Saxophone Quartet to Perform at Rock Hall’s Mainstay

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An award-winning blend of saxophone sounds—smooth, sure and resonant—will fill Rock Hall’s Mainstay when the Project Fusion quartet performs at 3:00 on the afternoon of Sunday, March 5.

Project Fusion’s musicians, all graduates of the Eastman School of Music, play completely from memory, to the delight of audiences and competition judges.  They captured the Gold Medal at the 40th Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, won the 2015 Astral Artist National Auditions, took First Prize at the Music Teachers National Association Chamber Music competition, and won both the Grand Prize and the Audience Choice Award at the 6th Plowman International Chamber Music Competition.

project fusionIn addition to concerts, the quartet’s musicians teach masterclasses at colleges and universities and workshops at K-12 schools.  Project Fusion members are Dannel Espinoza, soprano saxophone; Matt Amedio, alto; NMF Personnel Director and former apprentice Michael Sawzin, tenor; and Matthew Evans, baritone.

Why name the group “Project Fusion?”  Sawzin and his fellow musicians say it’s because “music is an infinite, ongoing projectguided by a sense of adventure and creativity.”  The “fusion of ideas,” they believe, “results in meaningful and enjoyable artistic creations.”

The Project Fusion concert is part of the National Music Festival’s fall-to-spring monthly Resonance chamber music series.  For individual tickets as well as annual NMF and Resonance passes, go to: http://nationalmusic.us/events-and-tickets/tickets/

Music Festival Trombone Mentor will Play a “Sackbut” on January 15

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Michael Kris, the National Music Festival’s trombone mentor, says early 17th century chamber music is popular in Europe, and along with the other musicians in the Ensemble Collina, he loves enticing American audiences to enjoy early Baroque works that led the way to the era of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi.

“You’ll hear the beginnings of what chamber music will become,” Kris says.  “When instrumental music started to develop, they were modeling the way people sang, so you’ll hear lots of call and response—one voice will make a musical suggestion and another will respond.  And there’s a huge amount of improvisation.  In a way, this is more like jazz than one would think.”

collinaKris will leave his trombone in North Carolina when he comes to Chestertown for the NMF Resonance concert.  Instead, he’ll play an early trombone known as a “sackbut,”an instrument whose name comes from the old French word “saqueboute,” which means “pull-push.”

The concert will be at 3 pm on Sunday, January 15, at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, 508 High Street in Chestertown.

NMF and Resonance series Resonance Director Richard Rosenberg says he enjoys introducing Chestertown audiences to music they haven’t heard much before, and he thinks that few, if any, audience members will be familiar with Ensemble Collina’s mostly Italian selections.

“The reason I thought it would be good to bring Ensemble Collina is because I trust Michael Kris,” Rosenberg said.  “He’s an amazing player and an amazing teacher, and he’s super-excited about the music he’s playing.  I’m amazed by how adventurous our National Music Festival audience seems to be, and I’m sure the performance will take us all on an exciting journey.”

Kris agrees that there’s a great deal that’s special about Chestertown’s concert music audiences.

“I’m glad to come back to Chestertown anytime,” he said.  “Last summer was my first NMF and I was really knocked out by Chestertown.  It’s not only about the Colonial architecture and the small town charm, it’s about the community effort, unlike anything I’ve ever been involved in.”

In addition to Michael Kris, the Ensemble Collina musicians are violinist Leah Peroutka, Brent Wissick, who plays both viola de gamba and violoncello, and harpsichordist Elaine Funaro.

“You would never expect to hear the blend of instruments you’ll hear at this concert,” Kris said.  “The expectation of hearing a trombone and a violin—you will never have heard it before.  It’s new and fresh, and it’s 400 years old!”

Ensemble Collina Resonance chamber concert tickets are $20 and may be purchased at the door or online at http://nationalmusic.us/events-and-tickets/tickets/. Resonance, formerly Kent Chamber Music, is in its debut season as a program of the National Music Festival.

National Music Festival Absorbs Kent Chamber Music, Renames the 6-Concert Series “Resonance”

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The National Music Festival at Washington College has absorbed the Kent Chamber Music concert series, transforming NMF and Chestertown into a year-round classical music venue.  The new chamber series will be called “Resonance.”

“Resonance was the name of a chamber group that my brother, Philip, and I founded in New York City in the mid-1970s and I always loved the name of the group,” said NMF Artistic Director Richard Rosenberg.  “Resonance implies energy that continues to resonate, to reverberate long after its source has ceased, and Philip suggested that we called this new project ‘Resonance.’”

