The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: The Token Creek Chamber Music Festival will end in a year or two

August 25, 2010
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Token Creek Chamber Music Festival — a highly regarded and critically acclaimed summer fixture of Madison’s classical music scene for more than 20 years — is winding down and will end in a year or two, says co-director John Harbison.

The news comes on the eve of this year’s festival, which opens Saturday night and runs through Sept. 5.

“We are kind of winding down because it is getting harder to do with the other stuff we do. But we still get a lot of pleasure out of it,” Harbison told The Ear.

“We’re looking at the festival ending in a year or two,” Harbison added. “We’ve got a few loose ends, but not too many, of things we set out to do. There are a lot of little holes we would like to fill. We’re just trying to put together the logistics.”

As examples, Harbison singled out the festival’s on-going performances of Haydn’s piano trios and the fact that the cycle of J.S. Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos has been performed except for the first concerto.

“The time for ending may be coming and we don’t want to reach the state of some of these festivals we participated in where the board of directors suddenly votes the founders out — which happened in Santa Fe when we were there,” Harbison added.

The 71-year-old Harbison, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and teaches at MIT, co-directs the festival with his violinist wife Rose Mary Harbison (see the photo by Katrin Talbot below), who also performs at it.

The festival takes place in a handsomely refurbished barn (below) on the property – a large farm — where Rose Mary grew up and where John Harbison often comes to spend summers composing as well as directing the festival, which includes jazz as well as classical music.

John Harbison (below), who has won a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur “genius” grant, is one of the best known, most prolific and most performed of contemporary American classical composers. He has been extremely busy with commissions for new works for major institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony, and regularly takes part teaching in the BSO’s Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood, which often programs Harbison’s own compositions.

He regularly performs as principal guest conductor with Emmanuel Music of Boston, members of which will perform an all-Bach concert at this year’s festival, and served as an interim guest director of that group for the past three years.

Here is a link to his impressive Wikipedia entry:

In addition, it is no secret that the Token Creek Festival, which often features fare out of the mainstream, has faced difficult times financially in the past and has at times fallen short of attendance goals.

This year’s festival, like others in the past, features returning and new artists, and old and new music.

Here is a link to information about the dates, programs, performers, tickets and background:

If you are interested in experiencing the festival, this year’s offerings might be a smart time to start attending, now that the festival’s end seems to loom on the horizon and future concerts will be limited.

What is your reaction to the news about the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival?

What kind of experiences have you had at the Token Creek Chamber Musical Festival?

Is there anything you want to say to John and Rose Mary Harbison?

The Ear wants to hear.

Tomorrow: Scholar-pianist Robert Levin talks about playing Beethoven this weekend at Token Creek

Posted in Classical music

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