Music has the power to transform an average day into something magical. And, if you are lucky enough to experience it in a live performance venue, it’s even more special. Fortunately, I’ve lived close to live performance spaces throughout most of my life. My musical taste is eclectic, ranging from traditional classical music to a deep and abiding love for the country music I grew up with.
During the 1980s, I fell in love with Ravinia Festival when my daughter, Laura, and I lived in Highland Park, Illinois. Almost immediately after I began my position at Highland Park School District 108, the superintendent invited Laura and me to join his family for the first of what became many concerts I enjoyed there.
First opened in 1904, Ravinia Festival is the oldest outdoor music festival in the United State and summer residency of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra The 36-acre park is situated north of Chicago in a beautiful wooded area that makes it a truly unique place to experience music. My friends and I always enjoyed listening to the music while enjoying a picnic on the lawn. Planning for the evening was half the fun; we all pitched in and coordinated who would bring the blankets, desserts, main course, appetizers and drinks. Anyone who wanted to stretch out on the lawn after the meal was responsible for bringing their own pillow. Whether the concerts were classical, jazz, pop or country, they were all performed by first class international performers.
My favorite Ravinia memory will always be the much-anticipated annual performance each July of Tchaikovsky’s iconic 1812 Overture. I especially loved the growing anticipation among the audience as the performance got closer to its stunning crescendo conclusion. For one moment, sitting there under the stars, thousands of us were transfixed – transported by the magic of musical genius and virtuosity back hundreds of years into the past and to a battlefield surrounded by the sound of cannons exploding everywhere. It was thrilling every single year. No other live musical performance has impacted me nor stayed with me like the 1812 Overture at Ravinia. Each year, stretched out on my blanket staring upward at the black sky lit with the twinkling stars of heaven, I was sure there was no place I’d rather be.
When I came back to Illinois the second time as superintendent of schools in River Forest District 90, I was thrilled to be able to frequent Ravinia again.
At the other end of my musical passion lies the music you can hear in Luckenbach, Texas, located in the Texas Hill Country. Luckenbach is just 29 miles from my home in Boerne. It was settled by German immigrants and a few non-German immigrants, including Hispanics.
Today, Luckenbach feels like a ghost-town, with a population of just 3 people. It’s unincorporated and lives on through its reputation as a well-known venue for country music performances. The entire town consists of what’s left of the original post office, an open saloon and a general store stocked with postcards, T-shirts and souvenirs. The town’s motto is “Everybody’s somebody in Luckenbach.” The Moon, the Luckenbach newspaper, can be purchased in the general store.
The Luckenbach Dance Hall is one of the best-known Hill Country dance halls and opened in 1887. Its musical history is said to be 150 years old.
As I drove to Luckenbach, I warned Sally over and over that there was not much to do there although, if we were fortunate, a country band might be performing. Having graduated from Baylor in Waco, Texas, Sally was familiar with Texas.
When I moved to Boerne in 2015 from Alpine, Texas, Sally DelBeccaro, a dear friend from River Forest visited me. We took the tour of Boerne and decided to go to Luckenbach on the way to Fredericksburg. I warned Sally that Luckenbach was “a hole in the road.”
On the way to Luckenbach, I mentioned there were a number of chickens and a rooster that roamed the grounds. “Sally, you’re not going to believe this, but this is the only place I’ve seen chickens sleep in the trees when they roost. She grinned at me, but didn’t say anything.
When we got there, we shopped in the general store and ordered drinks, before sitting down at picnic tables in front of the covered outdoor stage to enjoy this unique American experience.
© Tyra Manning 2018