It is hard to imagine a boring summer day in Chicago. The Windy City has so much to offer that anyone can pick and choose between several quality events and venues. Any summer. Every summer. That is why I put on a pair of my comfortable walking shoes and hit the streets again, to nearby Millennium Park to grab a seat for the Music Without Borders Concert.
From June 3 to July 22 the free concert series is presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs holding performances on Thursday nights starting at 6:30 pm at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. It features pop artists and traditional music covering four continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.
A total of nine groups are scheduled to play over the summer series, which showcased Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Doc Severinsen, formerly of the Tonight Show on June 24. Joining him were El Ritmo de la Vida with their mix of Argentine tango, gypsy jazz, and rumba flamenco and Sones de Mexico Ensemble representing traditional folkloric music.
When I arrived, my sights were set on a seat in row four, center stage. That’s where I like to sit most times, unless one of my favorite artists or someone I know is performing, then I want to be on that coveted front row. I was early, of course, and several people who enjoy listening to the sounds from the lawn had already set up elegant portable tables adorned with tablecloths and place mats for a picnic in the park. I even spotted a tiki light on a bamboo pole with a cute, homey flag flying from it. While they waited, many chilled in their chairs suntanning, others were laying out on blankets to catch the rays. It was hot as the western sun beamed down on us all.
The heat was relentless. I saw a gentleman pull out an umbrella and had forgotten what a useful tool it could be. Having lived in the Caribbean and Florida, many used umbrellas on those sweltering, hot sunny days of summer. I had one handy in my purse, thank goodness.
At 6:30 the gates opened and I headed down to my desired destination, getting my seat with no problem. In the shade. I could tell this was going to be a great night for a concert.
Just before showtime organizers announced the cancellation of a group I had hoped to see–Batatas y las Alegres Ambulancias from Colombia with their Afro-Colombian rhythms. (Colombia is a beautiful country, and I highly recommend visiting Cartagena, the coastal cities, and the interior, Bogota and Medellin). Due to visa complications, they were unable to attend. Everything fell on Orchestre Septentrional d’Haiti to rock the park.
The supercharged konpa band didn’t let us down. From the first note, they filled the park with all the traditional music I love best- calypso, soca, merenque, salsa, reggae, rumba, and cha-cha. In fact, the many Haitians and concertgoers of all nationalities that came in support never sat down the entire concert. Many of us, myself included, danced the night away in celebration of Haiti, enjoying this music which gave relief to those who perhaps grieved the loss of a friend or family member in the aftermath of the earthquake. It was a night for them to forget their troubles. It was the music that brought everyone together. (Check out the band here).
We cheered and applauded, waving our Haitian flags. We hoped for an encore, but it didn’t happen and the crowd disbursed. Everyone left the park in high spirits. Some celebrated the music they loved. Others heard the rhythms for the first time and marveled. Many will never forget the wonderful evening in Millennium Park.
For information on attending Music Without Borders in Millennium Park, go here.
For accommodations at the Fairmont Hotel at Millennium Park, go here.
centerstagechicago.com, fairmont.com, YouTube.com, millenniumpark.org