The Music Festival of the Hamptons is kicking off its thirteenth year with what president and founder Eleanor Sage Leonard calls a “blockbuster weekend” featuring an opening night gala in memory of Roy Scheider, a “train symphony” and a bit of “forbidden music.”
On Friday night under the tent at Sayers Park on Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton, local award-winning playwright Joe Pintauro will deliver the opening remarks in honor of the award –wining actor Scheider.
“Roy was a huge fan of the festival,” said Sage, “and he did in fact deliver a beautiful version of Copeland’s Lincoln Portrait in 2004.”
A giant video screen will replay Scheider’s narration of Aaron Copeland’s 1942 ode to the president on Friday and will precede a performance by the Brussels Chamber Orchestra conducted by the festival’s artistic director Michael Guttman who himself was a violin prodigy from Brussels before coming to the states. Since he has become involved with the festival, attendance has tripled.
“We are thrilled to have a program like this under his direction,” said Sage.
Friday night will also feature the Train and Tower for Chamber Orchestra and Locomotive by Mark Petering. The festival tent sits near the Long Island Rail Road and for years the occasional passing trains would conflict with the concerts. A few years ago Sage and founding director Maestro Lukas Foss together with Dan Rattiner came up with an idea to embrace the noise. They launched a nation-wide competition for young composers to create an orchestra that included the train, right down to its whistle.
Said Sage, “the piece really has two conductors; the orchestra conductor and the train conductor.”
The festival has worked out a deal with the LIRR to provide a train for the exact moment Petering’s piece calls for it. And “call” is the operative word since the young composer will actually have someone back stage calling the waiting train on a cell phone to alert its conductor. Sage said there is only one rehearsal since it’s a non-scheduled train, so everything has to be “perfect.”
On Saturday George Gau will perform on the ancient Chinese bowed string instrument, the Ehru.
“He’s one of the few artists in the entire world who play the ehru,” said Sage.
Gau’s ehru playing has won him numerous awards in China, North Korea, as well as in the states and Canada. He has been a featured soloist in the National Arts Center Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra among others.
Then on Sunday the Festival tent will play host a “Klezmer Event” featuring Klezstory, the celebrated Klezmer band from Montreal. They will play a performance of the Nigun by Ernest Bloch, one of the most notable examples of Jewish classical music the Nazi’s deemed “forbidden.”
After the opening weekend the venues of the concerts, which last from Friday through Sunday, July 27, will alternate between Wolfer Vineyard in Sagaponack and the Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor. Sage is especially excited about the festival’s culminating weekend at the Old Whalers. On Saturday there will be a jazz concert with Eric Reed and his ensemble and on Sunday the closing gala will feature a salute to legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. His daughter Jamie will deliver the opening remarks.
Sage described the importance of the festival as two fold.
“It offers the young emerging artists of our time a much needed gig,” she said. “We have so few places for them to share their gifts with us.”
Sage also said the festival allows people who might not ordinarily travel into the city or to other classical music festivals to hear these musicians, a chance to witness their brilliance, here in the Hamptons.
“It’s for the people who may not be able to get their fill of great music,” she said. “They get a chance to engage with [the artists] in a very personal way.”
For more information on the festival and to order tickets to any of the concerts, visit www.musicfestivalofthehamptons.com.