rabbit of Seville” alongside Warner Bros. theatrical shorts “Rabid Rider” and “Coyote Falls.”

 

ROBERT SHAW CENTENNIAL

In recognition of what would be the 100th birthday of conductor Robert Shaw (1916–99), who not only shifted but set new paradigms in choral music, Ravinia is celebrating that lasting legacy with several concerts that showcase the wide variety of works, ensembles, and other leaders that grew out of his influence.

“Too frequently musical genius is forgotten too soon, and it would be an injustice indeed if the dean of choral music went unsung,” said Kauffman. “So we honor Robert Shaw this summer with the vocal vigor he deserves in his anniversary year the same way Ravinia will honor Bernstein at his centennial in 2018 with his protégée Marin Alsop as guest curator.”

 

· Los Angeles Master Chorale (June 10): Founded by Shaw’s friend and classmate Roger Wagner, the Los Angeles Master Chorale already scored raves with the splashy premiere of The Gospel According to the Other Mary at Ravinia, and now returns for the Chicago premiere of Tan Dun’s dramatic Water Passion, conducted byGrant Gershon. The piece relies on many vocal styles from Mongolian overtone singing to the “calligraphic” music of Peking opera.

· Man of Many Voices—Documentary film (June 15): A new documentary about Shaw that traces the journey of a small-town California boy who planned to be a minister like his father, but instead became the greatest conductor of choral music the world has ever known, will be shown in the Martin Theatre.

· The Singers (June 15): The Singers, which emerged from the Dale Warland Singers—Warland being another revered choral colleague—return to Ravinia to perform one of the most captivating choral works of all time, Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers,” conducted by Matthew Culloton, A special dinner package will be available combining admission to the documentary (listed above) and this concert.

· Ladysmith Black Mambazo / Sweet Honey in the Rock (July 11): The South African and African-American (respectively) choral groups share the bill on a concert that evokes not only Shaw’s worldwide embrace of music but the spirit of his civil rights work in the then largely segregated city of Atlanta, where he devised multiple collaborations between the Atlanta Symphony and Spelman and Morehouse Colleges and frequently performed in black churches.

· Chanticleer (July 19): Any group whose name derives from the French words for “sing” and “clear” must owe a debt to Shaw. “He had an exquisite sense of what togetherness in music can be: that’s what Shaw was all about,” says Chanticleer director William Fred Scott. Ravinia audiences will see that togetherness in action when the group dedicates itself to an evening of songs about the moon.

· Chicago Symphony Chorus (July 23): Shaw’s passion for the voice reverberated through Ravinia’s concert halls with the arrival of James Levine, who was an assistant conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra during Shaw’s final three years there as an associate conductor, between 1964 and ’67. As Levine returns this summer, so too will that vocal prowess with the gala performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony, featuring the impeccableChicago Symphony Chorus and guest soloists soprano Ying Fang and mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill. “Shaw transformed our thinking about choral music,” said Duain Wolfe, director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. “He elevated the performing standards of choruses by inspiring attention to detail.”

· Chicago Children’s Choir (July 29/30): One of the music world’s most sought-after teachers and mentors, Shaw was an admirer of children’s choirs, as demonstrated by his arrangements that have inspired generations of singers. Josephine Lee directs the Chicago Children’s Choir in tandem with the CSO’s performance of the Oscar-winning score to Titanic.

· Shaw’s Favorite Composer (Aug. 9/10): Welz Kauffman, who worked closely with Shaw at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, shares a favorite composer with the great choral director: Brahms. Kauffman programmed Shaw’s two favorite symphonic pieces, the composer’s Second and Fourth Symphonies, to be performed by the CSO under the baton of David Zinman on successive nights. Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes will be performed by singers and pianists from Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute on Aug. 10.

· Master Class for Singers (Aug. 13): Two of Shaw’s fondest acolytes, soprano Sylvia McNair and mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson, will lead a master class for RSMI fellows that is free and open to the public. The class will focus on vocal works for which Shaw was famous, many of which these spirited singers performed with him.

· Roomful of Teeth (Aug. 21): Founded in 2009, a full decade after Shaw’s death, the Grammy-winning octetRoomful of Teeth, devoted to finding adventurous new expressions of the human voice, is a group that Shaw would have loved: “I wanted this tribute to Shaw to feature a newer group that demonstrates how his influence reaches into the future,” Kauffman said. It will present the Chicago premiere of Wally Gunn’s The Ascendant on a program that includes works by Ted Hearne, Michael Harrison, and its own Pulitzer Prize–winning member, Caroline Shaw (no relation).

