In this week's newsletter: Grant Park Music Festival, Sculpture Around Town, Pride Parade, Marquis Hill, and more

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{ Chicago Guide }

June 21 through June 27, 2017

A fan at Mamby on the Beach 2015

A fan at Mamby on the Beach 2015 Photo: Max Herman


1. Grant Park Music Festival

A week after the free festival’s season opener, the sunny soprano Susanna Phillips (a Mozart soloist for Music of the Baroque in January and Juliet at Lyric before that) lights up one of the shortest nights of the year soloing on Aaron Copland’s Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson. Beethoven’s lesser-played Symphony No. 4 partners the Copland.

FREE 6/21 at 6:30 p.m. Jay Pritzker Pavilion.


2. Make Music Chicago

The local maximum of the Northern Hemisphere’s tilt toward the sun coincides (more or less) with that of worldwide music density in the global Fête de la Musique (Make Music Day), always celebrated on June 21. Make Music Chicago, the local Fête bureau, fills the day with opportunities for participation: encouraged play-ins, open-air concerts, and recitals, centering on a session with the Grant Park Apprentice Chorale at the Chicago Cultural Center at 12:15 p.m.

FREE 6/21, all day. Various venues.


3. Sculpture Around Town

The year 2017 is being recognized as the year of public art. Accordingly, Chicago Sculpture International has organized trolley tours to nearly 50 works that have popped up in the city’s parks, with a special focus on a carved-tree series transforming dead trunks into surreal wonders. Pick one of three two-hour tours: north (June 21, 6 p.m.), lakefront (June 24, 10 a.m.), or south (June 25, noon).

6/21, 6/24 and 6/25. $20. Chicago Cultural Center.


4. The Gin Game

Real-life husband and wife Paula Scrofano and John Reeger play a pair of seniors who hate each other at first sight but grudgingly agree to play cards together. Several hands of gin rummy later, a prickly romance is blooming, proving that love in the AARP years can be as enthralling as teen romance.

6/22–8/13. $43–$59. Drury Lane Theatre.


5. Logan Square Arts Festival

The neighborhood’s premier arts and music festival returns with a lineup that features rising local talent like Faraway Plants and Joan of Arc as well as performances from national heavy hitters like Chuck Inglish of the rap group, The Cool Kids. Revolution Brewing and The Whistler Bar serve up beer and cocktails.

6/23–25. $5 suggested donation. Logan Square.


6. Marquis Hill Blacktet

Trumpet player Marquis Hill reinforced Chicago’s reputation as a fertile ground for jazz musicians after winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2014. Last year, his quintet, which he calls “Blacktet,” released The Way We Play, their breakout record that showcases Hill’s refreshing and prolific take on jazz standards.

6/23–25. $20–$35. Jazz Showcase.


7. Mamby on the Beach

The third annual music fest features the likes of MGMT, Local Natives, Flying Lotus, Saba, BJ the Chicago Kid, and Ravyn Lenae (see “How to Balance High School and Touring? Ask Ravyn Lenae” for more).

6/24–25. Oakwood Beach. $61–$200.


8. Chicago Folks Operetta

This thorough company makes its mission the omissions of seasons past—operettas stranded in time by moldy translations, odd politics, or failure to catch fire. True to form, this summer CFO stages the Chicago premiere of Johnny Johnson, an antiwar satire by Kurt Weill (The Threepenny Opera). Written in English during Weill’s years in New York, the musical has the pitch-dark antic vibe of Weill’s former home in Weimar Germany.

6/24–7/9. $30–$40. Stage 773.


9. 48th Annual Pride Parade

Veterans of this perennial parade know to show up early—either to claim a choice slice of sidewalk or to snag a patio seat at a brunch spot along the route. Expect flashy floats accompanied by colorful characters in equally colorful costumes.

FREE 6/25 at noon. Montrose and Broadway.


10. Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist

The Art Institute possesses some of the world’s best holdings of postimpressionist Paul Gauguin, mostly known today as Van Gogh’s friend who painted in Tahiti. This summer blockbuster augments Gauguin’s famous scenes with his lesser-known works in sculpture and furniture, giving a fuller picture of the artist who pushed the limits of 19th-century art.

6/25–9/10. $14–$29. Art Institute of Chicago.

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Friday, June 23: 5 p.m.–11 p.m.
Saturday, June 24 and Sunday June 25: 12 p.m.–11 p.m.
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You Should Know

Kuang-Hao Huang

Up next in our series of interviews with notable, in-the-know locals: Kuang-Hao Huang, artistic director of Make Music Chicago, which descends on the city Wednesday with 175 free performances.

First off: Explain what Make Music Chicago is.
It’s basically a daylong, citywide celebration of music-making that happens every June 21. In Chicago, we’re in our 7th year of doing this. It’s based on France’s Fête de la Musique, which started in 1982 and has now spread to about 750 cities around the world. There will be play-along concerts where people of all skill levels can get together and play. There will also be organized performances featuring professionals for the public to watch. In total, there are 175 performances around the city in 65 locations, so there should be something for everybody.

What’s new and exciting this year?
For us, the most exciting events are the play-alongs or sing-alongs that get everyday, non-professional, or amateurs to come out and play. One of our favorites is the Harmonica Blowout that happens in McKinley Park. Honer, the harmonica maker, donates 60 harmonicas and the first people who come by will also get a free lesson from Joe Filisko, who’s an amazing blues harmonica player. He teaches at Old Town School of Folk Music.

Another big project we’ve been pushing this year is this performance called “Lift Every Voice.” It’s a concert in honor victims of racial violence and hate crimes. It’s a joint effort between Boston, Chicago, and Cleveland. In Chicago, we have 11 string quartets (two violins, a viola, and a cello) playing two pieces in 11 different locations throughout the city at 11:30 a.m. Then, at night, all of those string quartets will come together to play as an orchestra in Wrigley Square at Millennium Park at 5 p.m. We managed to get a lot of the big classical music organizations on board with this, including the Chicago Symphony Civic Orchestra, the Chicago Philharmonic, and the Avalon String Quartet.

Is the idea to make music—both playing and watching it—more accessible?
That may not be the goal of the event internationally, but in Chicago, that’s pretty high up on our list. We used to have an organization called Rush Hour Concerts, and the whole idea behind that was to make classical music more accessible to everybody. It was always free, short concerts to let people dabble in classical music. Make Music Chicago was sort of an outgrowth of that program. We have this great partnership with the Chicago Park District, and I’ve found that we have parks in under-resourced areas that have really latched onto this. It gives those neighborhoods the opportunity to host musicians in a park as a way to activate their community, and it doesn’t cost them anything—everyone involved in Chicago does this for free. So it’s a great way to bring the community together.

What’s your background in music?
I’m classical pianist by trade, and I teach at Roosevelt University at the Chicago College of Performing Arts. I split my time mostly between that, professional playing, and doing this with Make Music Chicago.

Are you participating this year?
Usually I have to run around and make sure everything runs smoothly, but the one thing I do every year is the Sousapalooza play-along in Millennium Park, with the Navy Band Great Lakes’s ceremonial band. I grew up playing trombone, so once a year I pull it out and see if I can still make some decent sounds. For me, it’s a rush to be amongst a group like the Navy Band and march along. You feel like you’re good, even if you’re not. As told to Reuben Unrau


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