". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Saturday, July 31, 2010


A few days ago we made our annual summer visit to Ravinia, the outdoor concert venue in Highland Park, Illinois. In the past my husband and I have seen James Taylor, Elvis Costello, and Bruce Hornsby there. This year we decided it was time to take our two teenaged children with us (we got a babysitter for the six-year-old). And this time instead of going to see a pop/rock concert, we saw the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performing Rachmaninoff's First Symphony in D-minor and his Second Piano Concerto in C-minor with special guest, pianist Denis Matsuev. This concert was chosen not only because we love Rachmaninoff but also because my oldest son learned the third movement of the Second Piano Concerto this past year, and we thought it would be particularly enjoyable to hear it played live by a world class pianist.

You just can't beat the Ravinia experience. Lawn tickets for this concert were only $12/person, considerably less than we would have had to pay for a concert at Symphony Center in downtown Chicago. And you can't beat the natural setting. No need to dress up! We packed up a picnic basket of summer sausage, Italian hard salami, cheese, crackers, hummus, pita chips, carrots, grapes, apples, and brownies, plus a bottle of wine for Mom & Dad, loaded up our lawn chairs, and arrived at the park before 7:00, in plenty of time to enjoy some food and relaxation before the 8:00 performance. We were thankful that the rain that had been forecast for the evening came and went before we left home and did not at all hinder our plans, in fact cooling things off quite nicely.

It is possible to purchase reserved seating in the open air auditorium. But those tickets are much more costly. And why pay almost four times more per ticket for this . . .

. . . when you can have this?

Here are Phillip, Caitlin and Trevor, engaging in what is no doubt some highly erudite and profound conversation before the show.

And what would Ravinia be without a little pre-concert silliness?

I just love those two.

The really nice thing about a symphony concert at Ravinia is that when it is time to listen, people listen. The only distractions were the insects and the occasional train going by. (Not so the pop concerts. There's a lot of crowd noise at those. Of course, the music is much louder, so I guess it doesn't matter much.)

Once the music started, the silliness stopped, as did the conversation. But the neat thing about Ravinia is the freedom to listen in the way that suits you best. Some find it most helpful to close their eyes and let the music envelop them. Others find it enjoyable to engage in some sketching or writing while soaking in the sounds. It's possible to continue consuming your snacks or beverage of choice while you listen, or to stretch out on your blanket and look at the sky. Some (ahem) find the whole experience so relaxing that they may even doze off from time to time. (Okay, okay, I missed a little of the Symphony. I was so tired.)

If you live in the Chicago area and have never enjoyed a concert at the summer Ravinia festival, I highly recommend it. Maybe we'll see you there!


Melanie T said...

I love my mostly rural-ish lifestyle, but I miss the opportunities that living in a metropolitan area offers. It sounds like you had a of fun - and had a good nap to boot. Good for you!

Ewe said...

I attended Art of Music camp at RF two years when I was in high school, and my favorite part of the week was the night that we went to Ravinia. We also went to some concerts downtown and some sightseeing that was great since I lived 3 hours away, but you can't beat the Ravinia experience. I also went to concerts at Conner Prairie in Indianapolis, and Ravinia was better. Good for you for giving your kids the experience!

Barb the Evil Genius said...

Looks very much like Blossom here in NE Ohio. Except the outdoor seating at Blossom is on the side of a hill sloping slowly downwards towards the indoor seating. I saw Peter Gabriel there many years ago and also an orchestra concert of patriotic songs for Fourth of July.