Cicadas' Return Worries Festival Organizer Robert Siegel talks with Welz Kauffman, president and CEO of the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Ill. When he was hired in 2000, Kauffman was told about the coming advance of the 17-year cicada. He has been fretting ever since.
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Cicadas' Return Worries Festival Organizer

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Cicadas' Return Worries Festival Organizer

Cicadas' Return Worries Festival Organizer

Cicadas' Return Worries Festival Organizer

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Robert Siegel talks with Welz Kauffman, president and CEO of the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Ill. When he was hired in 2000, Kauffman was told about the coming advance of the 17-year cicada. He has been fretting ever since.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

When Vivaldi imagined summer, it was quiet and peaceful, the kind of summer night you might go to a music festival and hear an orchestra al fresco, as Vivaldi might have said.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Of course, every 17 years, Vivaldi might also have said who let the bugs out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC AND CICADAS CHIRPING)

SIEGEL: Nothing corrupts the calm of the summer's night like a plague of cicadas, and there is one scheduled for Highland Park, Illinois this summer. And as a result, the Ravinia Festival at Highland Park has rescheduled the performance dates of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this summer.

Welz Kauffman is president and CEO of the festival. And Mr. Kauffman, I gathered this problem is one that you've been anticipating for years.

WELZ KAUFFMAN: It has. I've been working at the Ravinia Festival for about seven seasons, and I was told early on - I'm a Californian so I don't really know from these little critters - that this would have happening in 2007.

I initially asked my board if I could take a sabbatical that summer. They said no, and so we've been preparing ever since. And the first thing we did was ask the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to move out of the month of June since it's May and June when these guys tend to show up.

SIEGEL: You didn't consider the possibilities of trying to work the natural accompaniment into performances in June, in fact?

KAUFFMAN: I actually did discuss with a variety of composers whether they wanted to create pieces that would go along with the noise. We just don't know when the noise is going to be happening. That's the problem. It's a two-month window, and within that time, it's a two to four week period. So we didn't exactly know when they were going to be showing up.

KAUFFMAN: The Musical." And we did look at that piece to see if we would redo it. We decided not to.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: No Chicago Symphony Orchestra in June. Who is going head to head against the cicadas, then?

KAUFFMAN: Well, we've got the Philip Glass Ensemble doing a Chicago premiere. We've got the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra of the San Francisco Bay area. We've got Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. All of those are in our enclosed Martin Theater. And then at the end of the month, we have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir coming to make their long-awaited Ravinia debut on June 27th.

We also have a variety of jazz and pop acts, which tend to be more heavily amplified, so we're hoping that will exceed the noise level of whatever the little guys are going to be doing.

SIEGEL: But the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will go mano-a-mano, voce e voce with the cicadas?

KAUFFMAN: That's right. I did explain to them that the critters will be showing up, and they explained to me that they knew it from locusts, and it wouldn't be a problem.

SIEGEL: Welz Kauffman, thank you very much for talking with us about it.

KAUFFMAN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SOUND OF MUSIC")

Unidentified Choir: The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years. The hills fill my heart with the sound of music. My heart wants to sing every song it hears.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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