Maestro Rosenberg says he has booked ensembles for the six-concert 2016-2017 series, from October to April, and noted that several of the chamber musicians have performed in Chestertown as National Music Festival mentors and apprentices.  As soon as he announced that NMF was launching a chamber series, he said, he had more groups to choose from than he had dates to offer.

“Groups from Maryland, Europe and all over sent us proposals for 2017, 2018 and beyond,” Rosenberg said.  “There seems to be a decent buzz in the music biz about what is going on here musically.”

Rosenberg says he was delighted—but not surprised—when the response to the Resonance announcement was so strong.  Musicians, he said, love playing in small groups.

“There is a wealth of great music to be found in chamber music,” he said.  “If you ask any instrumentalist what kind of concert music they prefer to perform—aside from brass players and percussionists—their answer is almost always ‘chamber music.’”

Even composers who write for symphony orchestras write far more works for small groups, Rosenberg explained.  After all, he said, it is easier for composers to get small groups to play their music than an orchestra of 50 to 120 players.

Rosenberg poked fun at himself and his fellow conductors as he explained the allure of small group playing.“It is one thing to play orchestral music under the direction of some egomaniacal stick waver and another to play music that is intimate and where each player gets to shine.  It is the difference between being married to your spouse and surviving his or her extended family gatherings.”

The debut series, Rosenberg said, includes “a first rate string quartet from Maryland, an award-winning piano trio from Italy, a Renaissance music group from the Carolinas, a dynamic wind quintet, a sensational saxophone ensemble, and a sixteen-piece string orchestra from George Mason University.”

The Renaissance music group includes NMF trombone mentor Michael Kris; the saxophone ensemble includes NMF Youth Programming Director Michael Sawzin (who has just moved to Chestertown); and the wind quintet includes Festival alumnus Ceylon Mitchell.

Kris will play an early trombone called a “sackbut” when he performs with Ensemble Collina at Sacred Heart Church on January 15.  He said he likes to introduce audiences to Renaissance programs, offering music most have never heard.

“Audience members should listen for the blend of trombone and violin,” Kris said.  “One would never think of a modern violin and trombone performing as equals in terms of technique and volume,but with these older style instruments, the blend is perfect.”

Ceylon Mitchell, a two-time National Music Festival flute apprentice, will return to Chestertown in February with Potomac Winds.  He likens a chamber group’s dynamics to a democracy, explaining that each musician has opportunities for self-expression and the responsibility of contribution and compromise.

“Great chamber music,” he said, “is the ultimate balance between the individual and the collective, the soloist and the ensemble.  Audience members should observe our continuous conversation in sound from piece to piece.”

Though each chamber group submitted its own draft programs, the final decision on what the ensembles will play belongs to Rosenberg.

azimuth

Azimuth String Quartet

The series will open October 9 with the Azimuth String Quartet at St. Paul’s Parish. Two of the members, violinist Nicholas Currie and cellist Adam Gonzalez, have performed in Kent County before (and even at St. Paul’s) as former members of the Mariner String Quartet.

For November’s Resonance offering, the National Music Festival is co-sponsoring an appearance by Italy’s David Trio with the Department of Music at Washington College.

With the addition of the Resonance series, the National Music Festival will now offer three series pass options:  a Resonance Pass (for the six-concert series from October to April) is $100; a Festival Pass (for all ticketed Festival concerts during the first two weeks of June) is $225 now and $250 after January 1, 2017; and an Annual Pass is $300 (for both Festival and Resonance concerts).

Information about concert programs, dates and venues is on the NMF website:  www.nationalmusic.us.  Single concert tickets ($20 each) and Passes may be purchased on-line or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 284, Chestertown, MD 21620.  Any remaining single tickets will be available at the door.

National Music Festival: Students’ First Impressions

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socks

“Musicians are ready to play, head-to-toe….”

One who had never been north of Tennessee loves our architecture. Another from Kansas is amazed at all the water around Kent County. All comment on the friendliness of the local people and the wealth of knowledge available to music students during these two weeks.

“The town is gorgeous,” says Olivia Windus from Bolivar, New York, who has returned for her second year with the Mana Saxophone Institute, part of the National Music Festival. “It reminds me of home, but it’s more glamorous. The campus is fabulous,” she adds.

“I was so nervous at first,” says Shannon-Kate Kelley from Smithtown, New York. “But everyone in Chestertown is so excited about us. The Emmanuel Church even raised money for our lunches!”

The Mana Saxophone Quartet has brought their largest group ever- 19 student saxophonists, known as apprentices, all of whom plan to make a career in music education or performance.

