Over 800 revelers came out in support of Ravinia’s annual gala. Hosted by the Women’s Board, the festival welcomed headliner Jennifer Hudson, who debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The evening began with cocktails on the North Lawn where guests enjoyed the Ravinia Jazz Scholar Alumni quartet before heading to experience an 85-minute concert by Jennifer Hudson. The Grammy-Award winning artist entered from the back of the house, graciously shaking guests’ hands singing “How Great Though Art.” Once on the stage, the artist, who was dressed in a purple jumpsuit belted out hits like “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from her Oscar-winning role in Dream Girls to a crowd of more than 7,000. One of the most memorable songs of the night was her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The magical moment was touching as she had the audience join in on the chorus.
“There was a raw excitement when Ravinia first introduced Jennifer Hudson to our audiences in 2011, and for tonight’s gala we welcomed back a masterful artist in full control of her adoring audience and her phenomenal talents,” said Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman of Highland Park, who booked this gala and all Ravinia concerts. “As she said onstage, Jennifer often comes to Ravinia as an audience member to watch our headliners perform, and it’s that love of music that makes her connect so beautifully with an audience. This was an event people will be talking about for years.”
After the concert, guests headed into the tent for a glorious three-course meal which started with the “summer trio” appetizer of melon gazpacho, heirloom tomato panzanella, and marinated gulf shrimp on an avocado purée and criolla salad. For the main entree, guests indulged on Chermoula-rubbed sea bass and whole roasted beef tenderloin over charred sweet corn, summer beans, and new potato cassoulet. For dessert, lavender opera cake was served.
Chairman of the Women’s Board Marilyn Vender of Glencoe welcomed guests to dinner along with 2019 Gala Committee co-chairs Mary Alice Miller of Kenilworth and Kathy Paleczny of Glencoe. The Women’s Board has been instrumental in aiding the Reach* Teach* Play educational programs that serve 85,000 community members ensuring that music education is available to all.
“Work begins on a Ravinia gala almost the day after the current one ends, so it’s wonderfully gratifying to see guests enjoying every beat of such a complicated evening, and know that not only are they having the time of their lives, but that they are giving other people throughout Chicagoland a chance to be touched by music in an equally moving way,” Vender said. “I’ve watched the children in our Reach* Teach* Play programs grow. They aren’t just learning about music; they are learning self-esteem and how to take a leading role in society. There’s no better feeling in the world than knowing you contributed to that growth in some small way. All of our gala guests can share in that sense of pride.”
This year’s gala was one of the most successful in their 53-year history, raising over $1.1 million to support the festival and the Reach*Teach* Play program.