Chicago's Grant Park Music Festival Kicks Off Today, July 4th

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Summer in Chicago continues this month with the Grant Park Music Festival, led by Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar and the Grammy Award-nominaTed Grant Park Orchestra, along with Chorus Director Christopher Bell and the Grant Park Chorus in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park. The Festival will bring performances by outstanding guest conductors and guest artists from around the world, in a month of exciting programming that includes a world premiere commission, a live concert screening of Frozen Planet, the latest hit series from BBC/Discovery Channel, a tribute concert to Broadway and Hollywood legend, Frank Loesser and other Festival favorites.

All concerts are free and take place on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m., and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. (unless otherwise noted).

Throughout the season, the Festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grant Park Chorus with a series of special events, including two world premiere commissions for orchestra and chorus and the release of the Grant Park Chorus' first-ever a cappella recording. Entitled Songs of Smaller Creatures and other American Choral Works, the CD features Christopher Bell leading the chorus in works by American composers Abbie Betinis, Paul Crabtree, David Del Tredici, Stacy Garrop, Ned Rorem, Lee Kesselman and Eric Whitacre. The recording will be available for sale at performances of the Grant Park Music Festival and through Cedille Records.

July begins with the annual Independence Day Celebration under the baton of Christopher Bell (today, July 4). Other highlights this month include a world premiere commission for the Grant Park Music Festival by American composer Sebastian Currier (July 6 and 7); the sequel to Planet Earth Live! called Frozen Planet in Concert, a live concert performance of the hugely successful BBC/Discovery Channel documentary led by guest conductor and composer George Fenton (July 11). The month continues with Perfectly Frank: From Broadway to Hollywood, celebrating the music of Frank Loesser, led by returning guest conductor Kevin Stites (July 13 and 14) and featuring an acclaimed quartet of Broadway vocalists-Marin Mazzie, Rebecca Luker, Jason Danieley and Howard McGillin.

The last two weeks of July include Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances with guest conductor Rossen Milanov and violinist Mikhail Simonyan both making their Festival debuts (July 18); Rossini's Stabat Mater with guest artists Jonita Lattimore, Jennifer Holloway, René Barbera and Ryan McKinny (July 20 and 21); Frozen in Time with guest conductor James Gaffigan making his Festival debut and guest soloist Martin Grubinger on percussion (July 25); and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with guest conductor Jun Märkl and pianist Pascal Rogé (July 27 and 28).

Memberships to the Grant Park Music Festival are still available. Most membership levels include specific reserved seats or general seating in a reserved section of the Pavilion for all Grant Park Music Festival concerts. Memberships with seating benefits begin at $140.

For more information about the Grant Park Music Festival including membership and group seating, visit grantparkmusicfestival.com or call 312.742.7638. For additional information, visit Grant Park Music Festival on Facebook or follow the Festival on Twitter @gpmf.

GRANT PARK MUSIC FESTIVAL JULY SCHEDULE

Independence Day Celebration
Wednesday, July 4, 6:30 p.m.
Grant Park Orchestra; Christopher Bell, Conductor; Paul Corona, Baritone

Bernstein, Candide: Overture
Gould, Amber Waves
Williams, Olympic Fanfare and Theme
Copland, Old American Songs
Grofé, Mississippi Suite
Gershwin, Girl Crazy: Overture
Wendell, Sea to Shining Sea
Tchaikovsky, 1812 Overture
Sousa, The Stars and Stripes Forever

A celebration of the United States' 236th birthday with beloved favorites-and a few surprises-by Gershwin, Copland, Bernstein, Sousa, and others who have created music that distills America's spirit and renews our pride.

Sleepers and Dreamers WORLD PREMIERE
Friday July 6, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday July 7, 7:30 p.m.
Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus; Carlos Kalmar, Conductor; Christopher Bell, Chorus Director; Levi Hernandez, Baritone

Brahms, Tragic Overture
Vaughan Williams, Five Mystical Songs
Strauss, Death and Transfiguration
Currier, Sleepers and Dreamers

The Festival continues its celebration of the Grant Park Chorus' 50th anniversary with a second world-premiere commission by Sebastian Currier that explores the remote and mysterious world of sleep.

Composer Sebastian Currier's (born in Providence, Rhode Island) recent works include Aftersong (2011) recorded by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and Time Machines (2011) premiered by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Alan Gilbert with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist. His Microsymph, referred to by the composer as a large-scale symphony that has been squeezed into only ten minutes, was commissioned by the American Composer Orchestra and premiered at Carnegie Hall. The New York Times wrote of his work, "Currier's rich and imaginative music sets the right tone, with its fractured and dissonant baroque-like gestures leading off like highway exits into the void and hinting at distant reservoirs of emotion and yearning." He has received many prestigious awards including the Berlin Prize, Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has held residencies at the MacDowell and Yaddo colonies and has taught at Columbia University.

