Every summer, millions of Americans enjoy listening to music concerts at parks in the open air. They can hear some of the nation’s best performers. I'm Shirley Griffith.
And I’m Sarah Long. The story of two of America’s most famous open-air music parks is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.
((MUSIC: "BRAHMS SYMPHONY NUMBER ONE"))
It is summer at Ravinia Park, near the middle-western city of Chicago, Illinois. The night is hot. But the wind moves the branches of trees and cools the darkness. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is performing Symphony Number One by Johannes Brahms. Thousands of people are in the park.
A husband and wife sit on the ground, far from where the musicians are playing. Their two little boys look at picture books. When the sky becomes dark, the boys sit close to their parents. Every so often, they all look at the stars. The sound of the Brahms music surrounds them.
((CUT TWO: MORE BRAHMS SYMPHONY NUMBER ONE))
These people are among the millions of Americans who attend outdoor music concerts each summer. The concerts are performed at open air music parks across the country. As someone once said, “Music played outside, especially after dark, is one of the great pleasures of summer.”
Some American music parks serve as the summer home for a city orchestra. At these parks, musicians may play well known classical music, like the Brahms symphony. Or they may play folk music, jazz or popular music.
Ravinia Festival park is about thirty kilometers north of Chicago. The park has a large area of open land where people sit on the ground. People also can sit inside in a building called a pavilion. The front and sides of the pavilion are open so everyone can see the performers.
The music of some of America's most popular composers floats out from the pavilion into the summer darkness. Listen as Betty Buckley sings "How Long Has This Been Going On?" by George Gershwin.
((MUSIC: "HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON?"))
People have been enjoying summer on this same land for almost a century. During the early nineteen-hundreds the area had a baseball field. There were rooms for eating and dancing. And there was an open-air theater.
An early version of the present Ravinia Festival opened in nineteen-eleven. By nineteen-nineteen, it had become a summer home for some of the world’s great performers. Over the years visitors heard performances by George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. For people who liked jazz, there were Benny Goodman, Harry James and Lionel Hampton.
The great economic Depression forced the Ravinia organization to close in nineteen-thirty-one. But several years later, businessmen formed the Ravinia Festival Corporation. They brought the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to the park in nineteen-thirty-six.
One of the most famous conductors to lead the symphony orchestra at Ravinia is James Levine (Leh-VINE). He was appointed music director in nineteen-seventy-three. He was thirty years old. He continued serving at Ravinia until nineteen-ninety-three.
Ravinia’s fame has now spread far beyond the city of Chicago. There is good reason to believe that Ravinia will be offering summer music in the park for many years to come.
((MUSIC: "BRAHMS SYMPHONY NUMBER ONE"))
Another of America's most famous music parks is called Tanglewood. The Berkshire Music Festival at Tanglewood is in the Berkshire Mountains in the eastern state of Massachusetts. It is the summer home of the Boston symphony orchestra. The Boston Pops Orchestra also performs at Tanglewood.
Listen as John Williams leads the Boston Pops Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus singers in the traditional spiritual, "Deep River."
((MUSIC: "DEEP RIVER"))
Tanglewood exists mainly because of Serge Koussevitsky (sairzh koo-suh-VIHT-skee), who was born in Russia. He earned great success in Europe as a musician. He also formed his own orchestra. Then he came to the United States.
Koussevitsky began leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra in nineteen-twenty-four. His dream of presenting music in a beautiful mountain area came true in the middle nineteen-thirties. That is when he led the Boston orchestra in its first concerts at Tanglewood.
Koussevitsky also helped open the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood in nineteen-forty. The center has provided classes for some of America's most promising music students, including American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein later directed students at the music center.
Another famous American composer, Aaron Copland, served as Koussevitsky's first assistant director at Tanglewood. The two men prepared programs of music written by composers hundreds of years earlier. They also prepared programs by modern composers paid to write for the Boston Symphony. The orchestra also played the works of two composers Koussevitsky had helped make famous in Europe: Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky.
Over the years, Tanglewood has won praise for presenting operas, traditional musical dramas that are sung. Here is music from "Falstaff”, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi.
((MUSIC: FROM "FALSTAFF"))
Classical, jazz and folk music all are popular at Tanglewood. We leave you now with the music of Bill Crofut of the United States and Benjamin Luxon of England. They sing a combined folk song: the American "Simple Gifts" and the British "Lord of the Dance."
((MUSIC: "SIMPLE GIFTS/LORD OF THE DANCE"))
This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Caty Weaver. Our studio engineers were John Ellison and Tony Harris. I'm Sarah Long.
And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.