“Celebrating Hidden American Triumphs” – Ravinia is Back

Through Tyler Gate on to the Ravinia Festival grounds, Photo: Courtesy of the Ravinia Festival
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The second night of the Ravinia Festival, July 10, 2021 featured the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Marin Alsop, Ravinia’s Chief Conductor and Curator, Jonathan Rush, guest conductor and Jaye Ladymore, narrator presenting: “Celebrating Hidden American Triumphs”

A Ravinia picnic

It was a thrill to return to Ravinia after the closure that felt like it lasted forever. How lovely to once again be able to walk through the entry gates and find a spot for a picnic.   It was so good to see the familiar statues, the expanse of lawn with beautiful flowers, the pavilion, and the truck with many goodies still in place and still serving that very special ice cream.

Reserved spaces

The grounds have changed with a reserved lawn area and the pavilion has spaces between seats. I spoke with Maureen and Michael, a couple from Buffalo Grove who have been regular visitors to Ravinia. They were very happy to return, especially to hear the CSO.  They will attend all the CSO concerts but also plan to see “The Eagles”.

Around us were the usual tables, fancy foods, wine bottles and happy people, though people were father apart than in the past. There was a blanket near us that was bright with lights, and three people happy to be celebrating a 50th birthday.

Happy 50th Birthday

The weather was not in our favor as a light drizzle began.  But once the concert began I was mesmerized and barely noticed the weather.  Beyond her skill in conducting, listening to Marin Alsop introduce and explain the people and the works with positive energy and enthusiasm was an uplifting experience. With honors, awards and appointments all over the world for her conducting skills, it is Alsop’s ability to expand the listener’s appreciation of music that stands out to me.

Marin Alsop, Ravinia’s Chief Conductor and Curator, Photo: Courtesy of The Ravinia Festival

Marin Alsop Youtube

The night was full of lovely surprises.  The works of contemporary composers filled much of the program and Laura Karpman spoke about her work “All American”, a lively piece that started the program. Stacy Garrop, an Evanston based composer, spoke about her work “The Battle for the Ballot”.  This multimedia presentation was exquisite and included Jaye Ladymore reading the words from the 39 words of the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America granting voting rights to women interspersed with the music while photos depicting the struggle for the right to vote were displayed on the monitors. The work was moving and sent a powerful message.

Jaye Ladymore, Photo: Courtesy of the Ravinia Frestival

The next work ,“Fate Now Conquers”, was by Carlos Simon who grew up in Atlanta, GA and began his musical training with music of the Church.  He went on to study and write music all over the country, winning many awards. Guest Conductor, Jonathan Rush, was a student of Marin Alsop, who is building an outstanding reputation.  He was a joy to watch moving with great energy to the very energetic music.

Jonathan Rush, Guest Conductor, Photo: Courtesy of Ravinia Festival

Introducing composer James P Johnson who lived from 1894 to 1955, Marin Alsop told of her efforts to find his work when many said it was not possible to locate his work.  She did find his work and the audience this night was treated to the CSO with Marin Alsop conducting Johnson’s pieces, “Harlem Symphony” and “Victory Stride”.  The audience was told that we did know Johnson because he composed the “The Charleston”.  “Harlem Symphony” depicted many aspects of Harlem in the 1940’s while  “Victory Stride” was energetic and fun.

Flowers are a Ravinia delight

Photos: B. Keer unless otherwise noted.

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