Windus plans to become a music therapist. “Unlike school, this is a real life experience. We get advice from a different perspective, from professionals as well as from our fellow students,” she says.

Jonathan Selmer is a sophomore at Glendale Community College in Arizona, where there are only three other saxophone education majors. He jumped at the chance to come back for a second year of the sort of instruction that is unique for students like him.

Diane Hunger, a saxophone mentor who is part of the Mana Quartet says, “These students are so enthusiastic and want to learn. They feed off of each other and are making really good use of their time here. After a performance last night we had a pizza dinner together and after that, several went to the College to practice. Dedication!”

Besides rehearsing together and instructing student quartets, the mentors take turns giving lessons on many aspects of music performance. As a change of pace, Michael Hernandez of the Quartet, who is also a visual artist, led one which he called “Drawing for Dummies.” He passed out paper and crayons and asked each musician to draw a glass, a basket, and salt and pepper shakers. Like a listener hearing music, each student ended with a very different interpretation of the same thing.

The Mana Quartet has just released its first commercially available CD, which includes a work written by Stephen Dankner and premiered in Chestertown in 2014. A new video profiling the ensemble can be seen at http://themanaquartet.com/

They will be performing free concerts at several Chestertown locations, including at the Chestertown Farmers Market on Saturdays. Concert times and venues are listed at www.nationalmusic.us; new additions include saxophone performances on Monday, June 13, at 10:00am in Wesley Hall at Heron Point and on Friday, June 17, at 10:30am at the Amy Lynn Ferris Adult Activity Center, 200 Schauber Rd., in Chestertown.

Mana Saxophonists Return for National Music Festival

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mana 2015

2015 Mana Saxophone Institute Participants

Plato felt that music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life. No one embodies that description more aptly than the Mana Saxophone Quartet, here to hold their fifth Mana Saxophone Institute in conjunction with the National Music Festival, June 5-18.

“Mana” is a Polynesian word referring to “a supernatural force expressing energy and power.”  The Quartet has won national acclaim in chamber music circles since their start in 2004. They are the National Music Festival’s “ensemble-in-residence”, both giving concerts and conducting a two-week workshop for 19 aspiring saxophonists attending from all over the country. They intersperse selections by Bach and other classical composers with contemporary music.

Soprano saxophonist Michael Hernandez says, “Chestertown has become like our summer home. We are thrilled to be here again and so appreciate the support that this community gives us in so many ways. We have some apprentices returning for the fourth or fifth time. It’s a highlight of their year, and ours.”

Throughout the year in their travels, the Mana Quartet looks for young musicians with significant ability and, importantly, enthusiasm for the saxophone. This year they are bringing the largest number of apprentices ever, all students studying music. Generally applicants for the Institute must be 18, though one 12-year old, Jesse Blandino, from Surprise, Arizona, is back for his second year.  “Normally I’d have reservations, but Jesse is meant for this,” according to Hernandez.

The Institute includes intensive classes, rehearsals (open to the public), and public performances. Instruction covers traditional aspects of performance skills and music theory as well as stage presence, marketing, and career planning. This year Hernandez will even teach a session on drawing, asking the musicians to draw what they would like their music to portray.

They will be performing several free concerts at several Chestertown locations, including at the Chestertown Farmers Market on Saturdays. Concert times and venues are listed at www.nationalmusic.us; new additions include saxophone performances on Monday, June 13, at 10:30am in Wesley Hall at Heron Point and on Friday, June 17, at 10:30am at the Amy Lynn Ferris Adult Activity Center, 200 Schauber Rd., in Chestertown. On Monday, June 6, at 7:30 pm the Quartet performs at the Betterton Community Center, and on Saturday, June 11 at noon  they will be premiering a new work by composer Stephen Dankner, a quintet for piano and saxes.

For more information, contact The National Music Festival at Washington College at 410-778-2064 or info@nationalmusic.us.

National Music Festival at Washington College Opens June 5

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When Richard Rosenberg raises his baton to open the National Music Festival at Washington College on June 5, it will be tempting to wonder if quiet little Chestertown is being transformed into a classical music version of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

“Let the wild rumpus start!” one might declare with delight.

Suddenly, nearly 150 musicians are everywhere, toting tubas, bassoons, violins, cellos and horns to practice sessions and concerts.

Of the more than 200 free rehearsals on the Washington College campus and throughout Chestertown, some of the most loved small ensemble sessions take place in the back-room fiction den of the Bookplate on Cross Street or in the art galleries on High Street. Ticket prices for concerts are mercifully low, and some are free.

Sometimes performances turn up in unlikely places, starring unexpected greats.

