I’m not certain of the origin of the phrase “the lazy days of summer.” But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you have a few of those days on your hands about now.
Spark up the haze of summer by attending a performance at one of countless music festivals underway in a community near you — or near a place you might be passing through between now and Labor Day. Whatever your musical persuasion, it’s likely you can hear great music in a great locale. I have highlighted a handful of festivals that stand out for their quality and distinction.
The Montreal Jazz Festival (shown above) is on now. It runs from June 28 to July 7 and is almost too good to be true. Now in its 33rd year, artistic director Andre Menard has this mega-event down to an artful science. He scours the globe for musical acts that are top-shelf, and includes musical genres well outside of what most folks think of as jazz.
Listeners encounter a wide range of music in a festival format that manages to be large, but never “zoo-like.” You can wander from one outdoor stage to another (all of this at no charge), and/or purchase tickets for one of many evening events to customize a festival experience that suits your own tastes. And it’s a twofer. The Montreal Guitar Show runs concurrently, featuring everything guitar — 140+ luthiers and an impressive roster of star guitarists.
The Twin Ports Bridge Festival, July 7, is one of many music-packed days scheduled at the drop-dead gorgeous Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth hugs the north shore of Lake Superior, and this elegantly conceived pavilion is cited on the water’s edge, in view of abundant natural beauty and port activity that characterizes this under-appreciated city of the Midwest. Yep, it’s hip and chill.
Now in its 50th season, the Britt Summer Festival is the Northwest’s longest running festival and is nestled in the woods of Ashland, Oregon. Music acts from every genre run throughout the summer, but my focus is on the Classical Festival, August 3 – 19.
This year is conductor Peter Bay’s 20th and final season at the helm, and programming is all the more special. Professional musicians from all over the country assemble to play highlights from chamber and orchestral repertoire, and this being Maestro Bay’s farewell season, they are giving it their all.
The Monadnock Music Festival, July 6 – August 11 in Harrisville, N.H., has rebooted itself with an inspired schedule of concerts under the direction of newly appointed artistic director Gil Rose. This festival has never dished up the ordinary in its 30-plus years and this season builds on that tradition. Rose has three thematic threads running through the concert line-up: music commissioned by Martha Graham, opera by American composers and a focus on the works of Virgil Thomson.
What’s interesting is that while programming is challenging by summer music festival standards, the venues are the very embodiment of Americana. Many concerts are played in meeting house churches centered in idyllic communities dotting south-central New Hampshire. Enchantment awaits.