The Music Beat: How Josh Groban and a Single Violin Turned My Day Around

Mary Grace Ritter | The PhoenixJosh Groban performed at Ravinia Music Festival on June 7. Groban is on tour in support of his newest album "Bridges."

Summertime is all about warm, carefree nights enjoying quality music with people you love. That was certainly the page my mom was on as she made her way up to Chicago to see Josh Groban with me at Ravinia Music Festival (418 Sheridan Road) on June 7.

I’d be on that page soon enough, but before I could reach that point of relaxation, I had to endure a stressful morning. Apartment-hunting anxiety and camera troubles aren’t a part of my ideal first hour awake.

The final straw of my mental capacity was when my mom didn’t answer her phone. Repeatedly.

The irrational part of my brain made me believe the worst had happened on her drive in from St. Louis so naturally I got in the shower so I could have my panic attack in peace (ah, the irony).

It didn’t take her long to call back and assure me she was, indeed, fine.

She arrived safe and sound, we grabbed some food and made our way up to Ravinia to see Josh Groban.

It was a beautiful evening for an outdoor show, though a bit brisk as the evening went on. But, hey, for Chicago low 60s is shorts and t-shirt weather.

Needing no opener, Groban opened with his cover of “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” The Grammy-nominated artist waltzed across the stage in his light blue suit.

As the show went on, we realized neither of us had any tissues. Normally why would we? But my mom often cries at commercials so this was a questionable choice. I was proud she made it halfway through the set before the waterworks began.

I can’t blame her though — the song Groban chose was “Bring Him Home” from the tear-jerking, Tony-winning musical “Les Miserables.” Groban dedicated the song to those in the audience waiting for family members to return from active duty.

Though we were unprepared, my mom and I predicted tears from the emotion and beauty of Groban’s voice. We didn’t see the tears of laughter coming. Between songs Groban did a mini stand-up routine which left me, my mom and our fellow audience members doubled-over laughing.

While taking in the splendor of the outdoor venue, Groban pointed out that it was a perfect night for music. At this moment a tiny gnat fluttered haphazardly through the spotlight.

Groban excitedly pointed out, “There’s only one bug!”

The simple joy at the lack of pests left me cracking up for the duration of the between-songs chat.

Groban went on to perform “February Song” from his 2007 album “Awake.”

“I’m gonna sing it because it keeps me warm,” Groban said from the stage. “Couldn’t tell you why. There’s no science behind it.”

It worked, leaving me warmed up as well.

I didn’t figure out the science of it either, but let’s be honest, music that means something has never been about science.

The way the ballad built certainly played a part, beginning with Groban on the piano and growing as a chorus of violins from the Illinois Festival Orchestra joined in. Groban’s delicate high notes contrasted the drama of the orchestra.

That army of instruments — complete with four separate drum sets, a grand piano, accordion, guitars, bass, violins and a harp — brought variety to the show.

There was certainly beauty in the instrumental diversity, but nothing got to me quite like the single violin that began “You Raise Me Up.”

Earlier that morning in the midst of my shower panic attack, I remembered my mom and I would hear this song. It helped. So when the musician played those confident, hauntinly beautiful opening notes, I flailed around in my seat unsure of how else to release the wave of emotions.

Groban received a standing ovation at the end of the song, but we all sat back down when he returned to the stage to perform “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

We stood for a second ovation following his encore.

I left the show feeling refreshed. After a hectic day of worrying about anything and everything that can — and did — go wrong, I got to simply sit with my mom and enjoy a concert.

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Arts and Entertainment Editor

Mary Grace Ritter is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of The Phoenix. She's a senior studying photography and multimedia journalism. Her favorite phase of the moon is the waxing crescent and if she were a pasta she'd be bowtie pasta.

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