· A Robert Shaw Christmas (December): Shaw left a legacy of beloved Christmas recordings, so Sylvia McNair and the Chicago Children’s Choir, directed by Josephine Lee, will return in the holiday season to perform renditions of his classics as part of Ravinia’s year-round $10 BGH Classics series.

 

TRIBUTE CONCERTS

Several Ravinia events will celebrate the lives and art of music’s brightest lights. 

· The Gershwin Experience (June 11): Pianist Richard Glazier, whose music journey “From Broadway to Hollywood” was one of last year’s fast-selling concerts, returns with his musical storytelling style to essay the works of George Gershwin.

· Tribute to Jazz Greats (June 19): Creating the perfect Father’s Day outing, jazz giants Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli salute the late, great jazz pianist and velvet-voiced singer Nat “King” Cole. On the same program, renowned pianist Monty Alexander makes his Ravinia debut with a tribute to one of the festival’s all-time favorites, Tony Bennett (who returns to Ravinia on Aug. 13). This concert also celebrates the next generation of jazz talent by welcoming the Grammy-nominated 12-year-old piano wunderkind Joey Alexander for his first performance on the Pavilion stage after making his Ravinia debut in Bennett Gordon Hall last summer.

· Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration (June 26): Singer-songwriter and guitarist of the Allman Brothers BandWarren Haynes evokes the style and sound of the late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia with a symphonic dimension provided by the Ravinia Festival Orchestra.

· Over the Moon (July 19): Billed as “an orchestra of voices,” the Grammy-winning male chorus Chanticleerperforms an evening of classic songs and new works in praise and awe of the Moon—everything from the Sinatra standard “Fly Me to the Moon” and Henry Mancini’s timeless “Moon River” to Nico Muhly’s Pierrot Lunaire, written just for them.

· You’re the Top: Cole Porter’s 125th Birthday Celebration (Aug. 17): Pianist Kevin Cole, fresh off his heartfelt tribute to Marvin Hamlisch at Ravinia last summer, returns with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as host and pianist to honor one of the wittiest songwriters of all time. The program also features singers Klea Blackhurst,Sylvia McNair, and Ryan VanDenBoom with David Alan Miller conducting.

· A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim(Aug. 18): The singer who gave Stephen Sondheim his biggest chart-topping hit with “Send in the Clowns,” Judy Collins devotes an entire evening to the works of her favorite composer with the Passenger String Quartet.

· Something About Oscar (Aug. 29):Singer/dancer/actor Morris Gearring celebrates his friend and mentor, Chicago jazz great Oscar Brown Jr., in this one-man show on the $10 BGH Classics series.

· Bowie—The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (Sept. 9): Classic Albums Live, known for its pitch-perfect, note-by-note re-creations of rock’s all-time most important records, will give a faithful performance of David Bowie’s fifth studio album, which tells the story of the fictitious rock star Ziggy Stardust. The group will end the show with a sample of other Bowie hits.

 

COMPLETE CHAMBER “SAMPLER”

Music lovers will get the “complete” picture of key areas of several composers’ output over several evenings. 

· Haydn’s Complete Op. 76 String Quartets (July 5): The Emerson String Quartet performs the complete Haydn Op. 76 string quartets—including the “Sunrise,” “Fifths,” and “Emperor”—on one program.

· Beethoven’s Complete Piano Sonatas (Aug. 18/20/22): The festival launches a three-year exploration of Beethoven’s piano sonatas with pianist Jonathan Biss. It begins Aug. 18 with five of the sonatas, including the “Waldstein”; followed by four more on Aug. 20, including the “Tempest” and “Appassionata”; and wraps up the first year on Aug. 22 with five more, including the “Moonlight.” An internationally recognized Beethoven authority, Biss was commissioned to write a book about performing the great composer’s sonatas, Beethoven’s Shadow, and he is committed to recording all of the sonatas for the Onyx label (the first four volumes have already been released). His exceptional online Coursera course, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, which reached 55,000 experts and novices in its first go-around, was relaunched in January.

· Beethoven’s Complete Cello Sonatas (Aug. 16): Celebrated Spanish cellist Adolfo Gutiérrez Arenas makes his first appearance at Ravinia with Bernstein Award–winning pianist Christopher Park to present Beethoven’s complete sonatas for cello and piano.

