Stone Church, Immanuel Retreat host series of music intensive workshops


BELLOWS FALLS >> In July, Stone Church Arts & Immanuel Retreat Center is host to four music intensives. Each residential workshop includes one or two public concerts. There is something for anyone who plays a musical instrument!

The Festival of Mandolin Chamber Music VII, founded by August Watters, takes place Thursday, July 7, through Sunday, July 10. The Festival of Mandolin Chamber Music is pleased to present guest conductor Jacob Reuven, a brilliant mandolinist and conductor from Israel. Reuven is a founding member of the Kerman Mandolin Quartet, and director of Israel's Beer-Sheva Conservatory, the nucleus of Israel's burgeoning classical mandolin scene.

Founded by August Watters, a Boston area teacher and composer, FMCM festival is designed for the classical mandolin community and for concertgoers interested in classical chamber music. The purpose of the festival is to create learning and performance opportunities for those interested in chamber music composed for mandolin and its related instruments (as well as classical guitar). Participants will rehearse in preparation for a concert on Sunday, July 10, at 3 p.m.

The World String Orchestra Intensive with Eugene Friesen, faculty and conductor, takes place from Monday, July 11, through Sunday, July 17. Stringed instrument players will experience a completely new model of ensemble playing. Limited to fifteen player/creators, the WSOI is an intense immersion into creating new repertoire for strings utilizing classical techniques plus folk and pop styles from around the world, improvisation, and collaboration. Designed for players and teachers who want to expand the repertoire of their ensembles — or their composing — the WSOI offers hands-on opportunities to work with other advanced players in a fun, relaxed, and creative setting.

Fifteen players will be selected for this week-long intensive to include: Recorded group improvisations — fertile ground for compositional and arranging ideas; rehearsing repertoire from the library of Berklee World Strings in Boston; classes in writing for strings, and a survey of notation software, sheet music preparation, etc.; rehearsing your music with the ensemble; solo opportunities with the ensemble — both written and improvised; improv classes for enriching harmonic understanding and enhancing rhythmic interaction; studies of new rhythms and styles for strings: Brazilian, Jazz, Blues, Celtic, Old Time, Bluegrass; concerts in local Vermont venues; and private sessions with Eugene Friesen.

The players with Eugene Friesen conducting will be performing a public, ticketed concert at Immanuel Episcopal Church, 20 Church St., on Saturday, July 16, at 7:30 p.m.

The Vermont Improv Intensive, now in its fourth year, with Eugene Friesen, takes place Thursday, July 21, through Sunday, July 24. Up to 15 musicians will learn improvisation for classical musicians and strategies for creativity and expression.

"Remember the feeling of uplift from a great performance? Have you wondered how to practice — not only your instrument but your life — in order to channel that special feeling into your music and to your listeners?" asked Friesen. "Creativity and inspiration need nurturing, and the mindset that understands a challenge is rarely the mindset with the solution. For us musicians, improvisation is a way we access 'the zone' where creativity, artistry and innovation live. Through improvisation we can also experience mastery — no matter what our technical level may be. In Vermont you'll find a light and lively context for exploring pathways to creativity while engaging in surprising music-making, participatory classes, rhythmic exercises, conversation, performances, networking, an inspiring environment, and lots of good food."

Eugene Friesen, cello, will perform with a special guest to be announced, on Friday, July 22, at 7:30 p.m. And then, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., there will be a free and open student concert.

The Creative Cello Workshop, also led by Eugene Friesen, caps off a busy month of music intensives, from Thursday, July 28, through Sunday, July 31.

"It's a new day for the cello," noted Friesen. "It seems like everybody wants a cello onstage with them. From singer/songwriters, Brazilian combos, bluegrass bands, and every breed of rock group, people are inventing new uses for the cello that bring this special instrument into contemporary settings. Come join a community of cellists exploring new ways of collaborating and using our instruments. Innovative rhythmic techniques, accompanying singers and other soloists, creating cello parts in a 'band' setting, practicing for being a lead voice in an ensemble — these are issues demanding creative solutions for the contemporary cellist. Among the many questions addressed at the workshop: How do I practice to cultivate originality? How do I expand my comfort with chords? How can I create melodies through thorny chord progressions? How can I add more rhythmic tension and variation in my improvising and composing? How can I create rich accompaniments by covering the bass notes and harmony while keeping a groove? How can I make cello parts that don't get overwhelmed by drums and bass?"

Again there will be a public concert on Friday, July 29, this time a rare solo performance by cellist Eugene Friesen, and a free and open student concert on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

For more information on the music intensives taking place in July at Stone Church Arts and Immanuel Retreat Center, 12, 14 and 20 Church St in Bellows Falls, visit, or call 802-460-0110.

There is still room in all the residential workshops which all have a commuter option, but registrations are limited. Tickets for the main concerts of each intensive are available at Village Square Booksellers on The Square in bellows Falls, online or by phone.


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