Ravinia Returns for 2021 Season

By Keegan Morris |

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The CSO in performance at the Ravinia Pavilion (Photo courtesy of Ravinia Festival)

The Ravinia Festival announced today its 2021 concert schedule, marking the festival’s 85th concert season. The summer’s three-month schedule offers the festival’s signature blend of musical genres and presentations, with classical performances — led in large part by the festival’s new chief conductor and curator Marin Alsop — as well as performances of jazz, folk, and rock music. The season will begin July 1 and continue through September.

“As one of the nation’s best outdoor music venues,” proclaims new festival president and CEO Jeffrey P. Haydon, “Ravinia is perfectly positioned to welcome audiences to comfortably experience live music together again.”

Ravinia says it has consulted with Northwestern Medicine and followed local public health guidelines to develop health and safety protocols in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Those include shorter presentations with no intermission and reduced audience capacity. What’s more, all public presentations will be held outside: either at the Pavilion or the North Lawn.

The season will open with three free events: a solo piano recital by Garrick Ohlsson on July 1, followed by a chamber music recital on July 2 and a “Chicago Festival” presentation of local ensembles on July 3. These openers, Ravinia says, are geared specifically towards frontline and healthcare workers, first responders, and neighborhood partners.

Anthony McGill, who was born and raised in Chicago (Photo: Matthew Septimus)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will return to the festival, which has served as its summer home since 1936. Musicians appearing will include Joshua Bell, Anthony McGill, Midori, and Pinchas Zukerman, while conductors James Conlon and Steven Reineke will be among those taking the stand. On July 18, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy-winning actress and singer Cynythia Erivo will make her festival debut with a wide-ranging vocal program conducted by Marin Alsop and backed by the CSO.

In the chamber music mode, the festival will host mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung (an alum of the festival’s Ravinia Steans Music Institute), Lincoln Trio, and a trio of artists likely familiar to WFMT listeners: pianist Lara Downes, violinist Rachel Barton Pine, and cellist Ifetayo Ali-Landing. Actor Alan Cumming and NPR’s Ari Shapiro will come together for a musical evening of storytelling.

Ravinia’s 2021 season emphasizes diverse composers, with programs featuring music by Jessie Montgomery, Shawn Okpebholo, Margaret Bonds, Stacy Garrop, Chen Yi, Arturo Márquez, and more.

The festival will also host Chicago-area collaborators, specifically the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Joffrey Ballet, in the latter ensemble’s first return to the Highland Park in more than ten years.

The festival’s in-house summer training program, the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, will host roughly 24 performances during the summer season, all of which will be livestreamed for free to YouTube from the Bennett Gordon Hall.

Jazz and folk highlights will include appearances by Kurt Elling, Wynton Marsalis, and Judy Collins; pop, rock, R&B, and country highlights will include Gladys Knight, The Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Ziggy Marley, and Andrew Bird.

Tickets for the first half of the Ravinia Festival 2021 summer season will go on sale in June; for the second half, they will go on sale in July. For more information, visit ravinia.org.