Summer Festival Roundup
Illinois Summer Classical Music Festivals 2023
Though most ensembles are wrapping up their 2022–23 seasons, there is no reason to despair. Warmer weather also means it’s summer festival season, so you can still scratch that live music itch. We've provided a rundown of the classical music festivals taking place aross the state this summer. Read on for more information and a list of editor-recommended concerts so you can plan your summer musical excursions.
Southern Illinois Music Festival
Head downstate for the 19th Annual Southern Illinois Music Festival, which runs May 25–June 11. With the theme “Hidden Gems,” this year’s festival promises to uncover lesser-known works from the last 250 years, including Giuseppe Verdi’s early opera Ernani and Giacomo Puccini’s La Rondine. Under the artistic direction of SIU School of Music Professor Edward Benyas, professional musicians from around the country will converge in Southern Illinois to present to orchestral and chamber music, opera, jazz, and educational programs in collaboration with select SIU faculty and students. Tickets to most Festival events are $20 general and $10 for students of any age, though there are also free events.
- Wednesday, May 31, 3 p.m. – Chamber Music: Kelly Sulick, flute, and Kiril Laskarov, violin – Lutes Gallery at University Museum (free admission)
- Thursday, June 1, 3 p.m. – Chamber Music: Hummel String Trio and Emilie Mayer String Quartet – Liberty Estates, Carbondale (free admission)
- Thursday, June 1, 4 p.m. – Chamber Music: Debussy and Florence Price String Quartets – Harold Jones Fine Arts Center in Cairo (free admission)
- Friday, June 2, 7 p.m. – Verdi’s Ernani – Carterville High School
- Saturday, June 3, 7 p.m. – Orchestra Concert at Carterville High School (Haydn Sinfonia Concertante; Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso; Liszt Les Preludes; Kalinnikov Symphony No. 1)
- Thursday, June 8 – Young Artists with Orchestra Concert (Operatic arias and ensembles from Handel to Wagner) – Carterville High School
- Friday, June 9, 7 p.m. – Puccini’s La Rondine – Shryock Auditorium
- Sunday, June 11, 2 p.m. – Puccini’s La Rondine – Shryock Auditorium
Full Schedule: http://www.sifest.com/concerts
Peoria Bach Festival
The Peoria Bach Festival, which runs June 5–9, celebrates the life and music of J. S. Bach (1685–1750), one of the greatest composers of all time. Now entering its third decade, the festival brings together musicians from around Central Illinois and farther afield to highlight the musical talent in the area and inspire the next generation of musicians. Under the artistic direction of Dr. John Jost, the 2023 festival will include chamber music, an organ recital, lecture concerts, and a final musical extravaganza with orchestra, chorus, and soloists.
- Tuesday, June 6, 7:30 p.m – Organ Concert by Dr. Jonathan Wessler (Peoria native Jonathan Wessler returns to present an organ recital of the music of Bach) – Westminster Presbyterian Church, Peoria
- Thursday, June 8, 12:05 p.m. – Baroque Chamber Concert (Emma Lee Holmes-Hicks, Jenna Ferdon, violin; Adriana Ransom, cello; and Jonathan Wessler, harpsichord, performing sonatas of Bach and Handel) – Westminster Presbyterian Church, Peoria
- Friday, June 9, 8 p.m – Festival Concert (Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, Cantata 39 “Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot,” and Cantata 26 “Ach! Dem Flüchtig.” Performers include Emma Lee Holmes-Hicks, Jenna Ferdon, violins; Courtney Huffman, soprano; Alison Meuth, mezzo-soprano; Trevor Mitchell, tenor; and Gerard Sundberg, baritone; along with the Peoria Bach Festival Choir & Orchestra conducted by Dr. John Jost and Martin Dicke. Join Dr. Jost for a preconcert lecture at 7:15) – Westminster Presbyterian Church, Peoria
Full Schedule: https://peoriabachfestival.org
Grant Park Music Festival
Grant Park Music Festival has been beloved summertime staple in Chicago for nearly 90s years. Today, the Festival operates as a unique collaboration among the Grant Park Orchestral Association, the Chicago Park District and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
For 10 weeks each summer, concerts are held in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Admission is free. Come early to grab a free seat in the back of the Seating Bowl, or sprawl out with a picnic on the Great Lawn. One-night passes, which start at $26, are also available to reserve seats closer to the stage.
- Wednesday, June 14 – Schumann: Symphony No. 4
- Friday/Saturday, June 16/17 – Dvořák: Stabat Mater
- Thursday/Friday June 29/30 – Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4
- Wednesday, July 5 – An American Salute: Rhapsody in Blue
- Friday/Saturday, July 7/8 – Marsalis: Violin Concerto
- Friday/Saturday, July 14/15 – Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet
- Friday/Saturday, July 21/22 – Brahms: German Requiem
- Wednesday, July 26 – Elgar: Cello Concerto
- Wednesday, August 9 – Cirque Returns (feat. guest conductor Stephen Alltop, Music Director and Conductor of the Champaign-Urbana Symphony)
- Friday/Saturday, August 11/12 – Hadelich Plays Prokofiev
Full Schedule: https://www.grantparkmusicfestival.com/music/2023-season
Dating from 1904, Ravinia Festival is North America’s oldest music festival. It boast a wide range of music, spanning everything from baroque music to John Legend. At the centerpiece of the festival is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s annual residency led by Maestro Marin Alsop, though other world-class classical artists also grace the stage throughout the summer. So, if you find yourself in the Chicago area, pack a lavish picnic and hop on the Metra to the Ravinia stop in Highland Park (free with a valid Ravinia ticket). Tickets start at $15 for general lawn admission.
- Saturday, July 8 – Apollo’s Fire: The Road to Dublin
- Friday, July 14 – Turn Up the Joy: Beethoven 9 Expanded with Marin Alsop, the CSO, and special guests
- Saturday, July 15 – Tchaikovsky and Chicago Skyline with Marin Alsop and the CSO
- Wednesday, July 19 – Meet the Mahlers: Gustav’s Fifth and Alma’s Songs with the CSO and Sasha Cooke, Mezzo-Soprano
- Friday, July 21 – Gabriela Montero Plays her Latin Concerto with the CSO
- Friday, July 28 – Mei-Ann Chen Leads Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Jeremy Denk and the CSO
- Friday/Sunday August 4/6 – Mozart: The Magic Flute with Marin Alsop and the CSO
- Saturday, August 5 – Powerful Thirds: Beethoven and Rachmaninoff with Marin Alsop and the CSO
- Wednesday, August 9 – Jonathan Howard Leads Rachmaninoff and Tania León with the CSO
- Friday, August 11 – Want Symphonic: Rufus Wainwright with the CSO
- Tuesday, August 15 – Soprano Ailyn Pérez and Pianist Kevin Murphy
Full Schedule: https://www.ravinia.org/Calendar
Thirsty Ears Festival
Thirsty Ears Festival is Chicago’s only classical music street festival. Presented by Access Contemporary Music, the festival will feature stellar ensembles and soloists performing music from Beethoven to Shostakovich to Reich and everything in between on the main stage. Between sets, grab a glass of local beer or wine and check out the wealth of vendor booths, kid-friendly activities, and food trucks. The festival will run August 12–13. Full schedule to be announced at a later date.