For the entire life of this magazine—and for about six decades before it was born—the Grant Park Music Festival has been a beacon of the Chicago summer. The resident orchestra and chorus is a seasonal gig for many of the top players in town, who bring their A-game despite (most of the time, anyway) being a bit more casually dressed. Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar prepares a jaw-droppingly diverse series of programs, probably a year’s worth of work for a mere mortal conductor, and delivers it with polish all season long. This year, on June 19—and I know some of you will be more excited than others to hear it—the band is going to assay my single favorite piece of music, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, with dashing Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan on the keys. (Do stop by my blanket for some Champagne.)
There’s plenty of that sort of thing on offer, of course (Beach, Beethoven, Bernstein and Brahms all get airtime this summer), but there’s lighter fare too—patriotic jams July 4, for instance; The Wizard of Oz score, with the movie, played live July 10; and the Mambo Kings August 7. Overall, in fact, as the stalwart Tribune critic Howard Reich put it, this year the festival is going to “stretch out” a bit, with more action on the LED screen, several commissioned world premieres and a handful of stellar recitals.
It’s the festival’s 85th season (and Kalmar’s 20th year, and even Millennium Park’s 15th birthday), so I am glad to see them mixing it up a bit. Celebrating, even. That’s what we’ve been trying to do here in our pages this year as well. Thanks for joining in.