Postcards from Summer Festivals

Postcards from Summer Festivals

Once again, Polyphonic is pleased to present a collection of postcards from summer 2007 music festivals around the country. Each festival appears on its own page, with postcards presented with the most recent first.

So check back in frequently to catch the latest posting from each festival — we’ll be adding more festivals as the summer progresses!

Get in on the action!

To all the Polyphonic readers — where are you playing this summer? Let us know and your orchestra could be featured in this month’s Orchestra Spotlight! Email for more information.

National Symphony’s Capitol Fourth Concert and Wolf Trap Festival


National Symphony's Performance Tent at the US Capitol

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Hartford Symphony’s Talcott Mountain Music Festival


HSO at the Talcott Mountain Music Festival in Simsbury, CT

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Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival

Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra

New York Philharmonic


The RPO performs at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater

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National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, CO

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Bayview Residences Symphony Splash, in Victoria, BC, Canada


Your intrepid reporter

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Wolf Trap Farm Park Festival for the Performing Arts

The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) plays 9 concerts each summer at the Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts, the nation’s only national park devoted to the arts. Wolf Trap presents an eclectic mix of performances in all genres, from operas such as Carmen (the NSO’s first concert this summer) to comic acts such as the Smothers Brothers. Located just outside Washington DC, and easily accessible to millions of people, it’s one of the favored locations for summer entertainment. There is covered seating, with reserved tickets, and lawn seating at a lower price. What nicer way to spend a summer evening than on a blanket with friends, sharing a picnic and your favorite type of music? Sometimes it rains (or pours), it’s nearly always very humid, and the traffic jams to get out of the parking lot aren’t much fun either, but Wolf Trap is one of those Washington experiences that makes us unique.


Wolf Trap Farm Park Festival for the Performing Arts

This summer, besides Carmen, the NSO is playing a wide range of music, most of it classical, but with an emphasis on lighter fare (no Beethoven symphonies). Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist with near-rock-star status, played a Mozart piano concerto with the NSO, but also a Chinese piece called the Yellow River Concerto. Sir James Galway played a Mozart concerto, but also several Henry Mancini favorites.

The first week of August the NSO will be playing one of our audience’s favorite concerts, usually referred to as the “Bugs Bunny Show.” We play the classical music that was used in the old cartoons, while the cartoons are shown on a screen above the orchestra. We’re playing that concert twice because it’s so popular. We’re also trying something new: a concert of music inspired by the environment, along with NASA satellite footage of planet Earth. The NSO and Wolf Trap are making a podcast exclusively for this performance so the audience can hear, in one ear, recorded commentary from conductor Emil de Cou about the evening’s selections while listening to the performance with the other ear. Click here for more information.

Yesterday (July 19) we were rehearsing Lang Lang’s Yellow River Concerto in the morning. One movement features a lovely piccolo solo that is supposed to sound like it’s being played on a bamboo flute. Aaron Goldman played it beautifully, and in the middle of his solo, several birds joined in with their songs. It was a lovely moment.

Less lovely, last summer we played a program featuring Renee Fleming. A thunderstorm began as she was singing and a bolt of lightning caused a power outage in mid-song. We sat in the dark for a few minutes, she left the stage, and soon power was restored. Ms. Fleming came back onstage and made a joke about how divas do NOT like being upstaged, even by the weather, and then she went on to sing the rest of her glorious program.

National Symphony’s Capitol Fourth

Reported and photographed by Yvonne Caruthers

Here in Washington DC, the 4th of July means the Smithsonian’s Folk Life Festival and the Independence Day parade during the day, and the National Symphony Orchestra’s “Capitol Fourth” concert from the west lawn of the Capitol at night – capped by fireworks from 9:10 to 9:30 PM. The concert is televised live over PBS stations and features Erich Kunzel conducting the NSO, with an eclectic mix of performers, ranging (this year) from Little Richard to Bebe Neuwirth. When we started playing concerts at the Capitol on the 4th of July, they were much more casual affairs than this year’s concert. We could each bring several guests to sit up close to the stage, and even those of us in the orchestra who weren’t playing (only about half the orchestra squeezes onstage under the tent) would show up with families and guests because the front row seats were highly-prized. To satisfy the TV producers, an evening dress rehearsal was scheduled for July 3rd, and after a few years word got out –, and soon tens of thousands savvy Washingtonians showed up on the 3rd so they could avoid the crowds on the 4th.

