The Grant Park Music Festival is one of this city’s greatest summertime treasures. And the vast array of programming just announced for the coming season, which will run June 15 – Aug. 20 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park, suggests why.
Thirty concerts, including a week-long collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, led by conductor Marin Alsop, along with a world premiere commission by American composer Michael Gandolfi are among the events scheduled. Other highlights include the Midwest premiere of Bohuslav Martinü’s “Epic of Gilgamesh”; “The Crazy Arc of Love,” a concert featuring vocalist Storm Large; a Cole Porter Celebration led by Broadway conductor Kevin Stites; and the return of Festival favorites Stephen Hough, Christian Tetzlaff, Rachel Barton Pine and many more. In addition, the Festival has renewed its commitment to Festival Connect, its music education and engagement initiative staged in many parts of Chicago, part of the city’s Night Out in the Parks program.
Grant Park Music Festival artistic director and principal conductor Carlos Kalmar, and chorus director Christopher Bell have assembled a roster of Festival, regional, and world premieres and revivals of important classical works from the 20th century to present day, with guest artists of national and international renown, and collaborations with Chicago cultural organizations.
All concerts are free, and most will take place on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m., and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m.
Here is a list of selected highlights:
• The world premiere of a new orchestral work specially commissioned for the Festival by American composer Michael Gandolfi, drawing inspiration from two new structures featured in Charles Jencks’ magnificent garden in Scotland, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. To accompany the world premiere, Gandolfi will hold a week-long residency at the Festival. (Carlos Kalmar conducts, August 5 and 6)
• A week-long collaboration with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, featuring the renowned conductor and MacArthur Fellow, Marin Alsop, showcasing programming specially curated by Alsop for Festival audiences. On Wednesday, Alsop will conduct the Grant Park Orchestra and “genius grant recipient” cellist Alisa Weilerstein in Azul by Osvaldo Golijov, followed by the Illinois premiere of the multimedia work “LIFE: A Journey Through Time,” featuring imagery by acclaimed wildlife photographer Frans Lanting set to music by composer Philip Glass. On the weekend, Alsop and MacArthur fellow and jazz violinist Regina Carter explore the African American experience through music with works by Duke Ellington, on a program that is anchored by Dvořák’s “New World Symphony.” (July 20, 22 and 23)
• Choral masterworks, conducted by Carlos Kalmar, including the Midwest premiere of Bohuslav Martinů’s rarely performed 1955 oratorio “The Epic of Gilgamesh” (July 1 and 2), Mozart’s “Great Mass in C Minor” (August 5 and 6), and Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust” (August 19 and 20)
• An all-Tchaikovsky program including the “Orchestral Suite No. 3” and “Piano Concerto No. 1” with acclaimed international pianist Kirill Gerstein (Carlos Kalmar conducts, August 12 and 13)
• Festival favorite Storm Large performs her new program “The Crazy Arc of Love,” exploring the many facets of romance through classics from the Great American Songbook. (Carlos Kalmar conducts, June 22)
• A Cole Porter Celebration, led by Broadway conductor Kevin Stites with the Grant Park Chorus and guest artists Karen Mason, Hugh Panaro and Ben Crawford from the Broadway stage (July 8 and 9)
• CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra, one of the nation’s premiere youth orchestras, joins the world-renowned, 110-voice National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS). Christopher Bell, NYCoS’ founder and artistic director, will conduct this annual Independence Day Salute, full of patriotic favorites from the “Armed Forces Salute” to “America the Beautiful,” with a few Scottish folk songs on the roster. Presented by the Grant Park Music Festival; the Grant Park Orchestra will not perform on this night (Monday, July 4)
• The Festival will premiere modern/contemporary works by Aaron Jay Kernis (“Whisper, Echo, A Cry”) Christopher Rouse (“Thunderstruck”), James MacMillan (“Britannia”), and Carlisle Floyd (“Of Mice and Men,” Act I, featuring rising vocalists from Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center). The Festival will also reprise notable American works by Michael Torke (“Book of Proverbs”), Roy Harris (“Symphony No. 3 in One Movement”), and Walter Piston (“Symphony No. 2”), as well as Rimsky-Korsakov’s seldom performed “Symphony No. 2, Antar.”
• The Festival debuts of pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, performing Poulenc’s “Concerto for Two Pianos” (alongside returning guest artist Andrew von Oeyen); Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen in Chopin’s “Piano Concerto No. 2”; accordionist Michael Ward-Bergeman and percussionists Jamey Haddad and Cyro Baptista in Golijov’s “Azul”; and cellist Christian Poltéra in Shostakovich’s “Cello Concerto No. 1.” The season will also feature the debuts of guest conductors Michal Nesterowicz (artistic director, Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife and newly appointed principal guest conductor of Sinfonieorchester Basel), and Edwin Outwater (music director, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Ontario).
• Return engagements by violinist Rachel Barton Pine, performing Bruch’s “Violin Concerto in G minor”; violinist Christian Tetzlaff, performing Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto in E minor”; pianist Stephen Hough, performing Rachmaninov’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”; conductors Christoph König, leading Bruckner’s “Symphony No. 4” and Thomas Wilkins at the podium for Mendelssohn’s “Italian Symphony.”
FESTIVAL CONNECT: MUSIC EDUCATION AND ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVE
The Grant Park Music Festival renews its commitment this season to its comprehensive initiative aimed to increase music education and engagement opportunities for audiences of all ages. Working with the Chicago Park District and Mayor Emanuel’s Night Out in the Parks program, Festival Connect will continue to bring a focus to the neighborhoods with performances by the Grant Park Orchestra, the Grant Park Chorus, Project Inclusion and the Apprentice Chorale.
Memberships to the Grant Park Music Festival 2016 season are available beginning Jan. 12 and include reserved access for every Festival concert, along with exclusive benefits like access to concert receptions and discounts on parking and restaurants. The Festival also offers packages with nine and 13 concerts that include reserved seats with complimentary exchange privileges. For the first time, the Festival will offer patrons the opportunity to choose their own eight or 12 concert series. Memberships begin at $169.
In addition, every Grant Park Music Festival concert has seats that are free and open to the public. Seats in the Seating Bowl and on the Great Lawn are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Priority access to reserved seats in the Pavilion is available for groups of ten or more. Exclusive seating on the stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in the Choral Balcony is available for groups of 50 or more. Group seating begins at $15 per person.
For information about memberships and groups or to learn more about the Grant Park Music Festival, visit gpmf.org or call 312.742.7647. For additional information, visit the Grant Park Music Festival Facebook page or follow the Festival on Twitter @gpmf.