Ravinia Festival: Live Music at the Nation’s Largest Outdoor Concert Series

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HIGHLAND PARK, IL — The 85th season of the Ravinia Festival is set to kick off in July, as the nation's oldest outdoor concert series returns for the first time since the emergence of the coronavirus in Illinois.

Jeffrey Haydon, the new president and CEO of Ravinia Festival Association, announced the lineup for Ravinia's 2021 summer concerts Thursday, just over a year since the cancellation of the 2020 season. 

"More than ever before, we look forward to welcoming audiences back to Ravinia to be re-inspired by live music together," Haydon said in a statement. "As one of the nation's best outdoor music venues, Ravinia is perfectly positioned to welcome audiences to comfortably experience live music together again." 

Concerts have been presented in Ravinia Park every summer since 1904, save for the first few years of the Great Depression. This year's schedule will include about half as many performances as had been planned last year. 

Tickets will be sold in two phases so organizers can be flexible if restrictions associated with the coronavirus are updated in the second half of the season. Sales open to the public on June 16 for shows on Aug. 15 and before. Tickets for concerts after Aug. 15 are set to go on sale on July 21.

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"While this year's experience may be a little different, we look forward to continuing one of Chicagoland's favorite summertime traditions with music under the stars," Haydon said. 

Changes for the 2021 season include shorter concerts, no intermission, reduced audience capacity, and limited opening hours prior to concerts. All performances will take place outside. 

All patrons and staff are required to wear face masks in all areas of the park, including parking lots, except while actively eating or drinking, according to the park's policies.

Seating in the open-air pavilion will be sold in socially distanced groups of two or four. The North Lawn will have a reduced capacity determined by state public health guidelines at the time of the performance, with first-come, first-served seating. The South Lawn will be configured with pre-reserved "pods" with room for parties of two, four, or six and a screen displaying a live feed from the state. 

"Carousel Concerts," a new series of casual performances, is planned for the rotunda at the North Lawn. Only general admission lawn seating will be available for the series.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra returns for its summer residency, with 15 programs planned between July 9 and Aug. 15 with Marin Alsop, in her first year as chief conductor and curator, along with seven guest conductors. 

The Ravinia Steans Music Institute is also presenting about two dozen programs during the summer, which will be live-streamed for free online. They include a June 4 performance of three winning entries from last year's composition competition, a June 11 jazz showcase, 10 piano and string concerts in July, and four classical vocal performances in August.

The summer season will begin with three free events on July 1, 2, and 3 for invited audiences of neighborhood partners, families involved in Ravinia programming, and essential workers. 

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said a show at Ravinia, like a baseball game and a trip to the lake, is a quintessential part of summer in the Chicago area.

"We're delighted to welcome back the sounds of summer, and I have to say, one of the greatest losses of last summer that the community felt was the darkened Ravinia Park," Rotering said. 

"People obviously suffered horrible losses personally and economically, but in terms of that touchpoint that really says summer has arrived in the Chicago area, Ravinia is a major piece of that," she added. 

"We're excited they're coming back and I love the idea that they're having a concert or two just for first responders and people who have really been on the front lines for well over a year dealing with this tragedy."

Remaining Ravinia 2021 Schedule

  • John Hiatt and the Jerry Douglas Band, Aug. 24

  • Lake Street Dive, Aug. 26

  • Train, Aug. 27 and 28

  • King Crimson and The Zappa Band make their Ravinia debuts, Aug. 29

  • Davóne Tines makes his Ravinia debut on Aug. 31

  • Collective Soul, Better Than Ezra, and Tonic share the bill on Sept. 1

  • Lara Downes, Rachel Barton Pine, Ifetayo Ali-Landing and members of the Chicago Sinfonietta, Sept. 7

  • Mei-Ann Chen and the Chicago Sinfonietta, Sept. 8

  • Nexus Chamber Music, Sept. 9

  • Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco in her Ravinia debut, Sept. 10

  • Black Violin and Blind Boys of Alabama, Sept. 11

  • Fiesta Ravinia: Ana Bárbara, Las Cafeteras, and more, Sept. 12

  • Miró Quartet, Sept. 14

  • The Joffrey Ballet performs four contemporary pieces, Sept. 17

  • Ben Folds with the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, Sept. 18

  • Ziggy Marley makes his Ravinia debut with "A Celebration of Bob Marley," Sept. 19

  • Max Weinberg's Jukebox, Sept. 19

  • Lincoln Trio, Sept. 21

  • Andrew Bird, Sept. 24

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