Since 9/11 most of that has changed. New security measures have been put in place. Everyone involved in the production has to pass through a rigorous security check. Guests must be registered a week in advance with their social security numbers on file. If your name’s not on “the list,” you don’t get into the guest area – that includes NSO personnel who aren’t playing that night. This year there are many more road closures in DC than in past years, due to the recent attempted car bombings in Scotland. Everyone is urged to take mass transit to and from the downtown area, but often your first sight when you emerge from a subway station is a group of armed guards. It makes me sad that on Independence Day, it feels like we’ve lost a lot of our freedom.


National Symphony's Performance Tent at the US Capitol

I took this photo of the site a couple of days ago, before the crowds amassed and before the security checkpoints were set up. You can see the NSO’s tent in front of the Capitol. For me, it’s one of the thrilling moments of the year when we play the Star Spangled Banner and I can look out from the stage at the Capitol, with hundreds of thousands of people singing. I get a lump in my throat and tears in my eye.

Talcott Mountain Music Festival

Reported by Ann Drinan and photographed by Algis Kaupas


Warming up in the Simsbury shell

The summer of 2007 marks the 12th season of the Hartford Symphony’s summer festival near Talcott Mountain in Simsbury, a western suburb of Hartford. We’ve performed at 4 different venues using a borrowed Wenger tent until, finally, the Town of Simsbury built us a permanent shed at Simsbury Meadows a few years ago.

This season we opened with our annual July 4th Celebrate America concert, presented on the 3rd and 4th (as well as a runout on the 8th). Tuesday was a beautiful summer evening with a clear blue sky and a huge crowd. Patrons reserved about 100 tables, with thousands more seated in the lawn. Under guest conductor Glenn Adset, we performed traditional 4th of July fare: American Salute, Sousa marches, John Williams scores, and a few Broadway selections.


Goth Couple

We have a tradition of playing a medley of the anthems of each Armed Services division, and asking veterans to stand as the anthem from their division plays. It’s hugely popular and a fitting tribute to the many who have served our country.


A Time to Honor our Veterans

Wednesday night it rained. And rained. And rained some more. We scooted back a bit into the shed to make sure the celli were covered, and we were able to perform high and dry. The audience was on their own, however. Amazingly, we had about 780 stalwarts (aka “lunatics!”) out on the lawn under golf umbrellas, braving the cold and rain and cheering us on. We did a truncated concert with no intermission and then closed with the traditional fireworks show.


Night Settles in CT's Farmington Valley

The drenched audience seemed to make almost as much noise as the full crowd the night before, as the 1812 moved into the Stars and Stripes and the fireworks display took off.

Photos by Amanda Boehmer

Our second and third concerts were great Pops concerts, under the baton of our Principal Pops Conductor, Jeff Tyzik, who makes his home in Rochester NY.


Byron Stripling, trumpet, and Bobby Floyd, organ, perform with Jeff Tyzik

Jeff returned with Byron Stripling, trumpet, whom we’d featured in our 2006 TMMF season, along with Dee Daniels, Wycliffe Gordon and Bobby Floyd, for a rousing Blues concert.

According to Jeff:

“Byron Stripling and I were sitting in an airport on the way back from an orchestra engagement where we had performed our Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong concert, and we were discussing what to do next as a pops concert. In our discussion we found that we had both wanted to do a Blues concert and within an hour we had picked the material and decided on a group of great soloists…..Wycliffe Gordon, trombone – Dee Daniels , vocals – Bobby Floyd, B3 Hammond organ and of course Byron on trumpet and vocals. We called it ‘Nothin’ But The Blues.”


Byron Stripling, Dee Daniels, and Wycliffe Gordon

Over the next six months, I arranged all the material and we did our first concert last November in Rochester NY with the RPO. It was an instant hit with the audience and orchestra. Hartford booked it for this summer and next season we are doing it in Vancouver B.C. and Naples FL.”

Photos by Steve Perry, HSO Tubist

Our third concert with Jeff was a Salute to Sinatra and Dorsey, featuring CT native Steve Lippia standing in for Frank, and Mark Kellogg, Principal Trombone of the Rochester Philharmonic, standing in for Tommy Dorsey.


Jeff and Steve

Steve has headlined in extended engagements at the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and Resorts Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, and has recently performed to sold-out audiences with major symphonies across North America.

During our rehearsal one of the festival volunteers overheard a passerby muttering, “Now why on earth are they playing Frank Sinatra recordings over the loudspeakers?” — a fitting tribute to Steve’s amazing ability.


Jeff, your reporter, and Mark backstage

Our final concert was a “Midsummer Mozart” performance, conducted by HSO Music Director Edward Cumming, and featured the overture to Don Giovanni, favorite concert arias performed by guest soprano Janna Baty and Symphony No. 35, Haffner.

Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival

Reported by Erin Cassano and photographed by J. Andrew Cassano

Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

One of the perks of being married to the Director of Artistic Operations for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is that I get to hear the RPO whenever I want! Nothing could compare, however, to this July 4th when I was lucky enough to be able to join my husband and the RPO in Vail, Colorado, for the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

When I arrived on June 30, I joined the RPO who had arrived on June 24. The RPO has been attending the Bravo festival for 16 years, but it was my first time. After leaving Rochester at 6 AM, connecting in Dallas and then finally arriving in Denver, the two hour drive to Vail seems like a burden, but once you drive past the city and start to climb the mountains, the Rocky Mountains are stunning and absolutely take your breath away!


View from the road while driving from Denver to Vail

The RPO started coming to Vail every summer in August of 1990 during the festival’s third year in existence, and some of the musicians can boast that they have attended all 16 years! During their residency, Vail has transformed from a small ski town, to a major Colorado destination that is beginning to rival places like Aspen and Breckenridge. Every year, more and more luxury condos, hotels and mansions pop up in the Vail valley, creating a sense that not only is this a playground for the rich, but that someday, there will just be no more room left to build! Everywhere you turn there is construction going on, like a race to the finish line, or rather the first snow? What was once quaint little shops and a movie theater just last summer, is now a mound of dirt, ready to be converted into a new Ritz Carlton.

Vail_Ray's Editor-in-Chief Ramon Ricker plays a solo with the RPO conducted by Jeff Tyzik

One of the few programs I missed included a concert conducted by Jeff Tyzik that featured trumpeter Byron Stripling on June 29.After having his flight canceled on June 28, Mr. Stripling was forced to miss the rehearsal and made it to Vail within two hours of the start of the concert!No one in the audience could tell as he delivered an amazing performance!Editor-in-Chief of Ramon Ricker also had a chance to solo during this program on the alto sax!


Anne-Marie McDermott, Eugenia Zukerman and Ida Kavafian backstage after their performance

The RPO prepared a wide variety of programs to perform in Vail, including a concert conducted by the RPO’s music director Christopher Seaman featuring Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with Ida Kavafian, violin, Eugenia Zukerman, flute, and Anne-Marie McDermott, piano. On July 4th, the RPO played to a completely sold out audience dressed in red, white and blue waving American flags. It was a great way to end their residency, including the premiere of Principal Pops conductor Jeff Tyzik’s new piece that he wrote for the occasion, Bravo! Colorado. All are looking forward to returning next year.

The Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic

Also in residency at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival are the Philadelphia Orchestra, July 7-14, and the New York Philharmonic, July 20-27. Click the links to read more about their time in Colorado!

National Repertory Orchestra

in Breckenridge, CO

Reported and photographed by Heather Zinninger

The National Repertory Orchestra enjoyed a successful season in beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado. The NRO, which is comprised of talented musicians ages 18-28, is one of the most esteemed summer festivals for young musicians in the country. Celebrating his 30th year as director of the NRO, Carl Topilow led the orchestra through an intense eight weeks of rehearsing and performing a wide range of classical masterworks and popular favorites. Some of the program highlights included Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. The NRO performed a total of 25 concerts at Breckenridge’s own Riverwalk Center, Denver’s Newman Center and Center for the Performing Arts, Vail’s Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre, and at venues in Keystone, Dillon, and Evergreen.


Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge, CO

As an undergraduate flutist at the Eastman School of Music, I felt honored to be a part of the NRO this summer. The other musicians were so determined and focused on the orchestral dream; they were incredible musicians as well as great people. We all worked very hard, but we had enough free time to enjoy Colorado’s wealth of summer activities. I hiked in the mountains as often as possible. This was my first visit to Colorado, and even after eight weeks of living there, I was still in awe of its beauty.

One of the busiest and most rewarding days was July 4th when we presented three concerts in three different locations. The first was at the Lake Dillon Amphitheater. Due to the angle of the sun at this morning concert, the front half of the stage was not shaded. Direct sunlight is particularly bad for string instruments, so we reversed the orchestra’s normal seating, having the winds in the front and the strings in the back. This gave us wind players a whole new perspective, and we must have looked pretty cool in our sunglasses! We played our second concert in a tent in Evergreen. There was a threat of rain, as usual for summer afternoons in the Rockies, so we had to skip the intermission as well as a few pieces so we could finish the concert. Of course it didn’t rain anyway. We played the third concert back in Breckenridge that evening…it was good to be home.


Rehearsal in the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge, CO

We were exposed to so much great music and we were able to perform for a wide variety of audiences. It was wonderful to spend the summer in a town where so many people enthusiastically supported our music. We were not paid for our services directly, but instead we were given resort housing in Breckenridge and grocery gift cards. What more could a young musician ask for? It was a professional orchestra experience in an inspiring setting.

