This is Not a Drill

The inimitable Graham Johnson

The inimitable Graham Johnson

Clear your schedule for Wednesday, August 14. In their latest coup, Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute Program for Singers has announced that The OG-OBE collaborative pianist, scholar, author, and recording mega-star Graham Johnson will emcee An Evening of German Lieder at 6pm in the gorgeous and acoustically ideal Bennett Gordon Hall.

Ravinia Festival has been crushing it this summer with their mainstage programming and CSO series. Audiences have already had the chance to hear Angela Meade, Michelle DeYoung, Leah Crocetto, Jeanine De Bique, Ryan Speedo Green, Paolo Szot, the CSO Chorus, Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, Chicago Childern’s Choir, Renée Fleming, Marisol Montalvo, Matthew Polenzani, and Angel Blue. I feel guilty for not alerting you to all the incredible offerings that have passed (BTW Patricia Racette and Paolo Szot star in Trouble in Tahiti later this month, and Conspirare returns in September for an encore performance of Considering Matthew Shephard). My negligence aside, I did not want the opportunity to experience the wisdom of Graham Johnson next week to go unheralded, so VAC has come back to write this urgent post.

Take note of the other upcoming RSMI concerts Sunday, August 11 at 2pm; Saturday, August 17 at 6pm with a pre-concert talk by Cori Ellison; and Tuesday, August 20 at 6pm with a pre-concert forum with Ellison, soprano Amy Burton, and composer John Musto. This year’s vocal fellows includes an exceptional German baritone, Samuel Hasselhorn, whose tone quality is reminiscent of Thomas Allen. Hasselhorn won the prestigious Queen Elizabeth competition last year and joins the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera in September. You may also hear a Norwegian tenor named Nils Nilsen, a most unique, enigmatic artist who sings in a manner unlike his American-trained peers. His voice is like starlight on a cold night, which somehow manages to make you feel warm. There are other impressive musicians to meet this summer at RSMI — 16 singers and five collaborative pianists (complete list at the bottom of this page behind the cut). The Program for Singers has an unbeatable track record for recognizing the future stars of our art form. Repertoire and personnel for each of the concerts listed above are announced very close to the date of the performance, so just plan on attending, and be surprised.

Honestly, much of what I know about song literature, I learned by attending RSMI masterclasses and concerts.

While you are here, I want to mention two ensembles performing this weekend which I have not yet had the chance to experience. His Majesty’s Men, a male a cappella ensemble comprised of some of Chicago’s most in-demand musicians — like the dreamy trumpet player & bass-baritone Michael Hawes; and tenor Matthew Dean, whose participation in any performance is a guarantee of high quality. His Majesty’s Men performs at the historic St. John Cantius Church, Saturday at 7:30pm. Then there is common pulse, an ensemble that has very thoughtful branding and a sexy website. They perform Friday at St. James Cathedral at 7:30pm and Saturday at Wicker Park Lutheran Church at 7pm. Their program is called wings (everything is lower case, but I’m here for it), and according to their website, common pulse will be reprising the concert at a future date in a cave. Their digital marketing is on point, so they have my attention. Try to fit in one of these two ensembles with Grant Park Music Festival’s performances of the Delius A Mass of Life. Readers of VAC already know that I think GPMF Chorus is the best in the city, and the Delius is a rare work you are not likely to be able to experience again anytime soon.