Frozen Planet in Concert NOTE START TIME
Wednesday, July 11, 8:30 p.m.
Grant Park Orchestra; George Fenton, Guest Conductor

Fenton, Frozen Planet

After thrilling audiences with Planet Earth Live! in 2010, composer-conductor George Fenton returns with Frozen Planet, the "ultimate polar expedition" that combines a specially cut feature film of this landmark BBC/Discovery Channel series with a live performance of the score.

Composer and conductor George Fenton (born in England) is one of the most renowned contemporary composers for film and television, receiving Academy Award nominations for: The Fisher King, Dangerous Liaisons, and Gandhi and was double-nominated for Cry Freedom for Original Score and Original Song. Other Scores include: The Madness of King George, Groundhog Day, Shadowlands, Ever After, Anna and the King, Stage Beauty, Mrs Henderson Presents, Hitch, and Fool's Gold as well as many films by director Ken Loach. His scores for TV series include The Jewel in the Crown, The Monocled Mutineer, The History Man, Shoestring, and Bergerac. He has written music for many of Alan Bennett's plays, films and monologues as well as popular signature tunes including the BBC News and Newsnight and the major documentary series: The Trials of Life, Life in the Freezer, Beyond the Clouds, Shanghai Vice, Life, The Blue Planet and Planet Earth for which he was awarded Soundtrack Composer of the Year at the Classical Brits in 2007. He previous conducted his score for Planet Earth with the Grant Park Music Festival in 2010.

Perfectly Frank: From Broadway To Hollywood NOTE START TIME
Friday, July 13, 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 14, 8 p.m.
Grant Park Orchestra; Members of the Grant Park Chorus; Kevin Stites, Guest Conductor; Gary Griffin, Director; Broadway vocalists Rebecca Luker, Marin Mazzie, Jason Danieley, Howard McGillin

Selection of works by Frank Loesser

This concert highlights the work of one of the great classic Broadway composers, Frank Loesser, whose much loved works include Guys and Dolls (1950), The Most Happy Fella (1956), and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1961).

Guest conductor Kevin Stites (born in Chicago) returns to the Festival where previously he has conducted salutes to Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Stephen Sondheim. Stites has worked as music supervisor, music director, conductor or arranger on an array of Broadway musicals including A Tale of Two Cities, The Color Purple, Les Misérables (2006 revival), Fiddler on the Roof (2004 revival), Nine, Oklahoma!, and Titanic. Stites' TV and film credits include Reefer Madness (Showtime), the NBC primetime variety special ROSIE LIVE!; The Late Show with David Letterman, Rosie, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Tony Awards.

Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances
Wednesday, July 18, 6:30 p.m.
Grant Park Orchestra; Rossen Milanov, Guest Conductor; Mikhail Simonyan, Violin

Khachaturian, Violin Concerto
Rachmaninov, Symphonic Dances

Instilled with Armenian spirit, Khachaturian's dazzling violin concerto is presented with Rachmaninov's masterwork, originally composed for two pianos.

Guest conductor Rossen Milanov (born in Sofia, Bulgaria) has been recognized as "one of the most-promising figures in the upcoming generation of conductors" (Seattle Times). He is currently Music Director of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, and was previously Associate Conductor and Artistic Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Milanov studied conducting at The Juilliard School (where he received the Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship), the Curtis Institute of Music, Duquesne University and the Bulgarian National Academy of Music. Former Chief Conductor of the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra, Mr. Milanov is a recipient of the Bulgarian Ministry's Award for Extraordinary Contribution to Bulgarian Culture. In 2005, he was chosen as Bulgaria's Musician of the Year.

Violinist Mikhail Simonyan (born in Novosibirsk, Russia, of Armenian-Russian descent) moved to New York in 1999 and made his debut at Lincoln Center with the American Russian Young Artists Orchestra. He has performed with the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre under Valery Gergiev, the National Philharmonic of Russia led by Vladimir Spivakov, the New World Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and Ravinia Music Festival (as part of the Rising Stars series). He also created a private initiative called "Beethoven Not Bullets" to assist the newly founded Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul. He will be making his Grant Park Music Festival debut this summer.

Rossini's Stabat Mater
Friday, July 20 at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus; Christopher Bell, Conductor; Jonita Lattimore, Soprano; Jennifer Holloway, Mezzo-Soprano; René Barbera, Tenor; Ryan McKinny, Bass

Rossini, William Tell: Overture
Leighton, Hymn to Matter
Rossini, Stabat Mater

Christopher Bell leads the orchestra and chorus in Rossini's solemn, late work and British composer Kenneth Leighton's hymn about the quest for truth and unity.