Bayview Residences Symphony Splash, in Victoria, BC, Canada

Reported and photographed by Bob Fraser


Stage entrance. Note our volunteers in bright T-shirts!

The Victoria Symphony (in beautiful British Columbia, Canada) performed its seventeenth annual “Symphony Splash” on Sunday evening, August 5th. The “Splash,” as we like to call it, is an outdoor concert on Victoria’s Inner Harbour, performed on a barge (a tradition dating back at least as far as Handel, although thankfully we have never run into the same problems that occurred at the premiere of the Music for the Royal Fireworks!).  Bayview Residences came on board the barge as the titled sponsor this year, and their community leadership helped to make the event a great success, so we were happy to fly the event as the “Bayview Residences Symphony Splash.”

I’ve had the privilege of performing most of the “Splashes” over the years – they started as an experiment in 1990, just after I won my position (bass trombone) in the orchestra. The response to the first Splash was overwhelming – it was quoted: “What if you gave a party and everyone came?” The Splash has become quite the phenomenon, attracting as many as 40,000 people. I have enjoyed watching a number of musical traditions grow up with it over the years.


View on stage

For a start, each year we feature young, local soloists, sponsored by the Leslie and Murray Glazier Young Musicians Fund (Murray is a Past President of the Symphony, and the Splash was very much his brainchild). This year, three of Victoria’s up-and-coming stars performed: 14-year-old violinist Timothy Chooi (Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy), 17-year-old soprano Sahara Sloan (who did a riveting performance of O Caro Nome from Verdi’s Rigoletto), and 13-year-old pianist Carolyn Tsao (Mozart’s D minor piano concerto). The soloists are selected through auditions every spring, run by our Music Director, Tania Miller.

The programme always has a broad scope: this year Maestra Miller chose a number of works that appealed to young people. Most people will confess that their earliest exposure to orchestral music is through cartoons (myself, for one!) and it was great to hear the audience reaction as we did a medley of all of Bugs Bunny’s greatest hits (snippets of Barber of Seville, Hungarian Dance no. 5, Ride of the Valkyries and, of course, The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down).


View from the podium. Note that many of our audience are "punters"

Tchiakovsky’s 1812 is always a big hit, with accompanying fireworks, artillery, and even a carillon, located next to the causeway where we perform.

There is another tradition that has grown up around the Splash. I guess it’s because I’m of Scottish ancestry, but I love the bagpipes (especially outdoors!). Every year the finale of Splash, the final encore after 1812, is the hymn Amazing Grace, accompanied by the pipers of the Canadian Scottish Regiment. Gets me every time. The pipes and drums also joined us for a lovely version of Highland Cathedral, arranged by one of our composers-in-residence, Tobin Stokes. Stirring stuff.


Another view from the podium


A new innovation this year was the “greening” of Splash. Being on the west coast, we are very conscious of environmental issues, and this year’s Splash boasted display booths by the Sierra Club, BC Hydro’s Powersmart program, and the Victoria Compost Education Centre. All food from the kiosks was served on biodegradable plates, and the local Girl Guides were out in full force, collecting recyclables from the huge crowd. Your intrepid reporter also contributed by riding his bike to the event (thankfully I live only about a mile from the site).

At the end of the evening, it’s always so rewarding to walk down the gangplank to a huge chorus of “thank yous” from the crowds in their boats on the harbour and the people lining the causeway. I can’t help but feel proud to be part of a community tradition.

About the author

Ann Drinan
Ann Drinan

Ann Drinan, Senior Editor, has been a member of the Hartford Symphony viola section for over 30 years. She is a former Chair of the Orchestra Committee, former member of the HSO Board, and has served on many HSO committees. She is also the Executive Director of CONCORA (CT Choral Artists), a professional chorus based in Hartford and New Britain, founded by Artistic Director Richard Coffey. Ann was a member of the Advisory Board of the Symphony Orchestra Institute (SOI), and was the HSO ROPA delegate for 14 years, serving as both Vice President and President of ROPA. In addition to playing the viola and running CONCORA, Ann is a professional writer and editor, and has worked as a consultant and technical writer for software companies in a wide variety of industries for over 3 decades. (She worked for the Yale Computer Science Department in the late 70s, and thus has been on the Internet, then called the DARPAnet, since 1977!) She is married to Algis Kaupas, a sound recordist, and lives a block from Long Island Sound in Branford CT. Together they create websites for musicians:

Ann holds a BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MA in International Relations from Yale University.

Read Ann Drinan's blog here.