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Eine Kleine Park Music: Six To See At The 2014 Grant Park Music Festival

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 20, 2014 4:00PM

Photo credit: Marielle Shaw

We can all breathe a sigh of relief today. The grass is getting greener, the weather's warming up, and the trees are budding. Obviously, we've all had our eyes on the outdoors here, daydreaming about our favorite outdoor haunts in the city and having cocktails on the best of the rooftop bars.

All this sunshine and warm weather brings even more to enjoy though, when the Grant Park Music Festival launches its 2014 Season.

It's a year to celebrate as the festival reaches its 80th anniversary, and while the first event isn't until June 11th, we thought we'd give you a list of six concerts you won't want to miss. This is, and always has been, a free series of events, out in the open air of a beautiful park. Pack a picnic and spread out on the lawn for these picks:

Tchaikovsky Extravaganza: Jun 11, 6:30 p.m.: The festival wastes no time bringing out the big guns, with their opening night performance featuring Tchaikovsky's works and amazing young pianist Natasha Parmeski. Parmeski was born in Moscow, started playing piano at 4, and moved to the U.S. at 8 years old.

By the age of 9, she made her first professional appearance. At 15, she was playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Now 26, Parmeski plans to dazzles on Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Francesca da Rimini, as well as some Corigliano. Carlos Kalmar guest conducts.

Saint-Saƫns Cello Concerto, July 2, 6:30 p.m.: This cello concerto is a good time to pick up some wine and cheese on your way to the Pritzker Lawn. Another young virtuoso comes to the Festival, this time a Chicago area native. 21-year-old Gabriel Cabezas has also played with some of the best, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the L.A. Philharmonic and alongside Yo-Yo Ma. Cabezas's a supporter of many music education endeavors, and guests to this concert can expect to also hear the work of French composers Danielpour and Poulenc.

Ella, Louis & All That Jazz, July 9, 8 p.m.: Smack in the middle of the season, you can catch a night of jazz that features two amazing performers: vocalist Marva Hicks, and Byron Stripling, a congenial trumpeter whose control and style will blow you away.

Hicks has performed with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and is currently involved with Motown the Musical. Stripling, who's filled in for and played Louis Armstrong in musicals, was also once a performer with the Count Basie Orchestra. Expect to hear Gershwin, Berlin and Maller during this set.

Holst: The Planets, July 11 at the South Side Cultural Center, 6:30 p.m.; July 12 at Pritzker Pavilion, 8 p.m. : On this evening, Mei-Ann Chen, current director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, will take the baton to conduct the Grant Park Orchestra in Holst's well-known and well-loved suite, The Planets. If you haven't heard them before, they're full of the fire and energy that are perfect for live orchestra performances, and we look forward to hearing them echo through the park.

National Youth Orchestra: July 28, 6:30 p.m.: The whole festival is family friendly, but this is a can't miss for those families with aspiring musicians. The National Youth Orchestra performs Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Bernstein, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and features Gil Shaham on the Britten violin concerto.

Seven Deadly Sins, Aug 6, 6:30 p.m.: Storm Large is by now a fixture at the Grant Park Music Festival, and the Pink Martini vocalist returns on this night to perform Kurt Weill's one act opera, Seven Deadly Sins.Schubert's beautiful 8th "Unfinished" Symphony, and Strauss' Dance of the Seven Veils will round out the night.

This is the short list, folks, and it isn't short. We can't think of a better way to spend a summer night than in the park with a picnic, listening to the sounds of the orchestra fill the air.

For the full schedule, click here.