· Bach’s Complete Sonatas and Partitas (Aug. 17): Over two separate concert performances just hours apart, at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 17, the director of the RSMI Piano and Strings program, Miriam Fried, celebrates her 70th birthday by scaling the Everest of the solo violin repertoire.

· Beethoven’s Complete String Quartets (Aug. 26–28): The Pacifica Quartet, in residence at the University of Chicago since 1999, performs all 16 of Beethoven’s string quartets in five concerts over three days: 6 p.m. on Aug. 26, 1 and 6 p.m. on Aug. 27, and 1 and 6 p.m. on Aug. 28.

· Bartók’s Complete String Quartets (Sept. 7–8): In a performance dubbed “Bartók by Heart” because they use no sheet music, the Chiara String Quartet performs the composer’s complete string quartets over two evenings.

 

AQUATIC SCULPTURE / WATER MUSIC

To christen Ravinia’s brand-new aquatic sculpture—Chorus, designed by WET, the artists behind the Bellagio’s dancing fountains—a water theme flows through the season. The sculpture will greet guests at the grand entrance and underpass. The sculpture will be unveiled in a free community event on May 28. Ravinia thanks Life Trustee Dolores Kohl Kaplan for supporting the creation of the Morris and Dolores Kohl Kaplan Fountain.

 

· Water Passion (June 10): Tan Dun’s take on “the greatest story ever told,” crafted for the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death, employs bowls filled with water to great musical and theatrical effect.

· Shani Diluka(June 10): Pianist Shani Diluka gives a recital of water-inspired works by Chopin (“Raindrop” Prelude and Barcarolle), Debussy (Jardins sous la pluie), Liszt (Les jeux d’eaux a la Villa d’Este), and Schubert (Auf dem Wasser zu singen), on the $10 BGH Classics series.

· Handel’s Water Music Suite (June 16): The Chicago Sinfonietta, conducted by Mei-Ann Chen, returns to Ravinia for a program that includes a suite from Handel’s Water Music, which has become a cultural landmark, sampled in everything from Ren & Stimpy to The Dead Poet’s Society. It was famously used as the music to Walt Disney World’s Electrical Water Pageant, making it doubly appropriate for celebrating the festival’s new aquatic sculpture, as the original water feature at Ravinia when it opened in 1904 was an electric fountain and refectory. This will be the Sinfonietta’s first Ravinia appearance since its triumphant performances of the South African works Princess Magogo and uShaka.

· Fountains of Rome(July 12): Cristian Măcelaru leads the CSO in Respighi’s Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome on a program that also includes the first violin concerto from Wynton Marsalis.

· The Planets(July 13): Bowie musically questioned if there was “Life on Mars,” and NASA scientists’ recent discovery of water on the “red planet” suggests that there just might be, so the CSO dives into Holst’s The Planets—An HD Odyssey, complete with a startling new film boasting images from the latest space discoveries.

· Fire and Water (July 26): Perhaps the definitive water-themed piece of orchestral music, Debussy’s La mer is paired with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes on a program that features Ravinia’s co-commissioned new staging of Stravinsky’s The Firebird, created by Janni Younge. Ben Gernon conducts.

· Titanic (July 29/30): Rolling like an Irish brogue and smelling like the sea, the late James Horner’s minor chords helped make Titanic a major motion picture. The CSO plays the Oscar-winning score live while James Cameron’s epic movie is screened.

· Anything Goes (Aug. 17): Pianist Kevin Colehosts You’re the Top, Cole Porter’s 125th Birthday Celebrationincluding memorable tunes from his hit-filled musical Anything Goes, set aboard a sailing ship, performed by the CSO.

 

CHAMBER MUSIC AND RECITALS

Although celebrated for providing one of the finest outdoor music experiences, Ravinia also presents one of the world’s most expansive chamber music series, presenting more than 50 indoor concerts and recitals in its two halls, the exquisite 850-seat Martin Theatre and the state-of-the-art 450-seat Bennett Gordon Hall, home to the $10 BGH Classics series. Martin Theatre concerts are broadcast to the lawn; Bennett Gordon Hall concerts are not. Highlights include:

· Juilliard Introduces New Cellist (June 27): The Juilliard String Quartet introduces its newest member, cellistAstrid Schween, with a performance of Schubert’s String Quintet on a program that also features Mozart’s String Quartet in C Major, K. 465, and Richard Wernick’s String Quartet No. 9. The concert marks the final Ravinia appearance with the ensemble of cellist Joel Krosnick, who is stepping down after 42 years with the group.

