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Cynthia Erivo, Brian McKnight, Joffrey Ballet among the artists on tap for abbreviated Ravinia season

The Highland Park venue will reopen July 1 for 64 concerts through Sept. 26, highlighting Chicago artists, music by women, and Asian, Black and Latinx composers.

Cynthia Erivo, pictured in this screen shot during last month’s “A Grammy Salute to the Sounds of Change,” will make her CSO soloist debut at the Ravinia Festival this summer.
Cynthia Erivo, pictured in this screen shot during last month’s “A Grammy Salute to the Sounds of Change,” will make her CSO soloist debut at the Ravinia Festival this summer.
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Cynthia Erivo, Kurt Elling, Brian McKnight, Ides of March, Madeleine Peyroux, Midori, Joshua Bell, Pinchas Zukerman, the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Joffrey Ballet are among the artists in addition to the previously announced Chicago Symphony Orchestra residency who will be participating in a season of music under the stars at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, it was announced Thursday.

After the pandemic forced the venue’s shutdown and the cancellation of the 2020 season more than one year ago, Ravinia will reopen July 1 for an abbreviated season this year — 64 concerts through Sept. 26, highlighting Chicago artists, music by women, and Asian, Black and Latinx composers.

New to the three-month schedule are Carousel Concerts, “a series of casual evening performances of jazz, folk, and bluegrass music at the carousel-styled rotunda on the North Lawn with general admission lawn seating only,” Thursday’s statement said.

“Programmatically, it needs to look like Ravinia,” festival CEO and president Jeffrey Haydon told the Sun-Times. “We want to have that full range. We want to have the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, however we can. We want to have pop shows. We want to have jazz. We want to have family programming. We want to hire and support the Chicago artist community that’s hit very hard during all this. So, let’s find all those things that make Ravinia a special gathering place and a support, and let’s put that together as best we can.”

The CSO concerts will feature roughly 50 people onstage, and only domestic soloists, Haydon said, noting “it’s impossible to get travel visas right now. And that’s fine, we have so many fantastic artists around here that we want to support.”

Other changes in place this season include reduced audience capacity; socially distanced seating in the pavilion sold in groups of two or four; shorter concerts with no intermission; shortened hours in the park prior to all shows; reserved, socially distanced pods for two, four or six people on the South Lawn; first-come, first-served seating in the North Lawn area (reduced capacity).

Chicago-born jazz singer-songwriter Kurt Elling is schedule to perform at Ravinia on July 13 with Charlie Hunter.
Chicago-born jazz singer-songwriter Kurt Elling is schedule to perform at Ravinia on July 13 with Charlie Hunter.
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Here are some highlights of the 2021 season:

— Free events July 1-3 include a “Chicago Festival” on July 3 featuring performances by the Ides of March featuring Jim Peterik, Shemekia Copeland, Chicago Jazz Orchestra Sextet, South Shore Drill Team, and Mucca Pazza

— Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Ravinia chief conductor and curator Marin Alsop and featuring pianist Jorge Federico Osorio, piano, July 9. The concert kicks off the CSO residency, continuing through Aug. 15 with Marin Alsop and seven guest conductors

— Cynthia Erivo, making her CSO debut on July 18 headlining the Ravinia Women’s Board’s annual gala

— Kurt Elling and Charlie Hunter July 13 (Carousel Concert)

— The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia premiere of CSO composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery’s “Banner,” Marin Alsop, conductor, July 17

— Brian McKnight in his Ravinia debut July 30

— Judy Collins and Madeleine Peyroux, Aug. 10


— Fiesta Ravinia: Ana Bárbara, Las Cafeteras, Sept. 12

Brian McKnight will makes his Ravinia debut on July 30.
Brian McKnight will make his Ravinia debut on July 30.
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— Willie Nelson & Family and Nate Smith, Aug. 14


— Gladys Knight, Aug. 18


— The Beach Boys, Aug. 21-22


— John Hiatt and the Jerry Douglas Band, Aug. 24

— Black Violin and Blind Boys of Alabama, Sept. 11


— Alan Cumming and Ari Shapiro in “Och & Oy! A Considered Cabaret,” July 20.

— The Zukerman Trio — violinist Pinchas Zukerman, cellist Amanda Forsyth and pianist Shai Wosner, July 28

Collective Soul, Better Than Ezra, Tonic, Sept. 1

The Joffrey Ballet in four contemporary pieces: Beyond the Shore,” “Swing Low,” “The Sofa” and “The Times Are Racing,” Sept. 17

“One of the things that is important to me is that anything presented at Ravinia have a strong musical component to it, so the Joffrey will have live music,” Haydon said.

Tickets will go on sale at Ravinia.org on June 16 for concerts taking place July 1-Aug. 15, and July 21 for shows scheduled after Aug. 15.

The season schedule and complete information about this summer at Ravinia can be found at Ravinia.org.

Contributing: Kyle MacMillan