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 .