Chicago has long been the focus of musical activity in Illinois and the Midwest. Monthly concerts occurred in Chicago in the 1830s, and choral music and opera were popular in the city as early as the 1850s. In the second half of the 19th century appreciative Chicago audiences attracted many touring orchestras from the East. One visiting conductor, Theodore Thomas, so impressed a group of wealthy Chicagoans that they organized the Chicago Orchestra, now the famous Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for him in 1891. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra produces a summer concert series, featuring guest conductors, at the Ravinia Festival on the North Shore in suburban Highland Park. The Chicago Grand Opera Company, which included the famous soprano Mary Garden among its first members, came into existence in 1910. Successors were the Chicago Opera Association and later the Chicago Civic Opera Company.
The Great Depression of the 1930s forced the Civic Opera to disband, but grand opera returned to the city in 1954 when the Lyric Opera of Chicago made its debut. Today the Lyric thrives with fall, winter, and spring series at the Civic Opera House in downtown Chicago.
Music clubs and societies in many parts of Illinois sponsor community orchestras and choirs. The Illinois Symphony Orchestra, for instance, was formed in the mid-1980s to produce classical music in central Illinois. Many universities and colleges have extensive musical programs.
Chicago gained a considerable reputation for fostering jazz, blues, and folk music in the 20th century. The city is most notably a mecca for the blues, producing some of its most well known musicians as well as influencing its sound. The blues originated in the early 1800s with Southern plantation slave workers.
By the early 1920s Mississippi Delta blues musicians were migrating north to Chicago, which was burgeoning with music clubs and recording studios. Chicago became a testing ground for the blues sound. Each year the Chicago Blues Festival draws musicians and music lovers for a four-day event celebrating Chicago as the Blues Capital of the World. Meanwhile, the city’s blues clubs draw performers year around. "Illinois" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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