“Papa” Don Vappie, formerly of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the current leader and founder of New Orleans’ premier classic jazz orchestra, the Creole Jazz Serenaders, will fill the Rock Hall Firehouse with an Evening of Dixieland on Wednesday, June 8. Tickets for the sure-to-be-popular event are $25.

“Papa” Don will be the banjo soloist, performing Reser’s Suite for Banjo and Orchestra, with the Festival Orchestra on June 10.

Guitarist Camilo Carrara returns to the National Music Festival with two “Camilo Carrara and Friends” afternoon concerts: 3:00 on Saturday, June 11 at The Mainstay, and 4:00 on Saturday, June 18 at the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre. Chestertown audiences have been insisting on encores from the Brazilian classical guitarist since 2012.

The evening of June 11, the grandest concert of the two-week Festival will fill Washington College’s Decker Hall to overflowing. That’s when Rosenberg will conduct the Festival Orchestra and four combined choruses in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, “The Choral.” Tickets for that rare and wonderful treat are $18, and they’ll likely sell out early.

Festival movie buffs can watch a film while they get a generous dose of great music on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 8. The audience will hear a much-loved score by Miklos Rozsa as they watch the 1941 classic “The Thief of Bagdad.” The Festival Orchestra will perform music from the film on June 10.

Looking for fun with your classical masterworks? NPR veteran Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hanson will narrate Kleinsinger’s “Tubby the Tuba” on Friday, June 10. And at 5:00 on Tuesday, June 7, the Festival invites anyone who wants to hold—and perhaps try to play—a variety of orchestral instruments. Maestro Rosenberg calls that event the “Instrumental Petting Zoo.” It’s free and open to both kids and adults.

There’s lots more to choose from, of course: The Mana Saxaphone Quartet will offer its magical blend of sound on Sunday, June 12, and the evening that Rosenberg calls “Piano Mania” will feature the extraordinary collaborative music mentor Michael Gurt and the Festival’s piano apprentices. They’ll play works by Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Schubert as well as at least one work for four hands. Members of the U.S. Army Field Band –including pianist Sammy Marshall, beloved to Eastern Shore audiences for his performances with the Chester River Chorale – and the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” will perform at the Festival on Monday, June 13 in a free concert on the Washington College campus.

The Festival will end on Saturday, June 18, with a 7:30 pm concert that promises to be among the most loved. The Festival Orchestra will perform Stravinsky’s “Jeu de Cartes” (“The Card Game”) and Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” and violin mentor Jessica Mathaes, the concertmaster of the Austin Symphony, will perform Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. That concert will be at Decker and it will likely be sold out.

For a full listing of the two-week program’s rehearsals and concerts as well as information about free concerts and ticket sales, go to the National Music Festival website: www.NationalMusic.us .

Let the Wild Rumpus Start: Chestertown’s National Music Festival Launches June 5

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When Richard Rosenberg raises his baton to open the National Music Festival at Washington College on June 5, it will be tempting to wonder if quiet little Chestertown is being transformed into a classical music version of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

“Let the wild rumpus start!” one might declare with delight.

Suddenly, nearly 150 musicians are everywhere, toting tubas, bassoons, violins, cellos and horns to practice sessions and concerts.  

Of the more than 200 free rehearsals on the Washington College campus and throughout Chestertown, some of the most loved small ensemble sessions take place in the back-room fiction den of the Bookplate on Cross Street or in the art galleries on High Street. Ticket prices for concerts are mercifully low, and some are free.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 1.15.27 PMSometimes performances turn up in unlikely places, starring unexpected greats.  “Papa” Don Vappie, formerly of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the current leader and founder of New Orleans’ premier classic jazz orchestra, the Creole Jazz Serenaders, will fill the Rock Hall Firehouse with an Evening of Dixieland on Wednesday, June 8.  Tickets for the sure-to-be-popular event are $25.  “Papa” Don will be the banjo soloist, performing Reser’s Suite for Banjo and Orchestra, with the Festival Orchestra on June 10.  

Guitarist Camilo Carrara returns to the National Music Festival with two “Camilo Carrara and Friends” afternoon concerts: 3:00 on Saturday, June 11 at The Mainstay, and 4:00 on Saturday, June 18 at the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre.  Chestertown audiences have been insisting on encores from the Brazilian classical guitarist since 2012.    

The evening of June 11, the grandest concert of the two-week Festival will fill Washington College’s Decker Hall to overflowing.  That’s when Rosenberg will conduct the Festival Orchestra and four combined choruses in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, “The Choral.”  Tickets for that rare and wonderful treat are $18, and they’ll likely sell out early.

