BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“REACH*TEACH*PLAY” were the three magic words of the Ravinia Women’s Board Gala July 23, attended by seven-hundred guests and raising one million dollars for the group’s educational outreach to 75,000 people, bringing music to underserved communities. Begun in 1904, Ravinia is the oldest outdoor musical venue in the United States, as beloved to casual picnickers as it is to its black tie donors.
Homecoming was another word on everyone’s lips that evening. James Levine, former Ravinia music director and legendary maestro, returned to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, after nearly two decades away from the festival. He received a gift unlike any other conductor has likely ever received: Gala co-chairs Karen Ettelson and Evey Schweig presented maestro Levine with a hand-crafted conductor’s baton created from an ash tree grown on the Ravinia grounds, presented in a box made from woods from throughout the world. An engraving on the box read: “May the music of the spheres forever waft through the trees and greens of the park you created by the wave of your baton.”
Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman raised a toast and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner issued a proclamation declaring July 23 “A Day of Celebration” for maestro Levine, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Ravinia Women’s Board. Chair Judy Castellini, reported:
“It takes months to plan an event of this magnitude and only a few minutes for a thunderstorm to brew up, but no one let the rain spoil the night—we had too much to celebrate, particularly the long-awaited homecoming of maestro James Levine.
“It was a contest between the pyrotechnics in the sky and those on the stage. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony resurrected the night into one of the most memorable galas in the event’s 50-year history.”
Women’s Board member Lisa Tribbett added:
“Karen and Evey created an elegant feel for the evening. The atmosphere was very summery and felt very cool and contemporary. The food was beautifully prepared and presented. It was an evening of grace, beauty, and spirit with the fierce electrical thunderstorm in the background.”