· Menahem Pressler (July 12): Gramophone and American Classical Music Hall of Fame pianist Menahem Pressler, a longtime faculty member of RSMI, gives his first solo concert at Ravinia since 2003.

· Four-hands Piano (July 22): Pianists Julia Hsu and Peter Serkin perform selections from Brahms’s Hungarian Dances, Schumann’s Six Studies in Canonic Form, selections from Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants, Schubert’s Allegro in A Minor and Grand Rondo in A Major, and Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 358.

· Zukerman Trio (July 28): The legendary violinist Pinchas Zukerman and his ensemble perform selections from Glière’s Duos for Violin and Cello, Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, and Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major.

· Danielle de Niese debut (Aug. 4): The luminous star of the Lyric Opera’s Bel Canto, Danielle de Niese makes her Ravinia debut accompanied by the director of the RSMI Program for Singers, Kevin Murphy.

· Gypsy Carmen (Aug. 19): Accordionist Ksenija Sidorova infuses a bright and wild gypsy spirit into her take on Bizet’s Carmen with pianist Michael Abramovich, percussionist Itamar Doari, guitarist Reentko Dirks, violinist Alejandro Loguercio, and bassist Roberto Koch.

· All-Russian Evening with Zuill Bailey (Aug. 23): Cellist Zuill Bailey performs Stravinsky’s Suite italienne,Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata in C Major, and Rachmaninoff’sCello Sonata in G Minor.

· Double-duty Debargue (Aug. 25): Pianist Lucas Debargue proves he’s a major talent as both a jazz and classical pianist over two concerts. He re-creates his Moscow Critics Award–winning program of Medtner’s Piano Sonata No. 1 and Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit at 6 p.m., then returns at 8 p.m. to showcase his jazz skills (separate admissions). The 24-year-old Debargue, caused a stir at the Tchaikovsky Competition when he came in fourth place, prompting a judge (who asked to go unnamed) that “Not giving Lucas Debargue at least a Bronze was an outrage and further evidence that these competitions are more political than artistic in nature.”

· Songs of Struggle and Redemption (Aug. 30): Bass-baritone Dashon Burton of Roomful of Teeth sings spirituals and songs of freedom with pianist Lindsay Garritson.

· Fantasy for Harp and Guitar (Sept. 2): In their Ravinia debuts, harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and guitaristJason Vieaux present an evening of solos and duets that demonstrate the beauty of their respective string instruments with such works as Montsalvatge’s Fantasy for Harp and Guitar, Máximo Diego Pujol’s Suite mágica, Salzedo’s Chanson dans la nuit, and Hovhaness’s Sonata for Harp and Guitar.

 

RAVINIA’S STEANS MUSIC INSTITUTE

 

The best young musicians from around the world compete for about 60 coveted fellowships each year to Ravinia’s highly immersive and highly regarded summer conservatory to work individually and in ensembles with the superb faculty.

“It’s essential that Ravinia’s relationships with the artists it shapes at RSMI do not end when they’ve finished their studies. What use is it to send these young talents out into the world to perform without giving them a place to perform?” Kauffman said. “I’ve become deliberately dedicated to featuring RSMI alumni and our talented faculty on our stages, and this year 20 of our alumni, including those in the Ariel, Avalon, and Chiara String Quartets return to us. I urge you to join in their journeys.”

In addition to these alumni performances, including the Aug. 16 concert by the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma, which boasts two alumni (violist Nicholas Cords and violinist Colin Jacobsen), 10 current faculty members will also perform as will this year’s fellows.

 

· Faculty concerts: Key to the success of RSMI is that is faculty members each have successful performance careers of their own. Violinist Miriam Fried, director of the RSMI Piano and Strings program, will perform the Bach’s complete solo sonatas and partitas over two programs (5:30 and 8:30 p.m., Aug. 17); Kevin Murphy, director of RSMI’s Program for Singers accompanies the Ravinia recital debuts of Metropolitan and Lyric Opera stars Matthew Polenzani (Aug. 1) and Danielle de Niese (Aug. 4); acclaimed pianist Menahem Pressler gives his first solo recital at Ravinia in 13 years; and Fried and Pressler are joined by fellow Piano and Strings faculty members violinist Midori, violists Atar Arad and Paul Biss, and cellist Christopher Richter for a recital that includes Mozart’s Piano Trio No. 6 in G Major and Brahms’s String Quartet No. 2 in G Major (July 6).

