Celebrate Summer in Style. Chicago in July
Your Chicago Correspondent
Well, friends, the Fourth of July celebrations have concluded, so summer is in full swing and we have an amazing array of activities and adventures ahead of us. Music in the parks and neighborhood festivals with their displays, entertainments, multiple stages and more, are all calling us into another wonderful month.
Beginning with today, Saturday July 9th, as the Old Town School of Folk Music brings the “Square Roots” festival back to Lincoln Square after a two-year hiatus. It opens at noon, but Lincoln Square is always fun, and we want to be early, so let’s start our morning about 9:30am, right in the square, at Cafe Selmarie, https://cafeselmarie.com/, 4729 N. Lincoln Ave., for breakfast before we get started. Isn’t this place charming? Here’s our table; we all want some of this exceptional coffee, right? The menu is intriguing, the smoked salmon is getting your attention, isn’t it? I’m sure the Selmarie Croissant Sandwich is equally tasty, but I’m having the Banana-Espresso French Toast. Look at this: triple sec batter, brûléed banana, maple-espresso butter and mascarpone custard. Who knew there could be such delights? Dessert, anyone? Make your choice, because I’m indulging in a Sacher Torte, all devil’s food, raspberries, chocolate buttercream with a bittersweet glaze. It’s perfect with this last cup of coffee.
From here it’s just a few feet south to the festival. Square Roots is filled with musical talent, and today we can hear bands as diverse as “Guided by Voices” and “K’Reema and the Sagittarius Band”. Almost as exciting as the music is the multitude of craft breweries who have their finest beers and refreshments on sale. Half Acre, Dovetail Brewery, Northman Cider Company, and a number of others are all here. We’ve got lots of time, we’ll take a short turn at each location as we take in the music and enjoy the beer.
Proceeds from what we buy, eat and drink benefit small business workshops, community efforts, and fund Old Town School of Folk Music’s scholarship programs and free community programming. We should each pick up a few CDs from the bands we most enjoy; we’ll have memories of today and send a few dollars to a great cause. We’re heading home now, but please, you folks stay and enjoy for a while; we’ll see you this week.
After work today, Wednesday, July 13th, we hope you’ll join us in Millennium Park as the Grant Park Music Festival presents Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade, Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto, and finishes with a piece from my favorite orchestral composer, Franz Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 103, “The Drumroll Symphony”, famous for its opening roll from the tympani. It’s a great evening to be out on the lawn, and Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade is soothing and musically approachable, even for those of us with untrained ears. Higdon is a contemporary composer whose work has earned a Pulitzer Prize for music; this unusual take on the concerto concept is different and quite exciting, don’t you think? Though Haydn wrote the “Drumroll Symphony” in 1795, it feels as if it could have been composed much more recently. The themes are strong (without Wagner’s propensity for heavy drama, for instance). It’s a generally lively, thoughtful piece, can you hear the alternating themes and the up-tempo repeat of the introduction? This is why I so appreciate Haydn’s music – there’s always an intriguing score and wide scope of instrumentation to keep us engaged. WOW!
Today, Saturday, July 16th, it’s about time to take an Indiana Dunes State Park hiking trip, https://www.in.gov/dnr/state-parks/parks-lakes/indiana-dunes-state-park/. There are 15 miles of trails in these 2,182 acres of primitive and beautiful place. Most of them are short and too easy, so we’ll just walk all of them, OK? One of the longer, harder ones lead across the tops of the three tallest dunes. The dunes area has been thousands of years in the making, and is still constantly changing and evolving. In fact, the beginnings of the study of ecology, took place right here when scientists observed the empty sand at the shoreline, followed by pioneer species, clinging to life and bringing the beginnings of soil and structure to the land. The farther from the water, wind and weather of the shoreline we look, the fuller the vegetation becomes, up to the established forest. The marsh area is all that remains of a large lagoon created as lake levels fell. Here at the south end of Lake Michigan it seems as if you can look forever over nothing but water. Illinois is to the west, Michigan to the east, but north there is only water. Breathe in the fresh air, watch the waves so gently lapping up; it’s all rejuvenating, isn’t it? I’m glad we came.
Now, today, Monday, July 18th, we’re heading back to Millennium Park for DakhaBrakha. Do you know them? This Ukrainian folk-fusion quartet was the winner of the prestigious Shevchenko National Prize in 2020. They use traditional Ukrainian instruments and strong vocals to fuse folk music with more world-beat and rock influenced presentations. They have a lot on YouTube, of course: www.youtube.com. This is lively, upbeat, and very different from anything else we’ve ever heard. It’s good to be here.
