Classical, jazz and experimental music for summer 2024

From annual events to intriguing one-offs, the Chicago Cup is packed with worthwhile summer concerts. A Baker’s Dozen, and then some, for your perusal:

Guard changes: The current transition from Muti to Mäkelä is a big deal, but it’s not the only coming and going at the CSO. Composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery concludes her tenure with a percussion concerto, performed by Cynthia Yeh, and a movement she contributed to “The Elements,” an exquisite corpse-style concerto performed by Joshua Bell. Present and future resident artists will also perform in June: Hilary Hahn, in a chamber recital with live choreography (plus an encore of another Montgomery work, “Musings”), and Daniil Trifonov, with CSO and guest conductor Lahav Shani . All at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.:

Space is the place… for jazz this June. (Thought this was a Sun Ra fake? Read on!) The Evanston venue has a formidable lineup this June alone, featuring the Bill Frisell Trio, pianist Fred Hersch, saxophonist Miguel Zenón, vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and Chinchano, led by the local battery dynamo. Juan Pastor. Everything at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston:

A Tuesday tradition turns 25 years old: As its name promises, Concerts at rush hour They are brief: a tight 45 minutes of music, just enough time to wait for the crush of travelers to pass. But the cycle itself is long and features a dozen concerts throughout the summer. This year, a harp quartet, an Austrian children’s choir (also featured in Grant Park’s Mahler 8 season finale), and Mozart’s chamber epic Gran Partita stand out among the performance. Peak Concerts, 5:45 to 6:30 pm every Tuesday from June 4 to August 20 at St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St.; free.

From pubs to parks: For a decade now, Constellation Men’s Ensemble (no relation to the North Center venue of the same name) has championed living composers in unconventional settings. (Earlier this season, he organized a Eurovision song in neighborhood bars.) For one weekend this summer, the choir takes up residence in three Chicago parks with a program featuring a park-inspired commission by local composer Eric Malmquist. The 25-minute piece is framed by nine new miniatures by other composers. Constellation men’s set, “NOVA VII: in bloom” June 8 at Battle of Fort Dearborn Park, 1801 S. Calumet Ave., and 3 pm June 9 at Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Drive; open rehearsal at 6:30 p.m. June 7 at Indian Boundary Park, 2500 W. Lunt Ave.; All free.

The star becomes a subject: The brainchild of librettist Lasana D. Kazembe and composer Ernest Dawkins, “Paul Robeson: Man of the People” chronicles the life of this towering actor, singer, athlete and activist. The multimedia jazz opera premieres in Indianapolis, Kazembe’s home base, just a week before this show in Chicago. Singer Dee Alexander stars alongside an all-star chamber ensemble that includes Dawkins, trumpeter Corey Wilkes and violinist Caitlin Edwards. “Paul Robeson: Man of the People,” 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. June 7 at Hamilton Park Fieldhouse, 513 W. 72nd St.; free.

Avant-garde festivals: Experimental Sound Studio’s free OPTION series invites artists and audiences to ESS’s cozy backyard. Among those on this year’s lineup: Dorothy Carlos, experimental cellist and electronic musician who was ESS’s 2023 artist-in-residence (June 23); lead bass will be provided by Nick Dunston (June 30) and Brittany Karlson (August 4); plus a new trio consisting of sound artist Fay Victor, flautist Nicole Mitchell and bassist and vocalist Devon Gates (July 7).

Not near Edgewater? The Museum of Contemporary Art’s Tuesdays on the Terrace series, also free, will resume at the end of June. Wait a tribute to Alice Coltrane by harpist Brandee Younger (July 23, preceded by a July 21 performance/conversation with Coltrane’s daughter Michelle at MCA’s Edlis Neeson Theater), previews of the keyboardists’ upcoming albums Julian Davis Reid (August 6) and Alexis Lombre (August 27), and Series debut of organist and pianist Justin Dillard as band leader (August 13).

OPTION, 3 p.m. every Sunday from June 9 to August 25 at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N. Ravenswood Ave.; free with RSVPs at

Tuesday on the Terrace, 5:30 pm to 8 pm From June 25 to August. 27, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave.; free.

A Kronology worth celebrating: The Kronos Quartet, which this year celebrates half a century of championing the new in classical music, bids farewell to two founding members this summer: violinist John Sherba and violist Hank Dutt. They bid farewell to Chicago fans in a program generous with local touchstones. “Glorious Mahalia” by Stacy Garrop features the pre-recorded vocals of Mahalia Jackson and Studs Terkel. The quartet also performs “Little Black Book” by Jlin, the ubiquitous Gary, Indiana-based composer and producer whose Rolodex of collaborators includes Philip Glass, Third Coast Percussion and Björk, and a sample of his mind-blowing upcoming album of Sun compositions Ra. . “Kronos Quartet: five decades” 7:30 p.m. June 13 at the Martin Theatre, 201 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park; tickets between $40 and $60 indoors, $15 on the lawn.

