Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival returns to Jamaica


JAMAICA -- It was natural for Susanna Loewy to choose Jamaica as the spot to host the music festival she founded three years ago.

"I grew up coming to Jamaica every summer so I feel like Jamaica is part of who I am. My parents actually met in Jamaica. Both their families vacationed there," she said. "I'm kind of a third generation resident there."

Local residents and visitors alike were incredibly receptive to the festival, Loewy told the Reformer. She travels to Vermont from Philadelphia, Pa. She teaches at Kutztown University and does outreach in Camden, N.J., for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

This year, Loewy was nominated for a Grammy. Currently, she is a quarter finalist to be considered to receive Music Educator Award of the Year. Out of thousands nominated for the award, she is now one of 220 left in the drawing.

Her chamber group, Inscape, will release its second album on Aug. 26. The group's first album, "Sprung Rhythm," was also nominated for a Grammy. The nomination for Best Surround Sound album assisted with making the group move forward, Loewy said.

The festival's free concerts and related events kick-off on Friday, Aug. 1. All concerts will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held at Jamaica Town Hall. Discussions will be precede the concerts at 6:15 p.m. and will be led by the conductors and composers. Other concerts will be held on Saturday, Aug. 2 and Wednesday, Aug. 6.

The last concert on Saturday, Aug. 9., will include a world premiere that will include several other art mediums. Three visual artists will provide a collaborative experience with the musicians during this part of the concert. Musicians will be in costume and special lighting will be arranged. Loewy said the performance will all relate back to a sculpture made by one of the artists.

"It's as if musicians are the bridge to the visual art," she added.

Loewy was not always so sure about putting musicians in costumes. One of her colleagues at Kutztown had come up with the idea.

The effect was something Loewy was striving for all along. That was getting people interested in different art forms.

"I was kind of dubious. Are musicians going to want to be costumed? Is it going to be effective?" she said. "And it was wonderful. It brought in a new audience. Some want to see visual art, some want to hear music. It brings everyone together and everyone's interested in everything."

On Sunday, Aug. 3, artists and musicians will collaborate with children and young adults from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The resulting artwork will be hung around Town Hall. A concert is scheduled for 3 p.m. as well as an open rehearsal from 4:30 to 6 p.m. A community potluck dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Each concert will include music from the classical canon with compositions written by Mozart, Debussy, Ravel and Beethoven.

Coming to town for the festival is a string quartet and other musicians who play harp, flute, clarinet and oboe. A conductor will be on call for the more difficult pieces, Loewy told the Reformer.

Three composers in residence will be there. In the past, only one composer has come out.

"Each big concert will have a big composer. People will be able to meet them beforehand and talk to them after," said Loewy.

Two of the composers, Julia Adolphe and Alice Wood, are based out of Los Angeles, Calif., and are new to the festival. Joe Hallman will bring with him a new duet arranged for flute and a narrator. He has participated in the festival before and comes from Philadelphia, too.

While spending the week in Jamaica, 16 people will be living between two houses.

Loewy recalled artists sketching musicians rehearsing back at the houses last year. After they were done with practice, those musicians then wanted to sketch.

"It becomes an artist commune," she said. "People get to try different things. We don't get an opportunity to do that in our everyday lives."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter@CMaysReformer.


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