Looking For Red, White and Blue Between Bach, Beethoven And Brahms: Can American Music Be Found at American Music Festivals?

Whistling pines, icy lakes and the promise of a music outing in the woods bring folks to the Interlochen Arts Festival. Not the Tanglelochen one may think it is, this 1,200-acre Michigan music camp’s focus nonetheless is on year-round arts education and bringing culture, however mundane, to the Midwest.

Interlochen, Michigan
June 11-September 1, 1999

Too diverse to really have a focus, the Festival breezes through the genres of classical, jazz, popular, country, rock and blues all in 35 performances. A series of student concerts is held, as are concerts by the World Youth Symphony.

The summer Interlochen Arts Camp is where a kid can take Advanced String Quartet along with algebra and French, and attend masterclasses from the Festival artists like Marvin Hamlisch, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Brass. Training continues through the year at the Interlochen Arts Academy, from which many of its students go on to perform in major symphony orchestras. Alumni include Jessye Norman, Peter Erskine, and Lorin Maazel.

A few meaty highlights in the Festival are sandwiched between cheese and white bread yawns like Debbie Reynolds, Anne Murray, Hootie and the Blowfish, and yes-they’re-still-around Chicago.

Preeminent vocal chamber ensemble Chanticleer will perform (though they’re hard to find in the schedule since for some reason Interlochen lists them under “Family Entertainment” along with The Flying Karamazov Brothers and Marcel Marceau) much of the material from Colors of Love, their recently-released CD of new compositions (a majority of which have been commissioned by the group and all of which have been recorded for the first time) including Steven Stucky’s Cradle Songs, John Tavener’s Village Wedding, songs from Bernard Rands’s Canti d’Amor and Chen Yi’s Tang Poems, and Augusta Read Thomas’s The Rub of Love.

Duke Ellington’s centennial birthday will be celebrated with a performance by the Duke Ellington Orchestra conducted by with Ellington grandson Paul Mercer and featuring singer/pianist Diane Schuur.

The little black dressed Eroica Trio won’t be performing the Paul Schoenfield work from their first CD, but will do a new Piano Trio by New York-Brazilian Raimundo Penaforte.

Best for last: a Fourth of July concert by Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony features virtuoso Iowa harmonica player Robert Bonfiglio, who will perform a Stephen Foster medley and a tribute to Elvis, as well as Ives’s Decoration Day. (Unfortunately, the rest of the Youth Symphony programs are all about Dvorak, Mussorgsky and Berlioz — the musical equivalent of being made to read Hugo and Dostoevsky in high school.)

American music medleys being in during the summer season, the Boston Pops will do one here, too. Betcha the U.S. Army Band will do one, too. Other performers include the Pacifica and Cavani String Quartets, the 1997 Van Cliburn International Competition Bronze Medalist, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra who will cover Euro works by Glinka, Khachaturian and Dukas.

Interlochen’s “jazz” series features soft-serve like George Winston and John Tesh; country is represented by Dwight Yoakam and Ricky Skaggs, and pop artists include The Temptations, The Commodores, Lyle Lovett and Dan Fogelberg. Blues legend B.B. King (74 years old and still going) is coming to camp, too.

Bring the popsicle sticks and glue. Do it for the kids.

From Looking For Red, White and Blue Between Bach, Beethoven And Brahms
by Mic Holwin
© 1999 NewMusicBox