Music festival ode to Stravinsky continues

If you drive around town and see the signs for the Greenwich Music Festival and worry that with a week gone by, you’ve missed the best performances, fear not.

There’s still plenty of music and performances left to be heard and seen. Through June 23, the Greenwich Music Festival will continue to take the town by storm, planning an exciting itinerary full of events all clustered around the theme of composer Igor Stravinsky.

From film screenings to chamber music, lectures, and even a musical theater performance, the festival brings together an eclectic and extremely talented group of performers, who hail from all over the world.

Among the featured performers are Eve Gigliotti, a mezzo-soprano with the Metropolitan Opera, and 17-year-old piano virtuoso Conrad Tao. They are joined by a highly international cast, with artists from far-flung places like the Netherlands, Serbia, Israel, and of course, the continental U.S.

“It is an international music festival in the sense that everyone is from everywhere. This is part of our mission, to integrate the community into the international art scene,” said Ted Huffman, the festival’s founder and artistic director.

The itinerary for this year’s festival, “All Things Stravinsky,” celebrates the famed composer not just as a major musical talent, but also as an individual and influential member of the times. An event taking place today, titled “Stravinsky: Pairings,” combines chamber music and song, reflecting the diversity of the composer’s style.

“It’s a program structured to highlight how Stravinsky’s music was influenced by other composers. He went through a long list of compositional styles, and had these very definite periods,” Mr. Huffman said.

The other events on the schedule also feature the versatility and complexity of the composer. Last Saturday, renowned Juilliard Professor David Dubal lectured about Stravinsky, the composer and the man, and gave a comprehensive talk about his musical biography and his personal life. Additional upcoming events include Stravinsky’s ballets adapted for chamber music, with pieces performed by Conrad Tao on piano, soprano Ariadne Greif, bass David Salsbery Fry, Elad Kabilio on cello, tenor Peter Tantsits, and Djordje Nesic on piano.

The festival culminates in a dancer theater performance, Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale. In this musical fable about a man, violin, and insidious deal with the devil, the score was written for a spare ensemble of only seven instruments, and a handful of actors and dancers. Adapted by Jack Ferver, Ted Huffman, Justin Sayre and Zach Winokur, the performance features the Deviant Septet, a musical ensemble composed of instrumentalists who have banded together to fulfill Stravinsky’s vision of the ideal ensemble of seven. Austin Scarlett of Project Runway fame was commissioned for costume design in the piece.

The people behind Greenwich Music Festival take outreach very seriously, committed to their mission of spreading the arts to as large and diverse an audience as possible. Through the help of generous sponsors like the Greenwich Arts Council, WQXR and private donations, ticket prices have been severely discounted. Believing strongly in the importance of passing down the arts to youth, all tickets are free for students.

First begun in 2004, this year marks the ninth consecutive season. Founded by Mr. Huffman, conductor Robert Ainsley, and the first board chairman Patricia Chadwick, the festival has grown into a prominent part of the arts scene, both in Greenwich and beyond.

“The festival gives us the chance to showcase and develop new work with really talented artists. I really wanted to help create a festival that was tied to the community in an intimate way, to eliminate the disconnect between audience and performer,” Mr. Huffman said.

This festival celebrates a truly unique format, in that all staff involved are heavily engaged in the surrounding community. A month prior to festival, the artists arrive in Greenwich and live with host families. Interns from Greenwich High School work in all different departments, from advertising to rehearsal to planning. Organization of the festival is a year-long effort, made possible through the hard work and dedication of the team involved, about 20 individuals.

“We have a really active board of directors that are still involved in every major decision, amazingly supportive and generous people who have given up their time and knowledge and wisdom,” said Mr. Huffman.

Greenwich is a town that truly recognizes and celebrates the arts community, and there is no better example than the Music Festival. Thanks to the board and staff, the music festival has become an annual presence that helps to bring the arts to the people.

“There’s definitely an audience in Greenwich interested in challenging, exciting works coming from classical music. There are so many people in this community involved in lots of arts-oriented organizations. We want to help make our town a true arts community,” Mr. Huffman told the Post.

Tickets are available by phone at 203-637-0536 and online at greenwichmusicfestival.org/about/ where people may also find a full schedule and description of all the events through June 23.

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