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The Arts

Chamber music, hold the stuffiness

Pikes Falls Festival brings top young performers to Jamaica Town Hall

All events (including the educational concert) take place in the Jamaica Town Hall on Main Street. Admission is free of charge, but donations are welcome. More information is available at www.pikesfallschambermusicfestival.com.

JAMAICA—Musician and teacher Susanna Loewy loves Vermont so much that she wanted to give something back to the area.

So, she decided to throw a grand three-day party of sorts: a new free chamber music festival.

On Aug. 1-3, Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival in Jamaica will showcases some of the best young instrumentalists in the country: Loewy on flute, Evan Solomon on clarinet, Lauren Robinson on horn, Kurt Nikkanen on violin, Leah Ilem on viola, Julia Biber on cello, Jeff White on bass, and Maria Asteriadou on piano.

The festival will also include composer-in-residence Joseph Hallman who will compose a piece for the entire group called The Vermont, which will be performed for the first time at the festival’s concluding concert. All concerts will take place at the Jamaica Town Hall on Main Street.

In addition, visual artist-in-residence Natasha Loewy, an artist and teacher based in Oakland, Calif., will have artwork displayed in the Town Hall throughout the week. Admission to everything is free, but donations are welcome.

The entire event has been produced by Susanna Loewy, the flute professor at Kutztown University and teaching artist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, where she also plays in its Pops and Ballet orchestras. Loewy teaches and performs throughout the country, but she has a lifelong connection with Vermont.

“My family owns a cabin on Pikes Falls Road, and I have been coming here all my life,” she said. “Both of my parents are academics and would have the summer off, so we could spent at least a month each year in Vermont.”

She says that she “always tells people that this is my favorite place on earth.” That is why she wants “to get more involved in the community. I always felt bad that I never contributed anything, and then I thought up this festival.”

Putting the festival together has been a labor of love for Loewy.

“I began by raising the money to sponsor the event. Then I called up friends, colleagues, and mentors until I got a stellar chamber group together. I programmed all the concerts myself, with as much input from the participating musicians as I could get, and I think these concerts contain an eclectic collection of music that should please everyone, from innovative new music to the standard works by illustrious composers like Brahms and Beethoven.”

A new composition

She said she is “particularly thrilled that we will be performing a brand new piece by our very own composer-in residence Joseph Hallman.”

Hallman, who has worked with some of today’s most talented musicians and artists, has recently completed a series of chamber concerti composed for members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Cleveland Orchestra.

A longtime collaborator with the internationally acclaimed American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, Hallman recently returned from the world premiere of his newest Cello Concerto, featuring Weilerstein and the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic in Russia. His Alice, a ballet based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, premiered in San Diego in April 2010.

“The Jamaica Town Hall is a great location for us to present the concerts of the Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival,” Loewy said. “Especially after its recent renovation, it is quite a wonderful space.”

The opening concert on Wednesday, Aug. 1, at 7 p.m. has an exciting and diverse program. The concert on Thursday, Aug. 2, at 2 p.m., is designed for the whole family with a theme of the enchantment of fairy tales.

The highlight of closing evening concert on Friday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m., is the Hallman world premiere piece, The Vermont, played by the entire company.

But there is much more to this music festival than just the concerts.

Both evening concerts will have pre-concert talks by Hallman at 6 p.m.and public receptions after the concerts. Also, at noon on Thursday afternoon before the concert, Natasha Loewy will work with area youth in a pre-concert collaborative workshop. She will guide the children through the creation of visual artworks based on fairy tales. Their finished pieces will then be displayed immediately after the workshop at the 2 p.m. concert which is based on fairy tale themes.

A community potluck picnic will be held as part of the concert on Thursday evening at 6 p.m., bringing the members of the festival together with the residents of the area. Music will be provided at the potluck Marlboro resident Jesse Lepkoff’s Basso Nova Trio.

“I don’t want people to think some elitist outsiders are all that makes up the festival,” said Suzanna Loewy. “I want to incorporate the whole community into the occasion as much as I can.”

She hopes that the music festival becomes an annual event.

“The ideal for the festival is to keep growing in the coming years. I would love to have a multi-week session in the summertime, and also have a shorter residency in the winter. I would also really like to enlarge the educational component to involve a fellowship for young musicians/composers from the area.”

Loewy wants to thank all the community members who helped make the event happen. “Everyone in town has been so giving,” she said, singling out some who have been extra helpful, “especially Helena Worthen (who lent the festival her grand piano), Ken and Karen Davis, Jamie from the coffee shop, Karen Amaden from the general store, and Tammy Mosher from the Stratton Foundation.”

Pike’s Falls Chamber Music Festival is collaborating with the Stratton Foundation, and portion of the donations from the concerts will go to Hurricane Irene relief.

“The Vermont Country Store has offered to sponsor one of the post-concert receptions, and all the area grocery stores have been very generous in their willingness to donate food for the musicians over the week,” she said. “Everywhere I’ve turned, people have gone so far out of their way to be helpful.”

“I am really excited to be able to do this event,” Loewy said. “Our goal is simple enough: to bring vibrancy to an already very vibrant community.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #162 (Wednesday, July 25, 2012).

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