Grant Park Music Festival Joins List of Summer Cancellations

  • Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

    Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

  • Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

    Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

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  • Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

    Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

The news is increasing familiar, yet heartbreaking.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, yet another much-beloved live music series is being silenced this summer. 

The annual Grant Park Music Festival — an event that attracts vast crowds to Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion and its adjoining lawn for free classical music concerts featuring the Grant Park Orchestra (led by music director Carlos Kalmar), and a wide array of stellar guest artists — has announced that it has canceled all of its 2020 summer programming.

The news comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival has been entirely canceled this summer, in addition to the earlier cancellations of Chicago’s blues and gospel festivals. The fates of Pitchfork and Lollapalooza are still unknown.

About the loss of this summer’s festival, which was set to run June 20-Aug. 15, and which each year attracts about a million Chicagoans and tourists from around the world, Paul Winberg, its president and CEO said in a prepared statement: “We are devastated that we will not be able to move forward with our 2020 season. The Festival has been a mainstay of the city’s performing arts landscape since 1935, when it was created to bring Chicagoans together during the Great Depression.”

The cancellation of what would have been a total of 250 events is a particular loss given that the orchestra, along with the Grant Park Chorus (led by Christopher Bell) was set to play a leading role in what was designated as the “Year of Chicago Music.”

Lost as a result of the cancellation are performances of two world premieres — one by the acclaimed Chicago-based composer Mischa Zupko and another by Grammy Award-winning jazz composer Billy Childs (a violin concerto featuring Chicago virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine). Other concerts were to feature works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz and Beethoven, with internationally renowned guest artists including violinist Christian Tetzlaff, pianist Andreas Haefliger and cellist Alban Gerhardt.

Also lost will be the ever-popular family programs including the Independence Day Salute, a Broadway salute, a movie classic and an evening of gospel music. Also gone will be the festival’s open rehearsals, master classes, recitals and chamber music programs, as well as the all-important programs in neighborhood parks.

More information will be made available later this month about a suite of free virtual programs “made possible by the tax-deductible contributions of Festival donors and members.” For additional information visit www.gpmf.org

Follow Hedy Weiss on Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic


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