Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Fringe of What?

I found a place where you can hear and

One of my favorite discoveries earlier this year has been The Eastern Music Festival. It's what I would call a regionally appropriate adaptation of the music and festival school model like a Tanglewood or an Aspen. Situated in Greensboror, NC, EMF hosts today's best classical music artists like cellist Lynn Harrell or a capella chorale Anonymous 4 and veteran conductors such as JoAnn Falletta and Gerard Schwartz together on a monthlong schedule that also includes performers like The Mammals, the Waybacks, Josh Ritter, the Greencards, and Leroy Parnell.

It's pretty cool, but not all acts are created equal. The offerings that pepper the more traditional classical programming are grouped in a package called EMF Fringe. I realize that's suppose to be cool and hip and as a one-time marketing professional, I get the cutsy part. As someone who straddles both worlds, I think referring to the more contemporary popular acts as "fringe" is a little misleading. When it comes to lining up two very different kinds of music right next to each other under the same umbrella, fringe goes both ways.
The beauty of EMF is the blending of both worlds. What is fringe to classical fans is likely steady fare for us bluegrass fans, likewise for us bluegrass fans I can see how an evening of Bach and Bartok might also be considered fringe. The festival calendar has some pretty ambitious repertoire and some impressive talent. So does Fringe. I mean, the other fringe.

EMF goes back several decades but it is said to have flourished to its current state of success under the leadership of Tom Philion, who recently was also appointed to the helm of the long-suffering Seattle Symphony. It's no secret that Philion's successful working relationship with Gerard Schwartz, both Music Director in Seattle and Principal Conductor at EMF, probably had a lot to do with that; Schwartz is not well loved by Seattle's musicians so in Philion he's got at least one advocate. Philion is leaving most of the ops in capable hands, at least according to this article.
The EMF school is pretty impressive, too. Students range in age from 14 to 20 and are engaged by very fine orchestra musicians and conductors from around the country. Some of the better known alumni include Wynton Marsalis, along with musicians representing the Boston, St. Louis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Dallas, and National Symphony Orchestras (a nod to Cleveland Orchestra cellist Bryan Dumm!).
But where are the alumni of the EMFringe School?
I hope that I can get down to EMF next year on my own personal sabbatical to sample the program and take in the bigger EMF picture. Maybe with the potential for new leadership comes the potential for joint leadership -- a chance to blend the fringes of both worlds into one remarkable training ground for talented young string musicians, regardless of their preference for Brahms or Bluegrass.
Here the 2005 Young Artists Festival Orchestra in a snippet of Shostakovich's 6th here, or, from 2004, one of my all-time favorites from the classical repertoire, Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3. (Remember, these are some pretty young musicians.)
If we had some snippets of the EMFringe Jam Camp, I'd put them here, but they don't exist.
Not yet, anyway.


At July 13, 2007 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your references to EMF and what we are trying to do here. EMF was all-classical until about six years ago, and now, as you can see, we are bringing other genres into the mix, with artists like Darol Anger, Tiempo Libre and others giving workshops to classical students....we hope to move the other way as well when resources permit in the future. We try to keep the surprises coming -- Hilary Hahn will be giving a first-ever concert with Josh Ritter here next Tuesday --
Thanks again.
Tom Philion

At July 13, 2007 6:59 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hi, Tom!
I am more than happy to blow the horn about one of the coolest festivals in the US. Thanks for stopping by -- which probably isn't easy, since you are in the middle of the season!

EMF really is a grand thing, and won't exhaust its potential anytime soon. With so much support from the orchestra side, and gaining momentum from the rootsy side (the MAMMALS, for Pete's sake?!), EMF is a musical UN. I hope that with such broad appeal EMF finds the support needed to be all it can be. I'll do my part -- EMF is my vacation destination next year.

Wishing you success on both coasts,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home