By Philip Vidal
The Chicago winter overnight parking ban ends on April 1. It is no longer prohibited to park on 107 miles of main streets, regardless of snow. I sincerely hope that I do not see any snow until the fall, but as I begin to write this column on the first official day of spring, it is below freezing and blustery in Chicago. I am always reminded that it can snow on Easter, so we might not be done with snow yet.
On a day like today, spring and summer seem far away. A personal trainer told me that April is the most popular month to join a gym. I would have thought it was January, in response to New Year’s Resolutions. But the promise of warmer weather must make people hurry to tone up for the beach. Fortunately, there is help. The Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce presents their inaugural Wellness Expo and Rejuvenation Crawl on April 8 at the A.N. Pritzker School, 2009 W. Schiller.
Because the outdoors is still not entirely hospitable, there are plenty of things do indoors.
If your tastes run to contemporary music, April begins with the world premiere of Chicago-born composer Amy Beth Kirsten’s multimedia presentation “Savior,” about the life and death of Joan of Arc, on April 2 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. It is part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series.
MusicNOW showcases contemporary music. But if you prefer music more reminiscent of the past, there are plenty of options. Mercury Theater Chicago has created the Venus Cabaret Theater. The opening production is Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” April 5-June 3. “Soundstage” on WTTW kicks off a new season on April 5 with “Chicago – The 50th Anniversary of Chicago II.” The Chicago Chamber Music Society wraps up its 82nd season with a performance by the Schumann Quartett (including 3 brothers whose surname is Schumann), on April 14 at a private club on Michigan Avenue. As part of the “Music Under Glass” series at the Garfield Park Conservatory, pianist Thomas Nickell makes his Chicago debut accompanied by the Oistrakh Orchestra Chicago at a concert at noon on April 14. He is just 19 years old. Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester perform American and German songs of the ‘20s and ‘30s at Symphony Center, April 20.
Warmer weather, which I am not convinced will come, is easier on the vocal chords, and several of Chicago’s singing groups have spring concerts. Chicago a cappella’s “The History of Rock and Soul – Part 2 with Terri Hemmert” is in Oak Park, Evanston, Naperville and Hyde Park on April 13, 14, 15 & 20. And the immensely popular special performance “The History of Rock and Soul: Part 2 Live with Terri Hemmert at Lincoln Hall” returns April 22. The Lakeside Singers’ spring concert “So Little Time, So Much Singing” is April 6 (Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston), April 7 (Grace United Methodist Church, Naperville) and April 13 (Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago). The Chicago Community Chorus’ 15th anniversary concert is at the Harris Theater on April 28.
The inaugural Family Day at Lyric is on April 7 from 11 am-3 pm at the Lyric Opera. You and the kids can go back-stage to check out the costume department, props area and the orchestra pit. There will also be a short live performance targeted to tots 5-10 years old.
The Lyric Opera Women’s Board Wine Auction marks the 30th anniversary of this triennial event by honoring its creator, Shirley Welsh Ryan, on April 14 at the Lyric Opera House. I look forward to attending this event. The featured wine is the first growth Chateau Margaux, considered mother’s milk by many. Henry Fogel will be honored for his service to Chicago Opera Theater and Chicago’s classic music scene (including 18 years as President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) at Chicago Opera Theater’s annual gala at the Blackstone Hotel, which follows the matinee performance of Donizetti’s “Il Pigmalione” & “Rita”) on April 22 at the Studebaker Theater.
Several high-profile people will pass through Chicago this month. Photographer Annie Leibovitz is the key note speaker at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Women’s Board sold out “Visionary” luncheon at the Standard Club on April 11. Talk show host and producer Andy Cohen and CNN host Anderson Cooper come to the Chicago Theatre on April 14 in “AC2: Deep Talk and Shallow Tales – An Intimate Evening with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen.” The “intimate” reference is obviously a play on words as the theatre seats 3,600. Former British prime minister Tony Blair will be honored at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation’s annual Lincoln Leadership Prize dinner on April 24. “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert returns to his alma mater to host “A Starry Night,” the show that closes CommFest, an annual event that includes performances, open houses and master classes showcasing Northwestern University’s School of Communication, April 20-21.
There is plenty going on at the University of Chicago, too. “Expanding Narratives” is an exciting three-year, three-part collections and exhibitions project that kicks off at the Smart Museum of Art on April 24. The first part of the project is “Expanding Narratives: The Figure and the Ground,” which explores the development of figurative works and runs through December 30. Artists from Gustave Caillebotte to Chicago’s Nick Cave are represented in the show. Adjacent to the main exhibition is “Expanding Narratives: Themes and Variations” featuring the work of 19th century French printmaker Félix Buhot, which runs through July 22.
While I am on the University of Chicago campus, I want to see “Richard Rezac: Address,” which showcases the works of this Chicago-based sculptor, Renaissance Society, April 21-June 17. If I do not make it to the “Ren,” Richard Rezac has an installation, “Glen Elder,” in the garden of the Arts Club of Chicago, through July.
A University of Chicago alumna, Carla Hayden, will be honored at the 2018 Newberry Library Award Dinner on April 23 at Venue 610. Ms. Hayden grew up in Chicago, attended Roosevelt University as well as the University of Chicago, and was the chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library. She is currently the Librarian of Congress and the first woman and first African-American to hold the position. I was at a cocktail party recently at a beautiful mansion on Astor Street hosted by a young and attractive couple. I went into the library, which had the original mahogany built-in bookshelves on three sides of the room, but there were no books on the shelves. One could walk away with the sense that hard-bound books are a thing of the past. I am glad that books still matter.
Dance has been called poetry in motion. Chicago Dance Month is great way to see such poetry and will include pop-up and scheduled performances citywide. Links Hall presents several performances by visiting and local dancers as part of their “Bridge Dance Festival”….bridging Japan and the West, April 6-May 6. The Dance Center at Columbia College hosts Bebe Miller Company’s “In a Rhythm”, April 5-7, and “B-Series,” a free festival of hip-hop and street dance on April 13-14. Visceral Dance Chicago performs “SPRINGFIVE” at the Harris Theater on April 7. The Harris Theater hosts Lucky Plush Productions’ “Tab Show” April 26-27. The Joffrey Ballet Chicago performs choreographer Alexander Ekman’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” April 25-May 6 at the Auditorium Theatre.
The advent of spring and summer reminds me of one of the best afternoons I have ever enjoyed. Several years ago Spiaggia, perennially on the best restaurants in Chicago list, hosted a ‘field trip/lunch” to one of their purveyors, Nichols Farms in Marengo, Illinois. It was an idyllic summer afternoon…perfect weather, perfect food, perfect wine, birdsong everywhere and terrific company. Sarah Grueneberg was the chef at the time, and I remember talking to her about how to make the perfect mostarda, which went with the perfect roast pig she prepared. She is now a James Beard award-winning chef, an “Iron Chef” TV celeb, and chef/owner of acclaimed Monteverde on the Randolph Street’s restaurant row. She hosts a new cooking series, “Dishalicious,” that premieres on WTTW, Friday, April 6.
A sure sign that spring is officially here is the Cubs home opener, this year against the Pirates on April 9 at 1:20 PM. If you like crosstown doubleheaders, there is a Sox game that evening at 7:10 PM.
Dates, times, and availability are subject to change.