In the town of Falls Village, summer signals the start of a musical tradition that has gone on for more than 80 years — Music Mountain’s chamber music festival. As the festival continues, loyal subscribers flock to this beautiful venue for an afternoon or evening of live music performed by national and international superstars; some up and coming, and others who have established themselves as perennial favorites around the country.
The series kicks off its 87th anniversary season on Sunday, June 5 at 3 p.m. with a gala performance and reception featuring the multiple Grammy award winning ensemble, the Emerson String Quartet, playing Haydn: String Quartet in D Minor, Opus 76 # 2; Beethoven: String Quartet in G Major, Opus 18 #2; Schubert: String Quartet in G Major, Opus 161, D.887. The Emerson String Quartet has accumulated an unparalleled list of achievements over three decades; in a season of over 85 quartet performances, mingled with the Quartet members’ individual artistic commitments, the Emerson plays extensively throughout North America. Multiple tours of Europe include dates in Denmark, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom, among many other countries. Based in New York City, The Emerson String Quartet is Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University.
The festival features 15 weekends of music, with returning favorite chamber ensembles and musicians, including pianists Peter Serkin and Julia Hsu; first-time guests, including the pianist Richard Goode; the ever-popular Saturday Evening Twilight Series with an array of jazz ensembles and musicians and introducing, for the first time at Music Mountain, in five concerts, the artists of the Catskill Jazz Factory; and the second season of the new Music Mountain Master Classes for Young Artists. Concerts are scheduled throughSeptember 11.
Music Mountain board president Nick Gordon, who has served for more than four decades, said recently that while some arts organizations might be worried about attendance, Music Mountain’s audiences continue to grow.
“Over the last 4 or 5 years, our attendance has increased, which is wonderful,” he said. “Of course, we always want more, but the audiences just keep growing; and when people come to us for the first time, we can’t get rid of them, and that’s good. All we need is to have you visit once, and you’ll keep coming back.”
Gordon noted that many patrons drive an hour or more to Music Mountain from around Connecticut as well as Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
“There are many who have weekend homes who come up from New York City, and Music Mountain is their destination,” he said. “We have a couple who come up every year from New Jersey. We have someone who started coming here to concerts with her grandmother, and she was married in our concert hall.”
Chamber music concerts continue with the Borromeo String Quartet on June 12; Penderecki String Quartet with Maurycy Banaszek, viola on June 19; Cassatt String Quartet with Colin Carr, cello, on June 26; and Cantata Profana on July 3.
The popular Saturday Evening Twilight Series begins on Saturday, June 11 with The Galvanized Jazz Band, and continues June 18 with the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players; New Black Eagle Jazz Band on June 25; and Swingtime Big Band on July 2.
Varied musical offerings keep Music Mountain competitive with other venues in the area, Gordon said. “Competition in the arts is good; its effect is an expanded audience,” he said. “If there are five places like ours (holding concerts) then more people interested in the arts will attend.
“This year we’ve made some major changes to the Saturday Twilight Series; we’ve invited a group called the Catskill Jazz Factory, and they are wonderful young artists who are the best of the best, coming up in the jazz world. You’ll find them at Lincoln Center in New York City, places like that. They are absolute virtuosos,” Gordon continued. “Then there are old favorites, like Vince Giordano; we have Peter Serkin (performing again), and a weekend with the Shanghai Quartet, who are really smooth.
“We have a young group called Cantata Fortata coming on July 3, and they’re doing Beethoven, and they’ll do things with voices — a true masterpiece of the 20th century,” Gordon said. “There’s a quantity of concerts this year that are worth a long or a short drive.”
Gordon’s 47 years as board president has allowed him the privilege of being the festival’s commentator, leading live broadcasts on various radio stations around the country for 40 years, on stations including WHDD in Sharon and many others. Gordon is confident that Music Mountain’s legacy of providing summer entertainment will continue for many years.
“For many of our concerts, we begin scheduling dates in early March, and we’ll have the hall sold out by a third before the season even starts,” he said. “We may have, by Thursday or Friday, reached half or two-thirds of people who just don’t want to miss a particular concert.”
The hall’s acoustics provide a wonderful listening experience as well, Gordon said. “You can sit in the front row or the last row, and you’ll hear every note,” he said proudly.
Arts organizations strive to raise money and draw contributors, sponsors and subscribers, and it’s no easy feat.
“I won’t pretend that we don’t have a money problem, as many arts organizations do, but we have a loyal audience and they know that if they want good music, they need to contribute; and they do,” Gordon said. “We have more audiences and more contributions that ever before, and we keep going along happily.”
Tickets for the June 5 opening concert and reception are $75 and include a voucher for any regularly priced 2016 concert. All tickets to the Peter Serkin/Julia Hsu, Piano 4 Hands Concert on Sunday, July 10 are $60. Tickets for the Mid-Summer Benefit Concert with Richard Goode on Sunday, July 31 at 3 p.m. are $75 and include a voucher for any regularly priced 2016 concert. Tickets for the Labor Day Benefit Concert and Reception, with the Shanghai String Quartet, and pianists Gilbert Kalish and Jonathan Yates, are $75 and include a voucher for any regularly priced 2017 concert.
Music Mountain will continue to offer two ticketing options to complement their established family friendly ticket prices. Concert-goers will be able to reserve their favorite seats in advance for a one-time payment of $60 per seat, per season. For information on how to reserve a seat and specific seat availability, call 860-824-7126. Music Mountain also continues its popular Gold Pass program. Major Gold Pass benefits include: Admission to all concerts; Priority Reserved Seating (subject to availability); $20 price for one guest per Gold Pass. Cost for Gold Pass Memberships: Individual: $780; Pair: $1,500. For a list of other benefits and more information, please call 860-824-7126. All Gold Passes are transferable.
Chamber Music Concerts are $35 at the door/$30 in advance. Twilight Series Concerts are $30 at the door/$27 in advance. Children ages 5-18 are admitted free to all concerts when accompanied by a ticket holder. Saturday Twilight Concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon Chamber Music concerts are at 3 p.m. Group rates and pre season ticket plans are available. Discounts apply through participating organizations. For a complete summer schedule, special ticket prices, and to download a ticket order form visitwww.musicmountain.org or call 860-824-7126.
Music Mountain is located at 225 Music Mountain Road, a short drive to Gordon Hall atop Music Mountain. Free parking and picnic facilities are available. This summer, Music Mountain will welcome South County Crepes and Wraps, offering artisan crepes filled with fresh fruits and other traditional toppings, along with healthy, delicious wraps and quesadillas. Coffee, iced teas, water, cookies, rich chocolate brownies and ice cream novelties are also available.