· $10 BGH Classics: This summer’s RSMI fellows will perform a “Jazz Grandstand” with fierce young performers playing original compositions as soloists and in ensembles (June 17), three different piano and string concerts celebrating Beethoven (July 11, 18 and 29), and vocal programs marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with songs inspired by his writings and works by his contemporaries (Aug. 8), featuring Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes (Aug. 10), and presenting the world premiere of songs by David Ludwigcommissioned for RSMI (Aug. 15).

· Free Master Classes: Violinist Donald Weilerstein (June 30); violist Atar Arad (July 8); pianist Leon Fleisher(July 15); tenor Matthew Polenzani (Aug. 2); soprano Danielle de Niese (Aug. 6); singers Sylvia McNair andMarietta Simpson (Aug. 11)

· Free RSMI Concerts: The world’s top young professional piano and string players collaborate on a series of free 2 p.m. matinee concerts on July 2, 7, 9, 10, 14, 16, 17, 22, and 23; and the RSMI vocalists present a free 2 p.m. matinee concert of intimate song repertoire on July 31.

· RSMI in Chicago: The 2016 RSMI fellows will perform on the Dame Myra Hess Concert series at the Chicago Cultural Center at 12:15 p.m. on July 13 and 20; and on the Rush Hour Concerts series at St. James Cathedral, at 5:15 p.m. July 19. All three concerts will be broadcast live on WFMT. 

 

MISSION STATEMENT

Ravinia is an internationally renowned, not-for-profit music festival that presents outstanding performances by the world’s greatest artists. Ravinia’s principal objectives are:

· to present performances of a full range of classical music in its open-air Pavilion and enclosed recital halls, by the world’s greatest composers and musicians, along with a variety of other kinds of light classical, jazz and popular music;

· to maintain a beautiful park that is welcoming to all and attractive to families in which the music experience is enhanced by a beautiful environment and excellent dining opportunities;

· to enable gifted young performers to study under great teachers and perform in concert settings; and

· to develop broader and more diverse audiences for classical music through education and outreach programs and by maintaining affordable ticket prices.

 

 

2016 SPONSORS

Ravinia is a not-for-profit that earns about half its annual operating revenue to achieve its mission through ticket sales. The rest comes from support of private donors, foundations and corporate sponsors. Everyone involved at Ravinia would like to thank the following major sponsors for their support:

· Lead Classical Sponsor: Allstate Insurance Company

· Featured Sponsors: BMO Harris Bank; Discover, Official Card; Exelon; Hyundai, Official Vehicle Sponsor; Midtown Athletic Club, Official Club; Terlato Wines, Official Wine Sponsor; United Airlines, Official Airline

· Season Sponsors: Beam Suntory; Ernst & Young LLP; Fortune Brands; Illinois Tool Works; Jenner & Block LLP; Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP; Kirkland & Ellis; PNC Bank; RBC Wealth Management; Steinway Piano Gallery of Northbrook, Official Piano Sponsor; Wintrust

· Program Sponsors: Baizer Kolar P.C.; Baxter International, Inc.; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois; Consilio; Deloitte LLP; Grant Thornton LLP; Greenberg Traurig, LLP; KPMG LLP; Latham and Watkins LLP; Mesirow Financial; Mayer Brown LLP; Perkins Coie; The PrivateBank; RSM US LLP; Stella Artois and Goose Island Beer Company, Official Craft and Import Beer Sponsor; Walgreens

· Individual supporters: In Memory of Keene H. Addington II; Megan P. and John L. Anderson; Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation; Harriet Bernbaum; Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; The Crossroads Consortium; In Honor of Sandra K. Crown; The Dancing Skies Foundation; The Firebird Consortium; The Deane A. and John D. Gilliam Foundation; Welz Kauffman and Jon Teeuwissen; Lori Ann Komisar and Morris Silverman; Jo and Newt Minow; Holly and John Madigan; Roslyn and James Marks; Sharon and Eden Martin;  Negaunee Foundation; The Planets Consortium; Pinkert Industrial Group; Sue and Tom Pick; Diana and Bruce Rauner; Ravinia Associates Board; Ravinia Women’s Board; The Smart Family Foundation, Inc.; In Memory of Howard A. Stotler; Audrey L. Weaver, in loving memory of Michael D. Vogan; Lynne and David Weinberg; Joan Wing and Family, in Memory of Jack Wing; Nancy Zadek

 

GENERAL INFORMATON

· Location: Ravinia is located at Lake Cook and Green Bay Roads in Highland Park, about 20 minutes north of Chicago. The Metra Union Pacific North line stops right at Ravinia’s main entrance. On-site parking is limited, so Ravinia runs a free, handicap-accessible bus service to and from remote lots, mostly along the railroad line. Parking on residential streets is prohibited by City ordinance, and violators will be ticketed by local police.