Festival movie buffs can watch a film while they get a generous dose of great music on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 8.  The audience will hear a much-loved score by Miklos Rozsa as they watch the 1941 classic “The Thief of Bagdad.” The Festival Orchestra will perform music from the film on June 10.

Looking for fun with your classical masterworks?  NPR veteran Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hanson will narrate Kleinsinger’s “Tubby the Tuba” on Friday, June 10.  And at 5:00 on Tuesday, June 7, the Festival invites anyone who wants to hold—and perhaps try to play—a variety of orchestral instruments.  Maestro Rosenberg calls that event the “Instrumental Petting Zoo.”  It’s free and open to both kids and adults.

There’s lots more to choose from, of course:  The Mana Saxaphone Quartet will offer its magical blend of sound on Sunday, June 12, and the evening that Rosenberg calls “Piano Mania” will feature the extraordinary collaborative music mentor Michael Gurt and the Festival’s piano apprentices.  They’ll play works by Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Schubert as well as at least one work for four hands. Members of the U.S. Army Field Band –including pianist Sammy Marshall, beloved to Eastern Shore audiences for his performances with the Chester River Chorale – and the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” will perform at the Festival on Monday, June 13 in a free concert on the Washington College campus.

The Festival will end on Saturday, June 18, with a 7:30 pm concert that promises to be among the most loved.  The Festival Orchestra will perform Stravinsky’s “Jeu de Cartes” (“The Card Game”) and Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” and violin mentor Jessica Mathaes, the concertmaster of the Austin Symphony, will perform Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.  That concert will be at Decker and it will likely be sold out.  

For a full listing of the two-week program’s rehearsals and concerts as well as information about free concerts and ticket sales, go to the National Music Festival website:  www.NationalMusic.us .

National Music Festival Hosts Progressive Dinner Fundraiser May 14

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On May 14, the National Music Festival’s Hospitality Committee presents “Feed the Festival!” a progressive dinner in three stages. This event, featuring fabulous finger food, wonderful wine and decadent desserts, benefits the National Music Festival.

The evening will begin with light appetizers and wine at the Wallis-Wickes house, then progress to Widehall for finger food and more wine, and finally to the Smith-Ringgold House for dessert and coffee. Don’t miss this delicious event!

Tickets are $45 per person and are available online at www.nationalmusic.us, or by mailing a check to: National Music Festival, P.O. Box 284, Chestertown, MD 21620. Tickets are limited, so get yours soon.

The National Music Festival at Washington College brings over 100 dynamic, young apprentice musicians to Kent County every year to study with mentors from all over the world. The apprentices, who are college and graduate level musicians on the cusp of their professional careers, attend on full tuition scholarship and their housing is provided. Most musicians stay in private homes in the Chestertown area, while some stay on the Washington College campus. Events such as this allow the Festival to provide full scholarships to all accepted apprentices. The Festival runs June 5-18 this year.

For more information about the Festival or to order tickets, visit www.nationalmusic.us.

National Music Festival Mentors to Present Benefit Concert at The Mainstay

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Two National Music Festival mentors will present a recital at 7:30 p.m. on January 15, 2016 at The Mainstay in Rock Hall. Tickets are $25 each, and all proceeds benefit the Festival’s Apprentice Scholarship Program.

Natasha Farny, NMF Cello Mentor, and Michael Gurt, NMF Piano Mentor, will perform sonatas by Ludwig von Beethoven and Benjamin Britten. Both were wildly popular with Festival audiences in 2015; Gurt wowed a packed house as the soloist for Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”

Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, although remaining tickets, if any, will be available at the door. Tickets are available through the National Music Festival, not The Mainstay. They can be purchased on the Festival’s website, www.nationalmusic.us (see the bottom left side of the home page), or by mailing a check (made out to National Music Festival) to:

National Music Festival
P.O. Box 284
Chestertown, MD 21620

All Festival apprentices – over 100 college and graduate level musicians every year – attend on full scholarship. The Festival depends on the revenue from benefit events like this one, as well as donations and ticket sales, to make this possible.

The National Music Festival is grateful to The Mainstay for hosting this event.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy delightful music, played by superb musicians in a great venue, and at a time of year when the Festival hasn’t yet presented concerts,” says Richard Rosenberg, NMF Artistic Director. “These two musicians represent the very finest caliber of musicians anywhere to be found in the world. They are donating their services because they care deeply about the NMF and love our community. Don’t miss this concert!”

The National Music Festival at Washington College brings together inspiring mentors and the next generation of gifted musicians, providing education, scholarships and affordable, adventurous public performances.