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Summer time: When the lawn at Ravinia Festival beckons

The Rotary, an Evanston-based international service organization, recently picnicked on the Ravinia Festival lawn to raise awareness and money to eradicate polio
The Rotary, an Evanston-based international service organization, recently picnicked on the Ravinia Festival lawn to raise awareness and money to eradicate polio Jodie Jacobs

After a cool and sometimes wet summer, music and weather came together on a recent Monday at Ravinia Festival. The Highland Park summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a frequent stop on the classical and pop circuit, Ravinia draws aficionados of a variety of music.

On Aug. 20, 2014, patrons were clapping and moving to the joyful beats emanating from the Pavilion stage. Famed violinist Itzhak Perlman and the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Russell Ger were playing but the audience wasn’t hearing a violin concerto. Also on stage were Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, Chief Cantor of Park East Synagogue, New York City, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.

The program was “ Eternal Echoes,” music that touched the soul and spirit. It was a mix of Hassidic tunes, Yiddish folk songs and dance melodies and gorgeous pieces from the "cantorial" genre. They were about peace, rejoicing, rebuilding and prayer. Words were not in English, so their translation was in the free, Ravinia program handout.

Walking the lawn was also inspiring because the grass was comfortably dotted with music lovers of many ages, races and religions.

Among the groups that spread out with chairs, blankets and food was Rotary, a service organization whose international headquarters are in nearby Evanston. A member explained that they chose this concert as a benefit for the Rotary program to “End Polio Now” because Perlman had contracted polio as a young child and continues to walk with crutches. The World Health Organization, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are partners with Rotary on polio eradication efforts.

But being out there when the weather was finally behaving like summer was a good reminder to check the remaining Ravinia programs. There still are good musical reasons to throw together fruit, dessert and wine for a picnic on the lawn. Pianist Dan Tepfer performs in Bennett Gordon Hall Aug.30. Billy Corgan of "Smashing Pumpkins" will be in the Pavilion on the same date. "Classic Albums Live" will do Beatles covers Sept. 13 in the Pavilion.

For the schedule and more Ravinia information visit Ravinia Festival.