· Drop-offs: Personal cars, driver services (such as Uber), and taxis may not drop guests off on residential streets. The general drop-off points are the Braeside Metra Station and the main (west) gate. Local police will ticket violators.

· Secondary Market: Ticket buyers should be certain to obtain tickets through Ravinia.org. Ravinia is not affiliated with any secondary-market ticket sellers and cannot be held responsible for fraudulent tickets. Tickets for some shows will sell out to donors prior to public sales. The best way to obtain tickets to the summer’s hottest shows is to become a financial supporter of the not-for-profit festival.

· No Smoking: Smoking of any type, including “vaping” and use of electronic cigarettes, is prohibited on Ravinia’s grounds and on Highland Park streets. There are designated smoking areas in Ravinia parking lots.

· Security: Guns, explosives, and other weapons are strictly prohibited at Ravinia. Guests will be subject to bag search and a “wanding” of their person upon entrance and re-entrance both to the park and to the Pavilion. Those refusing cooperation will not be allowed to enter.

· Weather: Ravinia concerts go on rain or shine. Should a concert be canceled due to severe weather in the area, Ravinia will make every effort to contact ticket buyers. Guests can monitor local Highland Park weather through the National Weather Service (ZIP code is 60035).

· Box Office: Tickets for these events and the rest of the summer 2016 lineup may be requested by Ravinia donors at the Affiliate level and above beginning March 9, and the Friend level on March 16. Bravo- and Encore-level donors can begin requesting lawn tickets on April 18. General public ticket sales begin at 5 a.m. on April 26, at Ravinia.org. The Ravinia Box Office phone lines will open for orders on May 10 at 847-266-5100. For more information, please visit Ravinia.org.

· ALL ARTISTS AND PROGRAMS ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE

 

Published in In Concert

Frank Sinatra Jr. opened his wonderful tribute show at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park by explaining what he hoped to convey, as he had been writing and collecting the photographs and videos for the last two years.

 

"In order to know a man’s life there is one word that must supersede everything,” Sinatra says. “And that word is truth. You are going to see the glittering lights. You are going to see the soaring mountain peaks. But you are also going to see the depths. You’re going to see the chasms.”

 

“There was a time in his career many years ago when his entire world – his work, his movies, his television, his records, his marriage, his personal life – everything fell apart completely,” Sinatra says. “And that is going to be shown in our show.”

 

First of all I was unaware that Sinatra had a son capable of singing as well as Sinatra Jr. does. Many times I closed my eyes and imagined with no difficulty that I was hearing the original recordings of all these magnificent songs as recorded by Sinatra himself.  All of the multimedia pieces were chosen with great care and presented a very moving, well-paced  and well-rounded story of Sinatra's life and indeed the life of all New Yorkers' and even all Americans who lived during Sinatra's career ups and downs.  The show reminded me of another great father son tribute, the play “Jack Lemmon Returns” by Jack Lemmon's son, Chris Lemmon.

 

There was an unnecessarily melancholy and almost apologetic air to Sinatra Jr.'s performance and also the fact that he never referred to Frank during the show as his father or "dad" struck me as very sad and the following quote explains why that is.

 

In interviews Frank Jr. repeatedly speaks of how his own life ‘is immaterial’, adding: “I’ve never been a success. I have never had a hit movie, a hit television program, a hit record. It would have been good for my personal integrity, my personal dignity to have had something like that. I have never made a success in terms of my own right. I have been very good at re-creation. But that is something that pleases me because my father’s music is so magnificent."

 

But I wholeheartedly disagree with Sinatra Jr.'s summation of his career. Although he may not have received any awards yet, this engrossing and educational tribute to his father stands on its own as a wonderful and well-crafted, musical production. 

