Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's Time for some Summer Music

Summer is definitely here. We've had the 4th of July Weekend, our first heat wave of the season and the awakening of the cicadas (nature's vuvuzelas) to prove it. With any luck, the weather will be less hot and less humid next week.


Because it's time for Market Square Concerts' SummerMusic 2010 beginning July 21st.

In addition to cook-outs and holidays, Summer also means summer music festivals. This year's SummerMusic series includes three programs – one at the home-base of Market Square Presbyterian Church in Downtown Harrisburg, along with two weekend performances at the Glen Allen Mill along the Yellow Breeches Creek.

Tickets for any or all of the concerts – honoring the memory of Jason Litton – are available by calling 717 214-ARTS or at the Whitaker Center Box Office. Remaining tickets will be available at the door.

Space for seating inside the mill is limited so I'd recommend getting there earlier rather than cutting it close to curtain-time.

The Fry Street Quartet and oboist Gerard Reuter return for the series along with Stuart Malina, stepping over from his podium with the Harrisburg Symphony, to play chamber music along with two of his colleagues in the orchestra, associate concertmaster Peter Sirotin and principal cellist Fiona Thompson.

The first concert is Wednesday evening (July 21st) at Market Square Church and begins at 6:00 (yes, that's not a typo – hang around after work, if you're in-town or stop by on your way home).

The program opens with an oboe concerto by Bach – this one in F Major (BWV. 1053 for those of you who keep score by the Complete Works Catalogue) – and continues with a relatively early work of Beethoven's from his first set of string quartets, the D Major, Op. 18 #3.

On the second half, it's a delightful set of Romances for oboe and piano by Robert Schumann and then some very serious music by Felix Mendelssohn, a composer you normally associate with “delightful” (think “Wedding March” or the Italian Symphony). This is one of his very last works, the String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80, and written in memory of his sister Fanny who'd recently died – he called it his “Requiem for Fanny” – and little did anyone know that less than two months later, Mendelssohn himself would be dead at the age of 38. Now, that may sound like a bummer for a summer concert, but this music is very powerful and impassioned rather than somber – an emotional thunderstorm, perhaps – a cathartic moment from a composer's world that yielded a personal solution to the question “how does an artist turn Life into Art?”

Incidentally, to help you digest all that, afterward consider going across the square to Bricco and The Hilton Patio which will be offering 20% off food following the concert (have your ticket stub or program booklet handy).

Then the series moves to the banks of a beautifully pastoral tree-lined stream flowing past an old mill originally built in the 18th Century (see top photo).

Saturday evening's concert – July 24th at 8pm – will feature Mozart's Oboe Quartet, the Serenade for String Trio by Erno Dohnanyi and a serenade for six strings by Tchaikovsky better known as “The Souvenir of Florence,” a very Russian-sounding work despite the location of its inspiration (the work is actually based on themes that came to him while on holiday there, jotted down in a note-book since they didn't fit into the opera he was working on at the time).

Sunday afternoon's concert – July 25th at 4pm – includes another early work by Beethoven (actually, his first completed piece to be published, even though it's No. 3 from the set of Piano Trios, Op. 1), a work that Camille Saint-SaĆ«ns wrote when he was 85 (his oboe sonata, Op.166) and a work that Robert Schumann wrote in a flurry of chamber music creativity one summer that saw not only three string quartets, the piano quartet and several other smaller works for various combinations, but also the Piano Quintet they'll be playing that afternoon (one of Schumann's most popular works).

And I should point out it IS air-conditioned after a fashion: they've managed to rig up window-units in the mill to keep it cooler – but it's summer so definitely, the dress-code is casual.

The concerts are inside the mill, so they'll go on rain or shine. If the weather permits, you can picnic along the Yellow Breeches from 6pm on Saturday or after the concert until 8pm on Sunday.

Directions to the Mill which is located on McCormick Road between Bowmansdale and Lisburn: From Rt. 15 S, take Rossmoyne Rd exit, turn left at light – continue on Rossmoyne Rd to Lisburn Rd – turn right onto Lisburn Rd – a few hundred yards later, bear right at the fork onto Arcona Rd – follow Arcona Rd until it dead ends at McCormick Rd – turn left onto McCormick Rd – the Mill is ¼ mile ahead on the right. Parking is in the meadow behind the Mill – follow the road over the creek – the entrance is on the right.

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