The Ravinia Experience

One of the best parts of Chicago during the summertime is the Ravinia Music Festival.  Since Ravinia is an outdoor venue, Summer is the only time it is open.  After all, I seriously doubt anyone would be interested in attending during wintertime considering this IS Chicago, IL I’m talking about. The festival brings a nice eclectic mix of musical acts including Tony Bennett, Gypsy Kings, and my Texican brethren, Los Lonely Boys. One of the main attractions I enjoying hearing the most is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Ravinia is a magical place for listening to music in the outdoors. It is a place that brings music to life – literally.  Attendees have the option to purchase seats in the Pavilion, but the part I enjoy the most is picnicking on the lawn.  It is really astounding the amount of stuff that people bring with them when picnicking Ravinia – everything from tables to candelabras to an array of culinary choices – no holds barred really.  If music is a reflection of life, then what’s a better way to enjoy music than the great outdoors?  Anyone planning on visiting the Chicago area should absolutely plan on attending a concert while visiting.  You won’t be disappointed with the venue, I can’t speak for all the musical acts. (The Backstreet Boys are making an appearance.  Really?  Boys?)

In addition to the performances in the great outdoors, concerts are also held in the Martin Theatre and the Steans Institute.  Great acts such as the Kronos Quartet, Beaux Arts Trio, Betty Buckley and many others perform regularly at the Martin Theatre during the summer.  Plus, Steans Institute for Young Artists often has pre- or postlude concerts featuring participants.  Believe me, the Steans Institute invites some truly amazing musicians to participate.  The best part about Steans Institute performances is they are free.  Ravinia offers something for everyone.

Each year I try to attend a few concerts.  Thus far, I have been able to attend two CSO concerts.  The first show I attended featured Lang Lang with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The program included:

  • Kammersymphonie by Franz Schreker
  • Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff

The second program consisted of:

  • Symphony No. 8 in E-Flat Major (“Symphony of a Thousand”) by Gustav Mahler

For the exception of the Schreker, just about any classical music aficionado is familar with Gershwin, Rachmaninoff and Mahler.  Schreker is another story.  Schreker was a prominent composer before the Third Reich and Hitler rose to power in Germany.  Thanks to the Nazis, much of his music has been lost or destroyed.  It is great to know that the CSO is featuring Schreker’s recovered works throughout the summer.  The Kammersymphonie was a nice listen.  I’d love to hear it again.  I will have to dedicate a post to Lang Lang in the near future. He deserves one after hearing him perform at Ravinia.  I don’t know how frequently the Mahler is performed, but it was truly a treat to hear in concert; especially since the work is orchestrated for 6 vocal soloists, full choir and children’s choir accompanied by full orchestra.  Mahler described this work as a symphony for chorus (versus a symphony with chorus).  All in all great concerts.

Gil Shaham will be performing with the CSO on Thursday, August 7.  I am totally bummed that work will interfere with my attendance.  However, it might be fun to go here a performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (unstaged), and/or Buddy Guy and Johnny Lang jamming on the same night.

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2 comments on “The Ravinia Experience
  1. I’ve always been curious about Ravinia. The only exposure I have had, up until now, has been through posters tiled throughout the inside of the #22 bus.

    Thanks for the photos!

    What is the picnic crowd like for most non-BackstreetBoys concerts? [loud, disrespectful, smoky, etc (you can see my reservations)]

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