The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
SHAKERTOWN — To the audience, some of the faces change each year, but the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has remained a fairly consistent event since its debut in May 2007.
In its second year, it moved to Memorial Day weekend and added a late-morning pair of concerts in the village’s acoustically sterling Meeting House. Behind the scenes, though, there has been a lot of change.
The festival was the brainchild of George Foreman, then-director of Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts. He departed for the University of Georgia at the end of 2009, and last year, the Norton Center bowed out of the event, saying it wanted to focus on programs for the campus and students. But leaders at Shakertown thought they had a good thing and took over sole presentation of the festival last year, under the leadership of longtime Shakertown director Madge B. Adams. She retired last summer, succeeded by Maynard Crossland, who came from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
It’s a lot of change for a young festival, but through it all, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center directors Wu Han and David Finckel have remained as the festival’s artistic directors, and despite all the change, Han says they never considered letting the event go.
“It’s very simple,” Wu said from her home in New York. “It’s the community; it’s the setting. Management will come and go, from our experience, but art, if you have a community to support it, if you have the audience and, in the case of the Shaker Village, that particular setting, it’s irreplaceable.
“It’s so magical, particularly in the modern world we live in today, to have a place for the renewal of spirit. I just could not find a better setting.”
Wu, a pianist, and Finckel, a cellist, usually perform at the festival but couldn’t attend last year. They will be back for this year’s event.
Crossland envisions the festival as part of an overall strategy to get a larger, younger audience into the village and experience it as relevant to modern life as much as a historic destination.
“We really need to look at our customer base and ask what it is that they’re wanting,” he says. “What they’re wanting is a whole lot different than what their parents were wanting. So we need to be able to meet that need. It’s a lot more activity.
“Telling the story of what happened here has to be more than standing in front of an interpreter and having them tell you a story. It has to be immersive in all the senses, and people have to be able to take away things they can use in their own lives.”
Crossland wants to realign the conception of Shakers from that of “a weird religious sect” to that of a culture that developed and perfected practices such as business and sustainability that are seen as virtues today.
Music, of course, also was part of that culture.
Mar3Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Norton Center for the Arts; Tagged as: Centre College, Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, David Finckel, Ida Kavafian, Inon Barnatan, Jose Franch-Ballester, Lexington Philharmonic, Memorial Day weekend, Norton Center for the Arts, Orion String Quartet, Patrick Castillo, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Wu Han
The Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, which has become an annual Memorial Day weekend event at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, is back on for 2011.
In previous seasons, the festival had been announced as part of the season at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts. But this season, the center has bowed out of participation in the event which will be presented exclusively by Shaker Village. As in the past, the festival will feature musicians from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and be directed by the society’s David Finckel and Wu Han.
This year’s festival will feature four concerts: 11 a.m. performances in the Meeting House May 28 and 29 and 5 p.m. concerts in the Meadow View Barn those afternoons. There will also be pre-concert lectures by composer Patrick Castillo at 3 p.m. each day.
The musicians this year will be the Orion String Quartet, which was featured at the 2008 festival, and violin and violist Ida Kavafian, clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester and pianist Inon Barnatan, who was a soloist with the Lexington Philharmonic in November.
Admission to the festival ranges from individual concert tickets to festival, accommodation and meal packages. Visit shakervillageky.org or call 1-800-734-5611, Ext. 1545 for more information and reservations.
May22Filed under: Classical Music, Norton Center for the Arts, Podcasts; Tagged as: Astor Piazolla, Centre College, Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, David Finkel, Escher String Quartet, Franz Schubert, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Jakor Koranyi, Joseph Silverstein, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Memorial Day weekend, Music@Menlo, Norton Center for the Arts, Orion String Quartet, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Stephen Collins Foster, Wu Han, Yura Lee
Click play to hear a podcast of our conversation with Wu Han and David Finkel.
The unplayed tune that has colored the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass is a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic: Getting to Know You.
For the fourth consecutive Memorial Day weekend, the festival will bring together members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Central Kentucky classical music fans at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.
“I could feel there’s a sense of trust that’s been building up on the reputation and the quality of the music,” says pianist Wu Han, who co-directs the festival with her husband, cellist David Finkel.
She points out that in the festival’s first years, she and Finkel brought along other brand-name classical stars such as violinist Joseph Silverstein and the Orion String Quartet. This year, like last year, leans more on new faces. Last year’s fresh entry was the Escher String Quartet. This year, it’s some hot young soloists, including violinist/violist Yura Lee and cellist Jakor Koranyi.
That duo will play Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, which earned them flat-out raves when they played it in New York last month. In his review for the New York Daily News, Howard Kissel acknowledged it was not a piece he was familiar with, but he was completely taken with Lee and Koranyi’s performance.
Offering performances like that put the festival, presented by Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, on a trajectory it should be on, Wu Han says.
HARRODSBURG — For the second consecutive spring the University of Kentucky Theatre is presenting Arlene Hutton’s As It Is In Heaven at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. The play is set in the village in 1838, at a time known as the “Era of Manifestations,” when many Shakers were experiencing visions and receiving spiritual gifts. The play by Hutton, whose family hails from Corbin, examines jealousies that arise when members of the Pleasant Hill group start experiencing these visions and gifts.
This is director Rhoda-Gale Pollack’s third time directing Hutton’s play, which is being presented in a tobacco barn that was renovated for the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass. The UK production runs May 15-24, 2009.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich