We are already well into the series of performances of Shakespeare’s early masterpiece, Richard II. The only one of his plays to have been written entirely in verse, it has long been treasured for the poetic beauty of its sad tale of a failed monarch. As rich as this stream in the play is, Shakespeare never neglected the toughness of the genre of history plays he helped to create.
Many of us who attend the Bard Music Festival look forward to it with the same warm anticipation we once looked forward to Christmas. Two weekends are packed with music, much of it we’ve never heard before, some of it great, some good, some interesting. There are panel discussions and lectures to help tie it all together, usually pitched at a general educated audience, but always with surprises and things one didn’t know before. And there is a feast of discussion, with the musicians, with the speakers, and with each other. It’s not so much that there is music to be enjoyed and a historical context to learn: through the immersion in immediate, live concerts and contact with knowledgeable humans a unique experience emerges in which we can live this whole of sensual and intellectual pleasure, analysis, and a direct understand of the cultural and social whole in which the music was created. The difference between this and the traditional sources of background information available to concertgoers—i.e. program notes—is like a month in Paris against a travel brochure.
Among the rich offerings of the 2017 Berkshire International Film Festival, one of the most fascinating and important films will be Owsley Brown’s documentary, Serenade for Haiti. The film could be described as an extended visit to the École de Musique Sainte Trinité in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Mr. Brown, who had made other films about music and its role in human society and spirituality, first visited the school in 2006, and was, as he has said, “greatly affected by what [he] found there.”
There is a new musical enterprise making its debut on Sunday June 2 (at 5 pm in the Kellogg Music Center, Bard College at Simon’s Rock). We call it “The Berkshire Beethoven Piano Project” in the optimistic belief that our program of four Beethoven piano sonatas, performed by four Berkshire pianists, will be the first in a series of such events. (With 32 sonatas to choose from, that means we might be able to do this seven more times!)
Tenores De Aterúe formed in 2008 and have become somewhat of a sensation. Their YouTube videos have gone viral in Sardinia, as they are the first non-natives ever to attempt the unusual cantu a tenore quartet vocal technique, which involves harmonic throat singing in parts! The effect is something otherworldly, often sounding more like instruments than human voice! Sardinian song will be showcased, complemented with some choice Corsican and Italian gems.