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Posted August 14, 2011

Now you can understand that apocalyptic oratorio — in the dark

The 2011 Season of the Grant Park Music Festival offered many exciting and adventurous selections. Conductor Carlos Kalmar is well known for his eclectic tastes and taking risks. But perhaps the most unusual performance of the year was The Book with Seven Seals, a 1937 composition by Franz Schmidt based on the Book of Revelations.

Just days before the performance, Festival representatives contacted us hoping to find a way to transmit translations of the wildly apocalyptic German oratorio to mobile users in Millennium Park. Could it be done? And how fast?

Well, long story short, we pulled it off, with a full day to spare for testing during the lunchtime rehearsal before the premiere. Jell developed a realtime web app to effectively push translations, one line at a time, to all smartphone users browsing a special “live” area of the GPMF website. We wish we could take credit for the original idea, but we were happy to be offered the challenge. And the app worked perfectly.

House Manager Joe Fernicola reported that it was quite exciting to roam the Great Lawn that beautiful August Friday night — and see clusters of attendees huddled around their iPads, iPhones, and Droids to follow the exploits of the Four Horsemen, systematically destroying everyone in their paths.

And the performance itself? You can read one of several reviews here.