July 11 – 17, 2014Vol. 16, No. 6

Make Music, Not War

by Gregor Smith

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.
— Leonard Bernstein

It is an arresting image: bombed-out buildings and a deserted, rubble-strewn street — an urban battleground in some unspecified war. In jarring juxtaposition, the word "pastoral," meaning "bucolic, peaceful" is printed across the bottom of the picture.

This is not what you would expect for a poster promoting a classical music festival, but it serves to remind us that man, the same species that can wreak such wanton destruction is also capable of creating great beauty. It was in this same spirit five years ago, when the Atlantic Music Festival began, that Solbong Kim, its founder and artistic director, chose composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein's above-quoted reaction to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as the festival's motto.

Now in its sixth summer, the Atlantic Music Festival will bring some 150 talented young musicians, mostly in their twenties, from across the land and beyond to Colby College for four weeks of intensive study, rehearsal, and performance. This year's festival runs from Monday, July 7, to Sunday, August 3, during which time, twenty public concerts have been scheduled.

Although admission to all performances is free, concertgoers will be invited to donate to AMF's "I Am Four Years Old" campaign, which started during its fourth season. Each year, all audience donations go to a single charity; the previous beneficiaries were UNICEF's Achieving Zero Campaign in 2012 and the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers in 2013.

In the past, AMF organizers have selected the charity in advance, but this year audience members will get to vote for their favorite from a list of five or so nonprofit organizations. The balloting will conducted both at concerts and on the AMF website. At the end of the festival, the votes will be tallied and the winning charity announced. In addition, this year AMF will initiate its Community Empowerment Program, through which festival musicians will offer free, private lessons for local music students under age 18. Lessons will take place at Colby on three Sundays, July 13, 20, and 27, and will last half an hour to an hour, depending on the applicant's age and skill.

The festival's concert series opens on Friday, July 11, with a performance by the Cassatt String Quartet in Lorimer Chapel at 7:00 p.m. Hailed for the "intensity and passion, lyrical tenderness and yearning" of its playing (Los Angeles Times) and its "muscular, ferociously intelligent . . . first-class interpretation of new music" (San Francisco Chronicle), the Manhattan-based ensemble will perform works by contemporary composers Daniel S. Godfrey, Bruce Adolphe, and Lawrence Dillon.

The next evening, AMF will present the first of three Saturday symphony concerts. In this inaugural concert, Delaware Symphony Orchestra conductor David Amado will lead the AMF Orchestra in Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, George Tsontakis's "Laconika," and Beethoven's Sixth Symphony ("Pastoral.") Then, on July 26, returning conductor Jonathan Schiffman will conduct David Ludwig's "Saturn Bells," Dvorak's Symphony No. 6, and a to-be-determined piano concerto with the winner of the AMF's Piano Concerto Competition as soloist. Finally, on August 2, festival founder Solbong Kim will conduct his own Concerto for Viola and Orchestra and Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World.")

Devotees of vocal, chamber, and piano music will also have plenty to hear. On Thursdays, participants in AMF's Opera Workshop will present first a recital of art songs (July 17), then a program of opera arias (July 24), and finally a night of opera scenes (July 31). This last performance will take place in Strider Theater and feature individual scenes from beloved operas staged with props and costumes.

Chamber music concerts will be held Friday and Saturday, July 18 and 19, and will continue on Wednesdays and Fridays thereafter. Each program will feature a variety of small ensembles playing works of different eras and styles.

Piano lovers will delight on Monday, July 21, when Gabriel Chodos, a teacher, performer, and recording artist from New England Conservatory in Boston returns for his third annual AMF recital. The following evening and again on July 28, artists from the AMF Piano Institute will take turns executing solo piano works.

Those who like to hear music in an casual setting will enjoy Salon @ The Bar on Sunday, July 20 and 27. To be held in the Marchese Blue Light Pub in Cotter Union, these "salons," inspired by the informal gatherings of European aristocrats in the 18th and 19th centuries, will offer an eclectic mix of works played by soloists and small groups. The programs will not be announced in advance and will be of indeterminate length — some past salons have gone on for over three hours — but music lovers may come and go at will and may even order food and drink to consume while listening to the music.

The final week of the festival will see two performances of experimental music. On Tuesday, July 29, Jean-Baptiste Barrière, a leading composer of computer music will perform, and on July 31, violinist Mari Kimura and musicians from AMF's Future Music Lab will present innovative works that mate traditional acoustic instruments with interactive computer hardware and software. These performance/demonstrations will take place in Given Auditorium in the Bixler Building at 7:00 and 8:30 p.m., respectively.

Except where otherwise noted, performances take place in Lorimer Chapel and begin at 7:00. The schedule is subject to change, however, so for the latest information, visit the festival's website or call its office at (888) 704-1311.