Pictured: The renowned Harvard Glee Club is just one of the many groups/performers coming to Ravinia this summer. Michael Feinstein. Photo courtesy of Kyle Whitney. Read on.
Summertime is when music goes outdoors, highlighted by the Grant Park Music Festival in downtown Chicago and the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park. Both offer widely-varied programs, outdoor picnicking, cool lake breezes and a relaxing atmosphere. Both also offer numerous programs of interest to LGBT audiences, some of which feature gay artists and/or composers, both living and dead. We take time to highlight them for this special Pride Month edition of Measure for Measure.
The Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus actually perform in Millennium Park in the alien spaceship known as the Pritzker Pavilion. It offers several thousand free seats ( although the best seats are reserved for members of the Grant Park Concert Society ) and a large lawn for picnics with fab Chicago skyline views. The 2008 concert line-up includes musical selections by several out composers ( and, quite probably, several not-out composers ) , but none more frequently than Peter Tchaikovsky, who's all over Grant Park like a bad rash this year. Still, he isn't alone.
June 27-28—Lord Benjamin Britten's 'Les Illuminations' is performed in a concert of 20th-century masters that also includes works by Vaughan Williams and Bartok ( Note: This is in Millennium Park's Harris Theatre, not at the Pritzker Pavilion. )
July 2, 5—WFMT program host Bill McGlaughlin narrates a program exploring American music, with works of iconic gay late-bloomer Leonard Bernstein included along with pieces by Gershwin, Chadwick, John Adams and various Chicago composers.
July 3—The annual Independence Eve extravaganza always features a fantastic fireworks display that kicks off with Tchaikovsky's explosive orgasmic '1812 Overture' ( at Petrillo Music Shell, not Pritzker Pavilion ) .
July 9, 11—Tchaikovsky's last symphony ( No. 6 ) , the romantically weepy 'Pathetique,' is the featured work in concert by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Hanna Lintu and also offering works by Sibelius and Szymanowski.
July 13—The great violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman leads the orchestra in works by Bach, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky, this time his 'Romeo and Juliet': Overture-Fantasy.
July 29, 31—Sing out, Louise! It's gay night in composer heaven in a program of vocal music performed by the Grant Park Chorus, conducted by Christopher Bell. Under the title of Made in America, this concert offer works by John Corigliano, Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber among other composers, living and dead. At the Harris Theater.
Complete Grant Park Music Festival details can be found at
The Ravinia Festival, in north suburban Highland Park, isn't free and it charges for parking, but it's the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and annually offers the greatest living soloists, conductors and chamber players—the superstars of serious music. Musical fare ranges from concert opera to great orchestral music to intimate recitals to dance. Ravinia also offers pop and jazz programs but they aren't the concern of Measure for Measure. Ravinia facilities include two sit-down dining options plus gourmet take-out food and an ice cream shop. New this year: Ravinia's first bar. You'll find all the info at www.ravinia.org .
For all that glory, what Ravinia lacks this season is a strong and obvious LGBT presence. There's very little Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Copland, Barber, Britten, etc. There's a single work by John Corigliano and a smattering of Franz Schubert but we can only have our suspicions about him. There's no Ravinia theater event this year, as the multi-year Sondheim series culminated last season with Patti Lupone in Gypsy ( leading to her recent Tony Award ) , thus cutting off another usual avenue of LGBT presence. Thank goodness Ravinia isn't short of divas this season, or we don't know what we'd have to talk about.
July 5—The Harvard Glee Club ( in the Martin Theatre ) . A large group of attractive college boys in blazers who sing well. We went to school in Boston and met many Harvard men. They aren't all straight.
July 6-7—This is it! Two intimate recitals in the Martin Theatre by the incomparable Barbara Cook, the queen of the Great American Songbook and legendary Broadway leading lady.
July 9—Violinists don't come any cuter than Joshua Bell—although he must be over 30 by now—and few are as talented. Bell performs the very challenging Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony under the baton of Leonard Slatkin.
July 13—A Martin Theatre recital by beloved pianist Emanuel Ax features solo works by notorious heterosexual Franz Liszt and his curly-haired questionable contemporary Franz Schubert. The deal with Schubert is that he never married, traveled exclusively with male friends and died at 29. So how can you know for sure?
July 19—The great diva Kiri Te Kanawa is in concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ( CSO ) under Ravinia music director James Conlon. Dame Kiri will sing works by Richard Strauss, Canteloube and Puccini among others. The voice is superb. The question is: will she be warm and generous or cold and aloof?
Aug. 3—Best of Broadway finds the CSO, under Erich Kunzel, with soloists and chorus performing songs by Cole Porter and Lenny Bernstein, among other composers of Great White Way fame.
Aug. 17—The great diva Michael Feinstein, the out pianist and singer, performs with Jane Monheit in an evening of Gershwin under the stars.
Sept. 1—Celebrate Labor Day with the working man's friend, Peter Tchaikovsky. His Piano Concerto No. 1 and his '1812 Overture'—with live cannons—will be performed by the Ravinia Festival Orchestra under Erich Kunzel, with piano soloist Andrew von Oeyen.