 

Sinatra Jr. didn't have much time with his father as a child due to early divorce yet he devoted seven years of his life, working 24/7 to managing his ailing and genius father during Sinatra's last decade on earth. His efforts gave us an additional seven years of Sinatra live performances which is a huge contribution to the history of music and his fans worldwide. 

 

Sinatra Jr. doesn't just imitate his father, or impersonate him, his voice has a rich timbre and phrasing all his own that bleeds through the performance in just the right amounts.

 

Imagine if Elvis Presley had had a son who resembled him physically to a degree and more importantly was a college music major capable of playing and singing the music Elvis made famous for decades after his death. Wouldn't we consider that a great achievement in its own right? 

 

I heard many people during the intermission say just how much they were enjoying the show and that Sinatra Jr.'s storytelling and choice of photos and video, etc., really surpassed their expectations for the concert - and I felt the same way. We saw an impressive timeline that included the Rat Pack, Nancy Sinatra, various films and private family photos. Sinatra Jr. also flawlessly performed one favorite after another and really hit the mark on his beautiful rendition of "My Way".

 

Sinatra Jr.'s Centennial Celebration is a wonderful work of art and the amazing choice of talented musicians in his outstanding orchestra made this theatrical experience more than just a trip down memory lane. 

 

Sinatra Jr. has achieved something more in this production than mere imitation or tribute. He has created a highly entertaining and moving audience experience, partly because he is talented in his own right and partly because he has something no Sinatra impersonator will ever have. "The blood of my blood" Sinatra Jr. has  the blood of his genius and powerful father - the evergreen Frank Sinatra - running though his veins which makes the whole audience aware they are in Frank Sinatra's presence as he is surely watching his son proudly from the wings at every performance. 

 

I highly recommend seeing this production and hope that Sinatra Jr. will continue to perform it long after this 100th year birthday celebration hype has settled down again, because Sinatra's story deserves to be told to new generations as well as old and Sinatra Jr. is the only one who can tell it the right way with “the real truth" ringing out between every note. 

 

 

 

Published in In Concert

 

Jackson Browne is a veteran singer/songwriter who has a very impressive resume. He is also known for always having some amazing musicians in his corral. In the musician department, last Saturday night’s show at Ravinia was up to par and then some.

 

First up is guitarist/vocalist Larry Campbell. Campbell has played with everyone from Levon Helm and Bob Dylan to Sheryl Crow just to name a few. A true country picker from New York, believe it or not, Larry really dug in and played some tasty country licks. He and his wife Teresa Campbell opened the show fronting Jackson’s band. Teresa is a straight up country singer. Together they had and old school hippie country vibe that really got the crowd in the mood.

 

The rest of the band included Bob Glaub on bass, Mauricio Lewak on drums, Jeff Young on keys and vocals, Althea Mills on backing vocals and Greg Leisz on lap and pedal steel guitar and mandolin.

 

The opening set was short and sweet. Campbell and Williams did a killer duet version of Samson and Delilah, an old Rev. Gary Davis song. I really wish their set was longer. Williams has one of those voices that makes you want to hear more and more.

 

After a brief intermission, Browne took the stage fronting the band. I can honestly say the band carried the show for the most part. Jackson looked tired and road worn. I don’t know of his performance was reflective of his 66 years or just an off night. I could feel a lack of energy from the crowd as well. The best response was for the players in the band rather than Browne himself.

 

I also think material choice could have been better. A casual JB fan would have only recognized three songs at the end of the night. After a still somewhat entertaining performance, “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty” concluded the set with “Take It Easy” as the encore. Jackson also went off on a tangent in the middle of the set. He was very passionate about environmental issues but, unfortunately, he lost the crowd for a while.

 

Overall, the band was great and was filled with some incredible musicians. I think better song choices and a little more energy from the front man would have gone a long way to better the show. I will say I walked away a fan of Campbell and Williams. Their set really knocked me out.

 

Published in In Concert

With back-to-back sold out performances, Steely Dan triumphantly returned to Ravinia Festival in Highland Park where their smooth, jazzy and blues influenced rock echoed through the park, causing even the farthest picnickers from the stage to get up and sway to the music. Fronted now by just Donald Fagen (keys and vocals) and Walter Becker (guitar), the two co-founders who met at Bard College and put Steely Dan into action in 1972, the "the perfect musicalantiheroesfor the Seventies", as Rolling Stone Magazine once called them, rolled through each song with expected precision and the same good time feel that fans have become ever familiar with over the years.