Do you want something real?: Their founder and leader may be no more, but Sun Ra’s Arkestra, founded here in the 1950s, plays on. Marshall Allen, who succeeded Ra as the group’s bandleader, just turned 100; Unfortunately, he recently limited his concerts to those within driving distance of his Philadelphia home. Like Ra, he will be there in spirit, though not in body. Sun Ra Arkestra, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. June 28 at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave.; tickets $40.

A once in a lifetime act: The Chicago Opera Festival joins virtually every company on the planet to recognize the centennial of Puccini’s death, with a stage production of “Manon Lescaut” and an aria recital. But all that could be overshadowed by “Il prigioniero” (“The Prisoner”), originally written for radio broadcast by its composer Luigi Dallapiccola. The important serialist is rarely heard in these parts; He sees his one-hour play in a double bill with Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Medium.” Chicago Opera Festival, from June 21 to July 14, at various locations, listed below; tickets between $25 and $125, with student peak day tickets for $15:

  • “Puccini Forever,” 7:30 p.m. June 21 at Jarvis Opera Hall, DePaul University School of Music, 800 W. Belden Ave.
  • “Manon Lescaut,” 7:30 p.m. June 27 and 29, 2 p.m. June 30, Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston
  • “Il Prigioniero & The Medium,” 7:30 p.m. July 11, 2 p.m. July 14, Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture, 2936 N. Southport Ave.

World Premieres at Grant Park: This season is Carlos Kalmar’s last as musical director of Chicago’s most egalitarian summer classical festival. Retirement will not be smooth for Kalmar: currently suing his former employer, the Cleveland Institute of Music, more than $5 million for breach of contract and unlawfully disclosing him as the subject of a now-closed Title IX investigation. His successor at Grant Park has yet to be publicly named, but strong contenders headline the season’s world premieres (all by composers currently or recently based in Chicago) and multi-week stays. Ludovic Morlot, a former member of the Seattle Symphony, conducts three programs, including Clarice Assad. “Water Nymphs” (June 26 to July 5); Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero performs two, the second features a new job by Jim Stephenson (July 10-13); and the Knights’ artistic director and co-founder, Eric Jacobsen, also directs three programs, including the premiere from an untitled piece by flutist and composer Nathalie Joachim (July 17-27). Grant Park Music FestivalJune 12 to Aug. 17 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St.; free.

Blacknificent 7, ride: This supergroup of composers, formally introduced at a CSO concert earlier this year, reunites for a song cycle commissioned by Ravinia. Jasmine Barnes, Damien Geter, Jessie Montgomery, Shawn Okpebholo, Dave Ragland, Carlos Simon and Joel Thompson each contribute a song about historical African queens, such as Nandi of the Zulus, Amanirenas of Kush and the biblical Queen of Sheba. Soprano Karen Slack, an alumna of the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, and pianist Kevin Miller perform. “African queens” 7:30 p.m. August 1 at the Martin Theatre, 201 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park; tickets between $40 and $60 indoors, $15 on the lawn.

Historical saxophones at Jazz Showcase: With Charles McPherson and Gary Bartz taking the stand within a few weeks of each other, it’s shaping up to be a very august August at this duty station. Although McPherson and Bartz’s collaborations cover virtually all of the biggest names in jazz of the last 60 years, they are as current as ever: McPherson recently released a new album, “Reverence,” and Bartz, a newcomer to NEA Jazz Master, just finished to touch. an NPR Tiny Desk concert. Charles McPherson QuartetAugust 1-4, tickets $20-$40; Gary Bartz, August 22-25, tickets between $25 and $45; both at Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct.

Who is showing up at the Chicago Jazz Fest?: While bookings for the rest of the festival are yet to be confirmed, DCASE has lined up some headliners, hot off the presses: Amina Claudine Myers at Preston Bradley Hall (August 29) and Catherine Russell (August 30), Kenny Garrett with Sounds from the Ancestors (August 31) and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra (September 1) at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Chicago Jazz Festival, from August 29 to September 29. 1, various locations in and around the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph St., and the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.; free.

Hannah Edgar is an independent critic.

The Rubin Institute of Music Criticism helps fund our classical music coverage. The Chicago Tribune maintains editorial control over assignments and content.