Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. This
week -- making music under the sky. Steve Ember and Faith Lapidus tell you about
two of America’s best known open-air music parks.
It is late summer at Ravinia Park, in the American Midwest, near Chicago,
Illinois. The night is hot. But the wind 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 music is coming.
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 up, beyond the trees,
at the stars. The sound of the Brahms music surrounds them.
As someone once said, "Music played outside, especially after dark, is one of
the great pleasures of summer." Millions of Americans attend outdoor concerts
each summer. The concerts are performed at parks across the country.
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 pavilion. The front and sides of this kind of building are open
so everyone can see the performers.
The music of some of the great 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.
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
One of the most famous conductors to lead the symphony orchestra at Ravinia
is James Levine. He was appointed music director in nineteen-seventy-three. He
was thirty years old. He continued serving at Ravinia until
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.
Another of America's most famous
music parks is called Tanglewood. The Berkshire Music Festival at Tanglewood is
in the Berkshire Mountains, in the northeastern 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."
Tanglewood exists mainly because of Serge Koussevitsky. 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. One was Leonard Bernstein, remembered as one of the
country's best composers and conductors. Bernstein himself 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 who wrote pieces for the Boston Symphony. And the orchestra
played the works of two composers Koussevitsky had helped make famous in Europe:
Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky.
Over the years, Tanglewood has also won praise for presenting operas. Here is
music from one of these traditional stories told through song: "Falstaff" by
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 the American folk song "Simple Gifts" combined with the
British "Lord of the Dance."
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Caty Weaver.
I'm Faith Lapidus.
And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in
the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.