HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — The "Ravinia experience" occurs each year as thousands of people gather for what has been called "Chicago's sound of summer," featuring some of the world's greatest music.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square added to that experience Saturday evening as they made their third stop on a six-city concert tour that began June 12.
Keeping with the festival tradition, some 8,000 people gathered on the grounds at the Ravinia Music Festival, located near Chicago. Some 3,200 watched and listened to the concert under the Tabernacle-like structure open on three sides; the remainder purchased tickets for the lawn where many set up for picnic suppers that ranged from sandwiches brought in paper bags to gourmet meals spread on elaborately set tables complete with flowers and candles.
With storms threatening all around, Ravinia officials and many guests wondered if the concert would proceed to completion uninterrupted. The wondering turned out to be needless worry; the evening was about as ideal as one would wish for in northern Illinois in mid-June. However, people left in a hurry when it was forecast that a major storm would hit within minutes of the concert's conclusion. They could have lingered — the storm skipped the area.
Mack Wilberg, music director, and Ryan Murphy, associate music director, have conducted the choir an orchestra during the tour. In addition to the orchestra, the choir has been accompanied by Richard Elliott and Andrew Unsworth; both are Tabernacle organists. Lloyd Newell, announcer for the choir's "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast, has announced the program at each venue.
As in the earlier concerts, the Ravinia Festival performance was well received by an audience of a wide range of ages. At Ravinia, for example, a group of teenagers occupying much of one row nodded their heads in time to the music and applauded enthusiastically, just as did more senior patrons.
The Ravinia concert came to a standing-ovation conclusion when Lt. Cmdr. James Genarri took the baton to guest conduct an encore number, "This Land Is Your Land." A U.S. Navy trauma nurse, he was selected to represent men and women who serve or have served in the nation's military. Lt. Cmdr. Genarri was presented the Bronze Star for heroism in the face of peril to his own life when he assisted in the removal of a live rocket-launched grenade from the leg of a young marine in Afghanistan. The marine survived and retained use of his leg.
Other guest conductors on the tour were Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, at the concert in Columbus on June 12; and Indiana's Gov. Mike Pence, at the concert in Indianapolis on June 13.
The choir's repertoire has been the same at each venue: hymns, masterworks, American songs and spirituals, international selections and music from Broadway musicals.
After performing signature hymns, "Come, Come, Ye Saints" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic," the choir and orchestra perform an encore at each concert. Audience members are invited to text or tweet to vote for what they would like to hear: "You'll Never Walk Alone," "God Bless America" or "Climb Ev'ry Mountain." Audiences in Columbus and Indianapolis chose "God Bless America." The Ravinia audience selected "Climb Ev'ry Mountain."
Elder Craig A. Cardon of the Seventy and his wife, Deborah D. Cardon, are traveling with the choir.
Elder Cardon said he has seen the choir genuinely received by other faiths, by communities, opinion leaders and political leaders, as well as the general public.
He said the choir and orchestra have been received on many levels of choral and orchestral expertise. He spoke of three.
First, he said, "People marvel at the depth and quality that make up the choir and orchestra. There are those that see this technical, musical expertise and admire it," he said.
Second, he said, "Some sense the broad spectrum where they begin to see that there is something else going on in terms of influence and reaching people in the medium of music.
Third, he added, "There are those who grasp the spiritual communication that exists when these talents are employed by the Lord in this way (through the concerts)." He said that people of other faiths with whom he has spoken during the tour have acknowledged the spiritual dimension of the concerts.
The concert tour continues with performances Monday in Milwaukee, Wis.; Tuesday, June 18 in Madison, Wis.; and Minneapolis, Minn., Thursday, June 20. On Wednesday, June 19, the choir will present two min-concerts at Black River Falls and Neillsville, Wis.