Bringing classical music to the people
Pine Mountain Music Festival returns next week with full slate of events
Returning festival favorites The Bergonzi Trio will perform two sets of concerts, one geared toward children. The trio — violinist Scott Flavin, cellist Ross Harbaugh and pianist Lindsay Garritson — will play evening concerts built around two famed compositions, Dvorak’s F minor trio and the Shostakovich trio.
Houghton’s concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. June 18 at the Rozsa Center. A reception in the Rozsa lobby will follow.
Tickets are available on a sliding payment scale, ranging from $50 to a minimum payment of $5.
“Classical music is for everyone if they want to listen to it,” said codirector Danielle Simandl. “But I think it’s up to people like us who run the festival to get it more out there to people, and not always expect people to come to the same big venues all the time, either.”
When codirector Libby Meyer asks her students what a classical musician looks like, it’s usually some variation on “white, European dead guy.” Making the music more accessible helps convey that the music still has relevance, she said.
Meyer wants the concerts to feel inviting, rather than stuffy. She loves the concerts of the Bergonzi Trio. They even talk between pieces — a breach that would cause the stereotypical classical listener’s monocle to pop out.
“I just want to get rid of all of that baggage, and just let people understand that there’s not a right way to do this,” she said. “There’s not a right way to listen to this music or if you don’t get it, it’s not that there’s something wrong with you. You just have to sort of be willing to listen.”
Aside from the evening concerts, all Pine Mountain Music Festival events are free, though registration is required for most.
For the children’s concerts, the Bergonzi Trio will play portions of the Dvorak and Shostakovich trios in abridged 45-minute shows held in kid-friendly spaces. They will be accompanied by choreographed puppets made during children’s workshops the day before the concert. Trish Helsel from Michigan Tech’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts will lead the workshops, where she will teach puppet-making and puppetry skills.
Pre-registration is required for the class, which is limited to 20 kids. The free workshops will include supplies.
Children who participate in the workshops are encouraged to attend the concert the next day, as well as a preconcert staging event that will let them work on choreography alongside the Bergonzi Trio.
Houghton’s puppet workshops will be held June 17 at the Portage Lake District Library, with three workshops divided by age and one for all ages. For the next day’s concert, puppet staging will start at 9:30 a.m. at the Portage Lake United Church with children third grade and up; two more groups will follow. There will be a 15-minute break before the concert, which starts at 10:30 a.m.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary for UPstarts!, a program that gives young Upper Peninsula musicians experience performing for festival audiences. For younger audiences, it gives them a chance to see performers from the area who are pursuing a career in music, Simandl said.
“People who might not be able to afford or pay for tickets for the Bergonzi Trio can come to the UPstarts! concerts and see people from here who’ve worked really hard and play amazing, awesome music,” she said.
Each of the concerts will be preceded by “instrument petting zoos,” where children can try out different instruments.
This year’s musicians are singer Julia Janowski, a native of Marquette, and violinist Ben Campbell of Escanaba. A mezzo soprano, Janowski has sung in a variety of styles, including opera, choral, sacred music and folk music. The 2019 Michigan State University graduate has spent the past two years as the associate director of choirs at Brazoswood High School in Lake Jackson, Texas. The choirs have earned the state’s top ranking both years. This fall, she will pursue a master’s degree in opera performance at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music.
Campbell is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in violin performance at the Lawrence University Conservatory in Music in Appleton, Wisconsin. He also plays with Marquette Symphony Orchestra and works as a summer camp counselor at Superior String Alliance. U.P. audiences may also know him from his time as concertmaster with the Escanaba High School Orchestra, the U.P. Youth Orchestra, in pit orchestras for musical theater at the Bonifas Arts Center in Escanaba, as well as in a local cover band called Wingin’ It.
They will perform with Keweenaw native Susan Byykkonen, an independent music teacher for flute and piano in Houghton County. Byykkonen is an active member of the Lake Superior Music Teachers Association and also serves as minister of music for Portage Lake United Church. She has worked with the program since it began, serving as coordinator and pianist.
They will play 7:30 p.m. June 21 in the Rozsa Center lobby.
A class held as part of the festival will help those looking to become better performers or overcome their nerves. The Peak Performance workshops will be open to any musicians 15 and up. Leading the workshops will be Flavin, who in addition to playing with the Bergonzi trio is also artistic director of the festival. Houghton’s workshop will be from 5 to 7 p.m. June 17 at Portage Lake United Church.
Pine Mountain Music Festival musicians will also bring classical music directly to people in a series of pop-up concerts June 22. Musicians will include Scott Flavin and Ross Harbaugh of the Bergonzi Trio, and Danielle Simandl, Adam Hall and Ria Hodgson of the Superior String Alliance Chamber Players. Locations have yet to be announced.
“We’ll be hitting up cool places where you don’t usually see string chamber music happen,” Simandl said.
The festival is supported by the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, Arts Midwest, The National Endowment for the Arts, Michigan Tech and Finlandia University.
For a full schedule and other information, go to pmmf.org.