Frozen In Time
Wednesday, July 25 at 8:30 pm
Grant Park Orchestra; James Gaffigan, Guest Conductor; Martin Grubinger, Percussion

Dorman, Frozen in Time
Prokofiev, Symphony No. 5

Commissioned for percussionist Martin Grubinger, Frozen in Time takes a journey through time and across the globe.

Guest conductor James Gaffigan (born in New York City) was one of eight young conductors chosen to participate as an Academy Conductor in the inaugural year of the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen. Two years later he received the Academy's first Robert Harth Conducting Award and the following summer he was selected to study at the Tanglewood Music Center. He was named a first prize winner at the 2004 Sir Georg Solti International Conducting Competition in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2011, he was appointed Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra. This performance marks his Grant Park Music Festival debut.

Austrian percussionist Martin Grubinger (born in Salzburg) was the youngest-ever finalist at the World Marimbaphone Competition in Japan and has received both the Bernstein Award and the Jeunesses Musicales's Würth Prize. He studied at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz and Universität Mozarteum in Salzburg. Grubinger makes his debut with the Festival performing Avner Dorman's Frozen in Time, and was the soloist in the piece's 2007 premiere with the Hamburg Philharmonic. "Martin Grubinger is a once-in-a-hundred-years musician. When vital elemental force and artistic finishing touch, when nature and spirit come together so closely, the consciousness inevitably experiences a spontaneous expansion." (Die Welt, July 2008)

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
Friday, July 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Grant Park Orchestra; Jun Märkl, Guest Conductor; Pascal Rogé, Piano

Debussy, Khamma
Saint-Saëns, Piano Concerto No. 5, Egyptian
Beethoven, Symphony No. 5

With its famous opening gesture and uplifting emotional message, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is the archetypal example of the form. Also featured on the program are two works inspired by Egypt.

Guest conductor Jun Märkl (born in Munich, Germany) is Chief Conductor of the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony, and until 2011, was Music Director of the Orchestre National de Lyon. His (German) father was a distinguished Concertmaster and his (Japanese) mother a solo pianist. Märkl studied violin, piano and conducting at the Musikhochschule in Hannover. In 1986 he won the conducting competition of the Deutsche Musikrat and a year later won a scholarship from the Boston Symphony Orchestra to study at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa. Märkl has conducted with orchestras around the world, including the Munich Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, the Royal Scottish National, the Czech Philharmonic, the Oslo Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Belqique, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, and with several leading North American orchestras.

Pianist Pascal Rogé (born in Paris) began his international solo career in 1971 after winning first prize in the Long-Thibaud Competition in 1971 and has performed in almost every major concert hall in the world having performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, L'Orchestre de Paris, L'Orchestre National de Radio France, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam , NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, Wiener Symphoniker, and all the major London orchestras. He has collaborated frequently with conductors Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur and Charles Dutoit. He is the Artistic Director of Incontri in Terra di Siena, a summer festival that takes place each year in Tuscany. His recordings have received numerous awards including two Gramophone awards, a Grand Prix du Disque and an Edison Award for his interpretations of the Ravel and Saint-Saëns concertos. Other recordings include the complete piano works of F. Poulenc and Ravel, four albums of Satie and two of Debussy and a Béla Bartók cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra.

The Grant Park Music Festival is the nation's only free, summer-long outdoor classical music series of its kind. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, located between Michigan and Columbus Avenues at Washington Street, is the official home of the Grant Park Music Festival. The Festival is led by Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar along with Chorus Director Christopher Bell, Executive Director Paul Winberg and Board President Beth Rodriguez.

The 2012 Grant Park Music Festival season marks Christopher Bell's 11th season as chorus director of the Grant Park Chorus. Bell also serves as chorusmaster for the Edinburgh International Festival, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus and the Belfast Philharmonic Choir. He was largely responsible for the formation of the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS) in 1996 and is its artistic director. He has also worked with many other major orchestras in the UK and Ireland, including the Royal Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National, BBC Scottish Symphony, City of London Sinfonia, and London Concert.

Millennium Park, managed and programmed by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, is an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design. The result of a unique partnership between the City of Chicago and the philanthropic community, the 24.5-acre park features the work of world-renowned architects, planners, artists and designers. Among Millennium Park's prominent features are the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the most sophisticated outdoor concert venue of its kind in the United States; the interactive Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa; the contemporary Lurie Garden designed by
the team of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel; and Anish Kapoor's hugely popular Cloud Gate sculpture.

?Photo credit: Norman Timonera?