National Music Festival will Open with Doubleheader: “Fiddlesticks!” Students & Guitarist Camilo Carrara


More than 150 top-flight musicians from all over the U.S. and 11 foreign countries will head for Chestertown at the beginning of June, toting violins, violas, cellos, double-basses and harps, all manner of brass and woodwinds, and a panoply of drums, chimes, cymbals and gongs, ready to fill Kent County with two weeks of world class classics and family-friendly concerts.

Richard Rosenberg conducts the Orchestra

The seventh National Music Festival will open on Sunday, June 4, with a musical double-header in Washington College’s Decker Theatre.  A free “Opening Fanfare” will sound at 6 p.m., featuring NMF’s local student Fiddlesticks! Orchestra, the Chester River Youth Choir and the Festival Brass.

Camilo Carrara

At 7:30, Brazilian guitarist Camilo Carrara will take the stage, teaming up with several musical “friends.”  In a concert that will likely sell out (note to audience:  arrive early), Carrara will be joined by a string ensemble for some selections, soprano Meagan Sill for another, and by vocalist Sue Matthews for a series of love songs.

All but one of the 23 professional musicians who will mentor the Festival’s 132 apprentices are veterans of one or more NMF seasons.  (Only last year’s harp mentor isn’t returning; she had a European performance conflict).  Violin mentor Elizabeth Adams will be back for a second year in part because she loved the historic setting and the welcoming community.

“Chestertown is a jewel,” Adams said.  “It is incredible to come to a place as a stranger and leave as a friend.  Performing for your friends—there’s nothing better.”

At the same time, she’ll be returning in great part because of the Festival’s intensity.

“NMF is such a whirlwind of activity, all these rehearsals and concerts going on at the same time; barely any time to come up for air—or practice!—but it’s totally worth it.  The experience is stimulating, fun, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.”

Percussion apprentice Diana Loomer also loved the welcoming community and working with musicians of a high caliber. “Last summer was my first time participating in the National Music Festival, and I had an amazing experience!” Loomer said. “The people of Chestertown were delightful to both stay with, and to perform for. I had the opportunity to play great repertoire with an extremely talented group of musicians. I can’t wait to come back and do it again!”

Michael Gurt

Two mentors will perform with the Festival Symphony Orchestra as soloists at highly anticipated concerts.  Pianist Michael Gurt will perform the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, on Friday, June 9, and Natasha Farny will play the Elgar Concerto for Violoncello on Friday, June 16.

For Artistic Director and Conductor Richard Rosenberg, the Festival is the result of a year of musical decision-making, and for Executive Director Caitlin Patton, the last weeks of preparation and the way the Festival unfolds amount to a test of whether she’s anticipated every need and solved every dilemma during her 11-month logistical marathon.

“I’m not sure this is the best thing to say, but there’s a lot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach,” Patton said recently.  “There is an enormous amount of work that has to be done, most of which can’t be done earlier in the year, so I try to stay focused and prioritize.”

With 773 emails in her inbox as she spoke, staying focused is a daunting concept, but Patton says her reward is a smooth Festival opening:  “Seeing the orchestra onstage and hearing them perform gives me joy.”

The Festival’s schedule includes a variety of engaging events, reflecting Rosenberg’s belief that NMF’s music, musicians and even the instruments should be as entertaining and accessible as possible.  And since there are few things more universally loved than great fables, National Public Radio veteran  Liane Hansen will return to the NMF stage on Thursday, June 8, to narrate Tom Myron’s Five Fables of Aesop.

People of all ages—even babes in arms—are welcome to attend any of NMF’s 200

Rehearsals are open to the public

rehearsals for any amount of time they wish to stay, and ticketed concerts are (by big-city standards) astonishingly affordable, ranging from $10 to $20 per ticket.  Festival Passes are $250, and include guaranteed seating at all ticketed concerts.

Free performances include music at Chestertown’s Farmer’s Market on June 10, a “Forest Music” concert at Adkins Arboretum, and a concert billed as “Bassoonarama!” at the Betterton Community Center.  In addition, there will be two free family concerts, four daytime piano recitals, and a concert called “Sonic Rebellion” on June 12 featuring Sergeant Major Sammy Marshall (beloved in Chestertown as the accompanist of the Chester River Chorale) with members of the United States Army Field Band.

Back by popular demand will be the Festival’s “Instrumental Petting Zoo,” a chance for curious music fans of all ages to see, touch and try to play all sorts of instruments.  That will take place at 5:00 pm in the lobby outside Decker Theatre on Tuesday, June 6.

Still, the heart and soul of the National Music Festival is world-class concert music played by world-class musicians, and the programs are guaranteed to satisfy every appetite.  From Bach and Brahms to Mahler, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, NMF concerts will be filled with some of the finest and most-loved music ever written.

There are two Beethoven symphonies on the NMF program this year.  On the first Tuesday of the Festival, Rosenberg and his conducting apprentices will present a masterclass performance of Beethoven’s Second Symphony.  And on the last Friday, under the baton of guest conductor Mladen Tarbuk, the Festival Symphony Orchestra will play Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4.

The concert on Tuesday, June 6, will include the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 and music by Grieg, Reger and Nielsen, but it will also feature the world premiere of Rosenberg’s edition of Schoenberg’s tone poem, Transfigured Night, for string orchestra.  Written in 1899, it is one of the last Romantic works and is also one of the first compositions of the modern/20th century era.  The piece, Rosenberg says, “is one of the most beloved compositions of all time, chock full of extended, mystical and beautiful melodies.”

Rosenberg says he has been working on the Schoenberg piece for 36 years, since he discovered the composer’s manuscript in 1981, at the Library of Congress.  “What I discovered,” Rosenberg says, “answered decades of questions (about missing notes and bars of music) and has helped to establish a new baseline of Schoenberg’s intentions.”

Over several days, after the June 6 performance, Rosenberg and the National Music Festival String Orchestra will record Transfigured Night for the Naxos Record Label.  It will be Rosenberg’s 11th compact disc recording for Naxos and his 12th compact disc.

Complete information about the 2017 National Music Festival concert and rehearsal schedules, as well as ticket information, can be found here

Letters to Editor

  1. Blyth Reynolds says:

    Richard’s Schoenberg was amazing! Camilo Carrara’s broad program was amazing! The young musical talent here for the Estival is amazing! I had better find another word…it is early days.

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