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Staunton Music Festival presents renowned international musicians

stn-music-festival-headerMore than 60 renowned chamber musicians from across Europe and the U.S. will perform about 30 innovative programs in historic venues including the Blackfriars Playhouse during the nine days of the Staunton Music Festival,Aug. 16-24. SMF programs include 20 concerts, plus lectures and workshops. More than half are free of charge.

Many of the musicians are friends or acquaintances, as well as professional colleagues. They play together in Europe as well as at the SMF and have developed remarkable rapport. So they return to Staunton to make music together. They are welcomed back in many cases by families who have entertained them often in past years. A huge number of programs and rehearsals means they work hard here, often from 8:30 a.m. rehearsals straight through two concerts per day, ending with the evening concert, or even a post-concert rehearsal.

Among returning players are Vladimir Mendelssohn (viola, Paris), Diane Pascal (violin, Vienna), Minna Pensola (violin and baroque violin) and Anti Tikkanen (violin, viola, and baroque viola, Finland), and Carsten Schmidt (piano) and James Wilson (cello, both USA). Five composers-in-residence will present premieres and recent work, including the much honored Richmond native Zachary Wadsworth, whose Out of the South Cometh the Whirlwind was performed at Westminster Abbey, London, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II.

Carsten Schmidt, artistic director, plans wide-ranging and unusual programs of chamber music from the Renaissance to today, including seldom-heard works by cherished composers and The 2013 Festival will include everything from choral works to pieces focused on percussion. SMF’s tradition is to play works from the past on period instruments, so we can hear as closely as possible the sounds the composer heard or intended. Many players will bring baroque versions of string and wind instruments. But it’s more challenging to collect historic keyboards.

The stage at this year’s Early Keyboard Extravaganza, on Tuesday, August 20, will be filled with eight keyboard instruments gathered statewide and beyond, including two organs, two large fortepianos with quite robust sounds, lent by a Norfolk collector, and four harpsichords. All are not only historically accurate, but also beautiful examples of workmanship, and each brings an entirely new color to the music it produces. The evening offers a
rare chance for anyone on the East Coast to hear so many historical keyboards assembled and played by recognized masters at one occasion.

Chamber music differs greatly from symphonic music. Symphony orchestras may include a hundred players or more. Chamber music is composed for ensembles of just a few to twenty or so players and/or vocalists. Each musician’s part is unique, forming part of an intimate conversation among the instruments and voices. The music is intended to be heard in a smaller “chamber,” rather than a huge symphony hall. Many people find chamber music approachable and easy to appreciate, especially if they’re enjoying their first experiences of “classical” music.

The full festival schedule is available online at stauntonmusicfestival.com, at the Staunton Visitors Center, and at Bookworks, 101 W. Beverley St., Staunton. Tickets are on sale now. 2013 is the second consecutive year of record donations, and ticket sales also have increased substantially. The opening gala dinner-concert is sold out, and the closing concert at the Blackfriars Playhouse is heavily subscribed. Concert goers are advised to buy tickets promptly to avoid disappointment.

All daytime concerts, lectures, and workshops are free for everyone and open to the public. Evening concerts cost $20 general admission/ $18 senior / $8 student. Youth ages 16 and under attend all concerts entirely free (except the final concert at Blackfriars). Season passes and tickets for the evening concerts are available online at brownpapertickets.com (no surcharge), by phone at (800) 838-3006, or at Bookworks.

The Staunton Music Festival enjoys generous community support. Local churches and theaters offer concert space. Stauntonians open their homes and B&Bs to host visiting musicians. Local restaurants provide discounted meals for all artists, and some restaurants, hotels, and other merchants also offer discounts to festival patrons. See www.stauntonmusicfestival.com for details.

The Staunton Music Festival is made possible in part by the generous support of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge, the City of Staunton, and the Office of International Programs, James Madison University.

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