Louise Burton recently published a great article about Midsummer’s on Classicalite.com. Check it out here, or scroll down for the full text.
For the past 24 years, Midsummer’s Music Festival of Door County, Wis. has been presenting world-class chamber music performances in some of Door County’s most iconic and unusual venues.
Tonight is the gala opening night of the Festival’s 24th season, at Birch Creek Performance Center in Egg Harbor. The evening features a champagne reception and “French Ambiance” program of chamber music by Phillippe Gaubert, Théodore Dubois and Ernest Chausson.
Midsummer’s Music was founded in 1990 by Jim and Jean Berkenstock, principal players with Lyric Opera of Chicago and longtime summer residents of Door County. I recently chatted with Jim, who is the Festival’s artistic director, about the 24th Season, which starts today and runs through July 15.
Our conversation quickly turned to the Festival’s unusual concert venues, including art galleries, private homes, dairy barns, alpine lodges and other unique Door County landmarks.
“Yes, we’ve made a venue out of almost anything,” he said, laughing. “But that’s one of the beauties of chamber music: it is very portable and very flexible.”
One of the more intriguing venues is the Hardy Gallery, located in a historic building on Anderson Dock, which juts out into Eagle Harbor. Midsummer’s Music will perform at this maritime landmark in Ephraim, Wis. on June 20.
The scenic location will provide a backdrop for exquisite music played by some of the Midwest’s most talented musicians. Their program includes Mozart’s Adagio in F for English horn, violin, viola and cello; the Sextet from the opera Capriccio by Richard Strauss; and the Nonet in F major for winds and strings by Ludwig Spohr.
“You are surrounded by water, and typically if it’s a nice evening, people come outside at intermission,” Berkenstock said. “We play there right around the Solstice, so frequently you will see a beautiful sunset to the west out over Green Bay. There are some islands out there, and it’s just one of the most gorgeous spots. The combination of all of that makes for one of the most perfect evenings.”
Two days later, the musicians will perform the same program at a dairy barn that has been converted into the Woodwalk Gallery, located south of Egg Harbor. And on July 6, musicians will perform at the Ellison Bay Manor–Wisconsin’s largest private residence.
The 43-room mansion contains a 2,000 sq. ft. grand parlor with high ceilings, offering ideal conditions for a chamber music performance. “It is the best acoustical situation that we have encountered,” Berkenstock said.
“We try to keep the programs varied in terms of instrumentation,” Berkenstock noted. “We have 16 musicians who are playing with us this year. They play in different combinations, so people get a lot of variety in terms of styles of music.”
Mark Kunstman, executive director of Midsummer’s Music, agreed. “We are like the Door County weather–ever changing,” he said. “We may be winds and piano on one work and then strings, winds, and piano on the next, but we are constantly changing. It makes for a varied and enchanting evening because no two works call for the same combination.”
(originally published on Classicalite.com, June 13th, 2014)