Accompanied by what Becker proudly hailed as his “all-time favorite Steely Dan forever band”, the ensemble included a complete horn section, additional keys and guitar, a trio of background singers who impressed more and more with each number, drummer Keith Carlock and Freddie Washington (no, not the one from Welcome Back, Kotter) on bass. The highly talented Carlock and Washington kept the rhythm flowing at a perfect pace allowing the other members to effortlessly glide in and out over their rock-solid foundation. Becker and Fagen allowed band members to highlight their skills, not only during a full on introduction but also in many of the songs. For example, saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, amongst others, would occasionally walk from their designated area to front center stage and rip out some amazing riffs.  

The band started the night out with the Oliver Nelson cover “Teenie’s Blues” before Becker and Fagen walked onto the stage to the loud cheers of the pavilion audience and joined in for their first crowd pleaser “Black Cow”. As the show progressed, Steely Dan went on to play many of their classics including “Hey Nineteen”, “Godwhacker” “Babylon Sisters”, the Joe Tex cover “I Want To (Do Everything for You)” and “Peg”. Fagen’s vocals and keys were as sharp as ever – even his occasional piano flute thingy playing was entertaining. The band also played a very inspired version of “Dirty Work” with backup singer Carolyn Leonhart taking over on leads vocals on the track made famous by former member David Palmer.

Trying to enhance the mood of the evening even more so, Becker interrupted the music to address the crowd for several minutes, rambling on about this and that and encouraging everyone to grab their partners on the way home and pull over in the woods for some after show romancing.  

Closing out the set, Steely Dan went into what might be considered the band’s biggest hit “Reelin’ in the Years” where Carlock added to the song by going into a blazing drum solo. After a two minute absence the band returned to the stage to finish the night off with “Kid Charlemagne” with Fagen and Becker walking off immediately afterward, Fagen waving and Becker in an exaggerated strut, where the remainder of the musicians provided exit music to the tune of Nelson Riddle’s “The Untouchables”.

With the night was a clear and balmy seventy-eight or so degrees and the music sending fans on a mellow journey down memory lane, Steely Dan provided a night of memorable entertainment that fans can only hope will return next season.    

For upcoming Ravinia show information, visit www.ravinia.org

Published in In Concert

Chug-a-chug-a-choo-choo! The Wallflowers and Train are about to play at Ravinia, an outdoor venue. Yup not only one grand band is playing, but two!

Over the years I have seen large numbers of people play lots of The Wallflower’s and Train’s songs at bars. Plus teenyboppers blasting their tunes and bopping their heads, and probably even grandmas and grandpas, while riding on their scooters or in their cars. The Alternative Rock band, The Wallflowers, and the Rock group, Train, each have won Grammys, and have had immense success on the charts, proving they are truly stars.

People young enough to be in diapers, as well as individuals old enough to be in them (“butt” depends), made up the huge crowds’ age range. It was a big surprise to me yet pleasantly strange. However Ravinia’s policy of no food or booze in the pavilion was a first for me, when it comes to a concert-going experience change.

The Wallflowers started off quite tranquil. It is a good thing I did not take a dose of Nightquil. But soon enough they were a thrill!

The Wallflower’s, Jakob Dylan, is The Bob Dylan’s chilln.’ And he seemed like an extraordinarily appreciative and gracious person, thanking the audience very often. The highlight of The Wallflower’s performance was when Jakob had Train’s lead singer, Pat Monahan, join him onstage to sing “The Letter,” and they did an awesome rendition!

When Train came out playing “Calling All Angels” for a second night in a row at Ravinia, rose to the occasion. Pat Monahan went out into the audience, gave away a generous amount of photos, auto-graphed t-shirts and drumsticks, creating so much way cool band and audience interaction. He also got the crowd singing and even brought, Julie Schwartz, who Monahan stated texted him over 400 times, asking to sing onstage with him, and he did so, causing another highly exciting crowd reaction.

The largest portion of The Wallflower’s concert included them performing “One Headlight” and “6th Avenue Heartache,” their most popular tunes. Train’s performance did too, playing such massive hits like “Drops of Jupiter “ and “Soul Sister,“ with the addition of mighty “danceable” songs from their new album The Bulletproof Picasso, much of will probably be heard for many moons. The Wallflowers and Train are definitely, greatly talented artists—they are not the least bit a bunch of fly-by buffoons.

Published in In Concert
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