Grant Park Music Festival axes season due to Covid-19

Mon May 04, 2020 at 11:00 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

The Grant Park Music Festival announced Monday morning that it has cancelled its 2020 summer season due to the coronavirus.

The Grant Park Music Festival has cancelled its entire 2020 summer season due to Covid-19. The Ravinia Festival in Highland Park did the same last week.

“We’re four weeks out from our first chorus rehearsal and the situation hasn’t really changed,” said festival president and CEO Paul Winberg Monday morning. “There’s no way to go forward with the 2020 season for health and safety reasons.”

The downtown summer music festival was slated to open June 10 and run through August 15. The cancellation zeros out ten weeks of concerts and 251 events, including open rehearsals and ancillary programs. 

The festival’s 86th season would have included a pair of commissioned world premieres–one from Chicago native Mischa Zupko and a violin concerto by jazz pianist-composer Billy Childs, to be performed by Rachel Barton Pine. 

Winberg said the cancellation of the 2020 lakefront festival would result in a $4.3 million loss in revenue, about a 60% drop in its operating budget. In its long history, the lakefront festival has never before cancelled an entire season, not even during World War II.

Winberg will meet with the Chicago Federation of Musicians Monday afternoon to discuss the changed contract situation for Grant Park Orchestra musicians and Grant Park Chorus members. About 28 full-time seasonal employees will also not be working this summer.

One small bright spot, said Winberg, is that the festival received $694,000 from the federal Payment Protection Program for organizations suffering financial losses due to Covid-19.

Asked if the festival would be able to return in 2021, Winberg made no definite commitment. “We want to be able to get through the summer and fall and then we’ll be able to address next year.”

The North Shore Chamber Music Festival has postponed its annual June event, which would have marked the series’ tenth anniversary season this year.

Among major classical events, that leaves just the final two weeks of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra season, from June 11-20.

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