Tonight I went down to Chicago’s beautiful Millennium Park to check out the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra moved into the facility just a couple of summers ago, and it is a massive venue improvement for this fine ensemble. Frank Gehry designed the pavilion, which is obvious to anyone familiar with his work.
Millennium Park is a really outstanding addition to downtown Chicago. It sits just north of Grant Park and is built on top of functioning train tracks. It is amazing to check out before and after photos of this project.
The stage and seating area are set significantly below street level to help control noise pollution during the concert. This definitely helps with the concert experience. The old venue (The Petrillo Music Shell) was at street level, and traffic, ambulances, buses, and the like constantly interrupted the listening experience. The new set up is much improved, although no outdoor venue in downtown Chicago can be completely rid of these distractions.
Those who do not live in Chicago may not realize that the Grant Park Music Festival is free! It consists of a ten week season in the summer, and all events are free to the public. This orchestra is really excellent. It consists of many Lyric Opera of Chicago orchestra musicians and people from out of town who don’t have a summer season with their hometown orchestra.
I hadn’t checked the program for this evening before leaving to attend the concert, and I groaned when I opened the program book. Liszt’s Fantasy on The Ruins of Athens and his Totentanz, and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 made up the program. These are actually two of my least favorite commonly played composers. The orchestra sounded spectacular fro the Liszt, as did soloist Louis Lortie. Emmanuel Villaume, whom I have worked with for a few summers at the Spoleto USA Festival, was the conductor for the evening, and he did a magnificent job. But nothing could make me stay for the Bruckner–I can’t stand his music, so I had to leave after the first half.
Here is a short clip (again, sorry about the horrible video quality) of the concert venue: