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Bard Summerscape 2021: Chausson Opera, Boulanger Concert

Bard Music Festival/Summerscape 2021
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
July 8-August 15, 2021
DVD: Women Composers (Film Movement)
After its COVID cancellation last summer, Bard College’s annual Summerscape returned to the bucolic campus two-plus hours north of New York City for live performances, both indoors and outside, in front of real audiences—along with the livestreaming that all of us have gotten used to over the past 18 months.
French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger—an important teacher to countless prominent European and American composers—was the centerpiece of this year’s Bard Music Festival, after having been the one to be feted last summer. 
Although “Nadia Boulanger and Her World” included a few pieces by Nadia, it was mainly filled by dozens of works by composers in her orbit for decades, including her talented sister, Lili Boulanger, an accomplished composer in her own right who died at age 25 in 1918. (Nadia died at age 92 in 1979.)
Ernest Chausson's opera King Arthur (photo: Maria Baranova)

Summerscape’s centerpiece was King Arthur, a grand lyric opera by Frenchman Ernest Chausson, another tragic case of a composer dying young (he was 44 when he crashed his bike into a brick wall in 1899). Since I was unable to attend live performances of the opera, I did the next best thing, which was watch the livestream—professionally shot, edited and subtitled for maximum viewer enjoyment—at home.
Chausson’s gorgeous opera unashamedly bows to the temple of Wagner—in sound and story there are hints of Tristan and Parsifal, for starters—but its decidedly French delicacy tempers the weightiness of subject and music. 
Louisa Proske’s illuminating production was realistic and mystical by turns, the leads—Norman Garrett (Arthur), Sasha Cooke (Genièvre), Matthew White (Lancelot) and Troy Cook (Merlin)—were in magnificent voice, and Leon Botstein led the American Symphony Orchestra and the Bard Festival Chorale (director, James Bagwell) in a transcendent musical performance, highlighted by the opera’s magisterial finale.
Nadia Boulanger
I attended one of the Bard Music Festival concerts. As usual, it was a superbly curated program, nearly three hours long—almost too much despite the rich music and performances we heard. 
Titled Remembering Ethyl Smyth and Boulanger’s Circle at Home and Abroad, it was just that—beginning with a concert version of Smyth’s delightful one-act opera Fête galante, followed by a 90-minute second half. (In fact, the evening could have been shorn of the Smyth opera and still would have been musically fulfilling.)
First there was a lovely reading of Lili Boulanger’s elegant Theme and Variations, newly arranged for orchestra by Richard Wilson. Then came a propulsive performance of Walter Piston’s Symphony No. 4 and a scintillating solo turn by Luosha Fang in underrated Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicż’ Violin Concerto No. 5. Finally, Aaron Copland’s patriotic Lincoln Portrait provided a rousing finale, with Patrick Gaspard intoning the 16th president’s immortal words and sending everyone home sated.
Lili Boulanger—along with Fanny Mendlessohn-Hensel and the previously unknown to me Mel Bonis—is profiled in Women Composers (Film Movement DVD), an informative if too short documentary by pianist Kyra Steckeweh and Tim van Beveren. Steckeweh started researching female composers when she was looking for new and different repertoire to perform in a classical world dominated by dead European males. 
The film briefly examines these women’s personal and musical histories, which provides opportunities for Steckeweh to perform their works without stigmatizing them. Bonus features on the DVD are a Q&A with the directors and a performance of Bonis’ piano work “Ophelie” by Steckeweh.

The Governors Ball 10th Anniversary Brings on the Music

Celebrating ten years of being one of New York’s best concert events, The Governors Ball is back for its 10th anniversary show. Running September 24 to the 26 at Citi Field, The Governors Ball features a colossal slate of performers, including:

  • Billie Eilish
  • Post Malone
  • A$AP Rocky
  • Burna Boy
  • Pink Sweat$
  • Earthgang
  • Princess Nokia
  • Orville Peck
  • 99 Neighbors
  • Jamie XX
  • Teamarrr
  • Yeek

And many more

Along with the main festival is a slate of Gov Ball After Dark shows with Bartees Strange, Freddie Gibbs, Bankrol Hayden, Loony, and more.

To learn more, go to:
The Governors Ball 10th Anniversary

September 24- 26, 2021
Citi Field

Two Evenings With Jazz at Lincoln Center at Bryant Park

Camille Thurman & Darrell Green. Images Courtesy Jazz at Lincoln Center

For those looking for music while enjoying the weather, Bryant Park has you covered. The Bryant Park Picnic Performances features free, live performances and in August it will have a special Jazz at Lincoln Center Series. Presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center, the series kicks off on August 13 with Young Stars of Jazz, a concert featuring a handpicked selection of up-and-coming young stars of the jazz world; and, on August 14, the vocalist, bandleader, and saxophonist Camille Thurman, accompanied by the Darrell Green Quartet, performs the music of Burt Bacharach.

For anyone unable to attend in person, a free livestream broadcast of the performance will be available nationwide via Bryant Park’s website and social media platforms.

To learn more, go to: Park Picnic Jazz at Lincoln Center Series
August 13 - 14, 2021

Music & Culture at The Milwaukee Irish Fest


Celebrating Irish and Irish American music and heritage, the Milwaukee Irish Fest returns in August. Running August 20 to 22 at Henry Maier Festival Park with live music, food, festivities, and more.

Artists performing include:

  • 3 Pints Gone
  • Byrne Brother
  • Eileen Ivers
  • Frogwater
  • Gaelic Storm
  • Mile Twelve
  • The Murphy Beds
  • Wise Maids

And many more.

In addition to the in-person festival,  the Milwaukee Irish Fest is also producing a virtual Irish-themed program running  the same weekend on YouTube and Facebook with performances and cultural talks recorded straight from Ireland:

  • Aisling Lyons Band

  • Aoife Scott

  • Colm & Laura Keegan

  • Frankie Gavin

  • Jim Colleton - Interview with Fishamble Theater Company Artistic Director

  • Larry Beau

  • Moxie

  • The Mulcahy Family

To learn more, go to:

Milwaukee Irish Fest
August 20 - 22, 2021

Henry Maier Festival Park
200 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202

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