Today, Saturday, July 23rd, it’s finally time to visit the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, https://oi.uchicago.edu/, 1155 E 58th St. to take in exhibits that illuminate the history, archaeology and social practices of humans for the last ten thousand years. Somehow, for the first time in over 80 years, the Persepolis paintings of Joseph Lindon Smith, which are huge, remarkably detailed renditions from his first trip to one of the capital cities of the Achaemenid (first Persian) Empire, are on display. Even though these are paintings of ruins, can’t you just imagine the scope and grandeur of the place when it was in its active prime?
Look at the rest of this: the Mesopotamian Gallery with its cases of temple statues from ancient through biblical times, or the Egyptian Gallery, under the watchful eyes of a truly colossal statue of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Why have we not been here before? There is so much more: pottery, utensils, tablets, small statues and more. Look (and read) about so much of the work done by the Institute from Egypt to Afghanistan to preserve and illuminate the history of civilizations. Let’s come back.
It’s the end of another long, hot week so let’s do something a little different tonight, Friday, July 29th, please? Let’s meet about 5:00pm and have dinner in Rosemont, at Fogo de Chão, https://fogodechao.com/, a Brazilian steakhouse well-known for Churrasco style grilling, fresh ingredients, and unique cocktails. Yes, I’m having the two-meat combo, because I love both lamb and beef steak and they both look, smell and taste amazing. And this drink – wow! We even have time for dessert and they serve “Brazilian style flan”. Yes, it’s even better than it looks.
As good as the food is, we’re really here for the concert. Parkway Bank Park, right outside, is hosting Rockin’ in the Park, a spectacular, and free, double-header concert featuring “Bruce in the USA” & “Deadfest”, bands that are, obviously, Bruce Springsteen & Grateful Dead tributes, https://rosemont.com/thepark/event/bruceusa_deadfest22/. It’s also “Jolly in July” week, so let’s bring a few toys to donate for Toys for Tots and dress in jolly festive attire! Christmas is still half a year away, but it’s always time for charity, so don’t forget.
Hey, these bands are good. Springsteen’s straight-up, blue collar Rock n Roll has us all jumping and clapping along, doesn’t it? Deadfest is also right on point, don’t you think? Come on, who cares, let’s dance. Hasn’t this been fun? Drive safely, and we’ll see you tomorrow.
This morning, Saturday, July 30th, let’s get on our bikes for a long, easy ride on the Prairie Trail from Algonquin to the Wisconsin state line. Meet us just before 9:00am at the Algonquin Trail access, just west of the Fox River on Algonquin Road. There are a few small hills near the start, but after that it smooths out into long, flat stretches that wind past fields of corn and soy, then through wooded “tree tunnels” in the hilly Sterne’s Woods area, then see, it all opens up again. Be watchful, as there are a variety of birds to be seen and heard, and so many of the views are beautiful in that soothing way that open landscapes have. Much of the path runs through or alongside preserved or restored prairie areas, which is why we don’t see much development (thank God).
When we cross this road, we’ll be in Wisconsin, just so we can say we did it. We can rest here at Glacial Park and find out about this 3,400-acre site that lies within the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. Look around, can you tell the differences between the marshes, savanna and prairie ecologies? Remember to shift as we wind back down through the rolling hills in Sterne’s Woods and through Crystal Lake. Yes! We’re back at the Trail Access in Algonquin. I’m a bit tired, but also refreshed in a curious way, glad to have had such a great ride. How far, you ask? Fifty-two miles! Congratulations! Thanks for joining us; we’ll see you next weekend.
Today, Saturday, August 6th, it’s time for another trip to one of the world’s best museums, the Chicago Art Institute, to take in an astonishing exhibit of the work of French painter, Paul Cezanne. This is the Institute’s first exhibition on Cezanne in more than 70 years, do you believe that? The exhibit is an ambitious exploration of his work across decades of painting, with 80 oil paintings, 40 watercolors and drawings, and two complete sketchbooks. This is outstanding; we’re seeing his full range of portraits, landscapes, bather series and so much more. Many are from private collections, so kudos to both the Institute and the owners for making these available.
Cezanne is famous for developing his very deliberate, yet non-linear process of painting, and we’re learning about that today. It’s not only his work on display; read here what historians and other artists, both his contemporaries and current, offer about Cezanne’s influence.
Whew! That was really something, wasn’t it? It’s almost overwhelming to learn and to see, so closely, how this one French painter helped shaped, not only the art of painting, but the very way that artists, and through artists and their art, we, people of the world, have expanded the way we experience both art and life.
That, friends, is an amazing end to another amazing month in Chicago. Keep adventuring, with eyes that are ever open to new and exciting adventures. We’ll meet again next month.