Staunton Music Festival opens Friday
Fifty celebrated vocalists and instrumental musicians from across Europe and the U.S. converge here to live with local families, frequent the city’s acclaimed downtown restaurants and cafes, and above all to rehearse and play chamber music.
The SMF’s growing audiences, up about 20 percent in 2011, are attracted by the Festival’s highly diversified program and first-class musicians, of course, but also by the historic city, the first settlement west of the Blue Ridge mountains, with its well-preserved 18th and 19th century downtown, historic restored Stonewall Jackson Hotel and B & B’s, and varied fine restaurants catering to preferences from home cooking to sushi.
Audiences and players alike prize the differing venues, which range from a private home to a historic church whose congregation dates to 1746, and whose present mid-19th century building includes no fewer than twelve stained-glass windows by the famed Louis Comfort Tiffany. Audiences also treasure the unique acoustic of the Blackfriars Theatre, the world’s only replica of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, with its all-wood interior and thrust staging.
More distant audiences are also taking notice: in 2012 alone Staunton was named by Smithsonian magazine as one of the top ten small cities in the U.S. The festival itself was extensively noted in “Virginia’s big little culture town,” in the Washington Times of July 24. And the January issue of Preservation magazine offered “The Secret to Staunton’s Success.”
Artistic Director Carsten Schmidt plans the festival’s uniquely adventuresome program, aiming for appealing and hiighly diverse combinations of composers, artists, and styles. Programs range from the masters of centuries past to contemporary composers, from the Renaissance to world premieres commissioned especially for the festival. Just one highlight of the 2012 season is the increased use of historic “period” instruments, which include a remarkable collection of early keyboard instruments: six harpsichords, including French, Flemish, Italian, and German instruments; a late 18th century Viennese fortepiano; two magnificent Taylor and Boody organs, and a portative, a portable organ also by the famed local builders. The long-awaited German harpsichord arrived here only a few days ago. The program also includes extensive use of percussion instruments for the first time.
The festival’s acclaimed artists return again and again, although they are courted by the best festivals throughout the world. They seek the SMF’s musical richness and diversity. They value the democratic management that supports players in rehearsing their own ensembles to create a shared and vibrant musical statement. The small-town atmosphere also figures in players’ commitment, and especially the enthusiastic audience that welcomes their returns season after season.
Performance tickets cost $20/$18/$8 for general admission, seniors, and students, respectively, and slightly more for the Blackfriars concert. Children and youth sixteen and under are free at all concerts except the Gala and the finale at the Blackfriars. Noontime concerts are free to all. Season tickets in all categories offer reductions. Tickets can be purchased at Bookworks (101 W. Beverley Street), online at stauntonmusicfestival.com, or at the door if available. The Gala opening concert is sold out.
For performance schedules and locations and more information, please see stauntonmusicfestival.com.