Yellow Barn wraps up 45th season with Chinese artists
A Yellow Barn concert in “The Big Barn” in Putney from last year, featuring Fernando Arias, William Sharp, and Stephen Coxe. Founded in 1969 by David and Janet Wells, Yellow Barn has evolved into one of the finest chamber music training and performance centers in the world.

Yellow Barn wraps up 45th season with Chinese artists

PUTNEY — Yellow Barn Music School and Festival wraps up its 45th summer season with special concerts set for the final weeks of its successful 2014 run.

Highlighted are the work of Chinese-born American Lei Liang, Yellow Barn's composer-in-residence; and Gao Hong, from Luoyang, China, whom Yellow Barn Executive Director Catherine Stephan says is coming in as one of the world's most acclaimed pipa players.

Yellow Barn, an international center for chamber music, notes on its website that it “encourages discovery in the studio, classroom, and concert hall; explores the craft of musical interpretation; and illuminates our world through the unique experience of music.”

It presents more than 30 public events between mid-June and early August. In addition to mounting 23 concerts, Yellow Barn says the public is welcome to four master classes each summer. Discussions at the Putney Public Library lead into Saturday night concerts.

Liang, Hong a treat

Stephan promises Hong will play works by Lei Liang as well as other composers who have written music for the four-stringed pipa, sometimes called the Chinese lute, which has been played for almost 2,000 years.

Liang, associate professor of music, and chair of the composition area, at the University of California, San Diego, studied with Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Robert Cogan, Chaya Czernowin, and Mario Davidovsky.

He took his degrees from New England Conservatory of Music and Harvard University, won a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Aaron Copland Award, and was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert for the inaugural concert of the CONTACT! new music series.

A pre-concert discussion is set for Saturday, July 26, at 7 p.m. with Liang and Hong at Putney Public Library. Admission is free.

“From ancient folk music to contemporary works receiving first performances at Yellow Barn, they discuss how their work is shaped by their own cultural heritage and influenced by that of the West,” reads the calendar listing.

Hong appears Saturday, July 26, at 8 p.m. at the Big Barn in Schumann, Hong, Zhou Long, and Mendelssohn. Tickets are $25.

Yellow Barn introduces Liang to the community at the start of his residency week on Monday, July 28, at 8 p.m. in the Big Barn with works and discussion with the composer and Yellow Barn musicians. Admission is $10.

The program includes Liang's “In Praise of Shadows” (2005) for flute, “My Windows” (2007) for piano, and “Some Empty Thoughts of a Person From Edo” (2001) for harpsichord.

Yellow Barn artists will perform six concerts over the next two weeks, including works by Liang. In the final week of the Yellow Barn summer season, Liang is joined by Gao Hong to perform his work and other pieces for pipa.

Hong herself is remarkable. She's performed throughout Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States. She often appears solo but is no stranger to symphony orchestra, jazz ensemble, and world-music ensemble collaboration.

In 2005 she became the first classical musician awarded the prestigious Bush Artist Fellowship; in 2012 she became the only musician in any genre to win four McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians.

In addition to work by Liang, Hong will perform traditional Chinese folk songs and pieces by composers who write for pipa: Zhou Long and Chen Xingyuan. She also will perform her own compositions.

Putney brings the heat

Stephan said Yellow Barn attracts artists of such high caliber because these musicians love peforming in Putney.

“For the many who return year after year, it's like a family reunion,” she said. “And for new participants it becomes an instant companionship between the seasoned artists and themselves. Here at Yellow Barn there is a level playing field for everyone.”

Stephan said an unusual thing about Yellow Barn is that each piece studied is performed, and that this inspires the musicians to strive harder, because they get a chance to share their hard work with the public.

“And it is special for audiences too, because they get to participate in the learning choices, and become more active in the entire process,” she said.

In looking ahead, she also notes the momentum Yellow Barn earned this season. “We have had nice audiences, with more diversity. We feel ourselves more in the groundwater of Putney than we ever have.”

And she paused to credit Yellow Barn's “wonderful relationship with the community of Putney.”

“Even after the passing of our founder, David Wells, we believe Yellow Barn is very much here to stay,” she said.

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