Story last updated at 6/3/2009 - 12:15 pm
SITKA - For 27 years, renowned classical musicians from across the world have gathered in Sitka for the sheer joy of playing together in beautiful, intimate settings.
The annual Sitka Summer Music Festival will be begin again June 5, with chamber music concerts and community events throughout the month of June.
The festival was founded in 1972 by violinist Paul Rosenthal, who saw Sitka as an ideal gathering place for his chamber music colleagues. From the beginning, musicians performed without fee, with concert ticket prices only raising money to finance the musicians' travel.
Roberta Rinehart, executive director of the festival, said she was first introduced to the festival in 1996, when a member of her church took her to a concert as a thank you for volunteer work she'd done. She thought she might be bored - but found herself incredibly moved by the performance.
"I sat there in tears the whole time, it was so beautiful," she said.
Rinehart describes the festival concerts as "chamber music as it's meant to be performed - it's such a passionate, beautiful experience."
Paul Rosenthal, who has been the artistic director since the inception of the festival, announced recently that he will retire in 2012. This year, festival-goers will be introduced to his successor, Zuill Bailey, who will be acting as associate director and transitioning into full artistic leadership.
"Paul, who knows everybody in the chamber music community thought of the perfect person for the job... Zuill Bailey," Rinehart said. "Just kind of on a lark, we asked him... and he was thrilled."
Bailey is considered one of the most premier cellists of his generation. He will be performing in several of the festival concerts this year.
"Primarily we have excellent artistic leadership and we attract artists of the highest caliber," Rinehart said. "We have artist from around the world who just can't wait to come here."
Part of the attraction of the festival is that artists get to perform largely what they want to perform, something unheard of for most classical musicians playing in symphonies.
"It's a luxury, it's something that most artists dream of, this musical retreat," Rinehart said.
Having world-class musicians offered intimate, affordable concerts is also a luxury for concert-goers. Rinehart said that about half of the festival audience members come from outside of Sitka.
Special events, such as a wine tasting, crab feed and musical cruise, offer a variety of ways for locals and visitors to mix and mingle with the visiting musicians. Free brown bag concerts and a family concert aim to make the music accessible to as wide an audience as possible. Festival musicians will also be traveling to Gustavus to perform a concert on June 18.
"To have world class music where last week the same performer was at Carnegie Hall... is just incredible," Rinehart said. "The coziness and the access to the artists is pretty unheard of. If you're a classical music aficionado there's just no place better. You get to hear pieces that aren't performed very often because they're very difficult or rare."
To buy tickets and learn more about the festival, visit www.sitkamusicfestival.com. Learn more about Zuill Bailey at www.zuillbailey.com
The schedule for the first week for the festival is as follows. Look for the rest of the schedule in upcoming issues of the CCW.
All events are at Harrigan Centennial Hall unless otherwise noted. For tickets, the full schedule and more information, visit www.sitkamusicfestival.org.
Friday, June 5
Opening Night Concert, 8:15 p.m., $15/$20. Bach Suite No. 6 for Unaccompanied Cello in D Major, B.W.V. 1012, performed by Anthony Elliott; Spohr Duo for Two Violins in D Major, Op. 67, No. 2 performed by Keng-Yuen Tseng (violin) and Paul Rosenthal (violin); Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 49 performed by Keng-Yuen Tseng (violin), Evan Drachman (cello) and Doris Stevenson (piano).
Saturday, June 6
Wine Tasting to Benefit the Sitka Summer Music Festival, $35, Westmark Hotel. Local wine distributors invite you to taste their favorite wines while you enjoy a delicious selection hors d'ouevres - it will also be an opportunity to mingle with our artists.
Sunday, June 7
Free BP Family Concert and Seamart Ice Cream Social., 3-5 p.m. Children welcome. Prizes, games, fun for the whole family.
Tuesday, June 9
Tuesday Evening Concert, 7:30 p.m., $15/$20. Beethoven String Trio in D Major, Op. 9, No. 2 performed by Paul Rosenthal (violin), Jennifer Stumm (viola) and Anthony Elliott (cello); Brahms Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 60 "Werther," performed by Keng-Yuen Tseng (violin), Marcus Thompson (viola), Evan Drachman (cello) and Doris Stevenson (piano).
Thursday, June 11
Free Brown Bag Lunch Community Concert, noon, Church of Nazarene, 305 Lake Street.