Festival to premiere work celebrating photographer
Musicians perform at a previous year’s Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival.

Festival to premiere work celebrating photographer

Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival returns for seventh season in Jamaica, with performances in Townshend and Brattleboro

JAMAICA — With planning for the seventh season of the Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival at a crescendo, the festival's founder, Susanna Loewy, remains excited for almost two weeks of integrating music and community.

One highlight of this year's festival will be “Almost Utopia,” a world premiere by Nathan Lincoln-deCusatis, who has set music to photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff, a longtime Jamaica summer resident who died in 2014 at the age of 98.

Loewy described the new work by the New York City–based musician as a “special performance” to honor the memory of the acclaimed 20th-century photographer, who chronicled the changing landscape and culture of northern Windham County. It will also celebrate Lepkoff's husband, Gene, who turns 100 this year.

The performance will be digitally archived and presented to the Jamaica Historical Foundation.

“When I talked to Nathan in the fall about what the project was going to be this year, he said, 'Well, I'd really like to get more involved in tying the compositions to the community because I feel like it's such a special place,” Loewy said.

Eleven days of music and art

The festival, which draws 12 performing musicians, two composers, a conductor, and four visual artists to Jamaica, will feature a second world premiere, this one “Trance Organics” by Jeremy Podgursky, a composer from Kentucky. “This will be the first time that he's going to be up in Vermont,” said Loewy. “And I have no idea what it will be like.”

Well, she clearly has some idea: “I know what his music generally tends to sound like, and I know that I like it,” said Loewy, who asked him to compose the piece for flute, clarinet, string quartet, and piano.

The musicians at Pikes Falls will then embrace that degree of the unknown, rehearse the new piece, and perform it during the festival. And then, Loewy said, the piece - with Pikes Falls in its musical DNA - will continue to be performed out in the world.

“That's the cool thing,” she said.

This year, PFCM will again hold a series of evening concerts in the Jamaica Town Hall, where they will perform to a full house of 100 people and to an overflow crowd listening to the music through the windows of the Jamaica Town Hall.

After six seasons, Loewy said, the musicians are attuned to performing in the former Universalist meeting house, built in 1851 and restored in the mid-2000s.

“It's where we do all of our rehearsing,” she said. “So that's I think where people are very comfortable both playing and rehearsing and getting to know the music and the people in the community.”

In addition, festival musicians and guest performers - who generally drop by for a performance but aren't there for the duration - will play in Townshend, at Valley Cares, and in Brattleboro, at the new facilities of the Brattleboro Music Center.

One such concert will be a recital by the Pikes Falls Baroque Ensemble, which performed at last year's festival as a trio. The group, which includes faculty from Julliard “and some other really, really high profile Baroque musicians,” Loewy said, will perform a concert with instruments that include Baroque flute and recorder, theorbo and lute, Baroque violin, and Baroque cello and viola da gamba arthe BMC.

In a parallel program organized and run by Loewy's sister, Natasha, a visual artist based in Oakland, Calif., and artists Jennifer Lauren Smith, Andrew Brehm, and Joshua Davis, the Pikes Falls Visual Art Residency provides a two-week artist retreat.

“Airflow,” a collection of Smith's digital film art, will be screened at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro on Friday, Aug. 10, at 4 p.m. Davis and Smith will speak about their work at the Jamaica Town Hall on Aug. 5, at 4 p.m.

When Susanna Loewy, who lives and teaches in Philadelphia most of the year but whose family has spent summers in Pikes Falls for a number of years, started the festival in 2012, she did so as a way to embrace and cultivate new connections in a community “that I had always admired and appreciated,” she said.

Now, seven years later, Loewy said she has developed friendships and connections that span the seasons and states.

“And so I think what's really exciting and what feels special now is that that has happened,” she said.

Other festival highlights

• Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro will host the Pikes Falls Art Residency Film Screening on Aug. 10 at 4 p.m.

• Concerts will take place at Jamaica State Park on Wednesday, Aug. 1 and Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 6 p.m.; at the Brattleboro Music Center auditorium in Brattleboro on Friday, Aug. 3, at 4 and 6 p.m.; and on Friday, Aug. 10, at 8 p.m., and at the Jamaica Town Hall on Saturday, Aug. 4, Tuesday, Aug. 7, and Saturday, Aug. 11 at 7 p.m.

Pre-concert discussions will be led by the conductor and composer-in-residence 30 minutes before each Town Hall concert, and receptions at the North Country General will follow.

• Sunday, Aug. 5 is a full day of community and family events. Artists from the Pikes Falls Visual Art Residency will lead an art/music collaboration involving instrument creation from found materials for children and young adults from 10:30 a.m. until noon at the Town Hall.

All are invited to an open rehearsal from 2 to 4 p.m. Tours of the visual artist residency will be conducted from 3 to 4:30 p.m., with artist talks from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

From 6:30 to 9 p.m., a community potluck takes place, with an open-mic night backed by Loewy's cousin, Jesse, and his eponymous band from Philadelphia.

Admission is free of charge, but donations are welcome.

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