Pine Mountain Music Festival returns in June
HOUGHTON — This June, the Pine Mountain Music Festival will bring opera, classical and contemporary music to locations around the Keweenaw — including Isle Royale.
Libby Meyer, co-executive director of the festival, described it as an “international festival that has a homegrown feel.”
“It really highlights that talent that exists here, and then brings in talent from outside,” she said. “It’s a nice meshing of those two things.”
The festival features plenty of traditional audience favorites like Haydn and Beethoven, but it also makes space for newer, though still crowd-pleasing, composers.
“It makes decision-making kind of difficult because there’s so much to choose from, but it’s a good challenge,” said co-executive director Danielle Simandl.
This year includes a concert version of Elena Ruehr’s opera, “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.” Ruehr grew up in the Upper Peninsula, and now teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It’s based on a graphic novel about Ada Lovelace, the world’s first programmer, and Charles Babbage, who developed plans for the forerunner of the computer.
“It fits in with women in STEM, and it’s written by a woman, which is really exciting, “ Meyer said.
It will be performed by Guerilla Opera, a Boston-based opera company that performs without a conductor or formal music director.
There will be two shows at the Rozsa: 5 to 6 p.m. June 16, and 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 17.
This summer’s production won’t have the staging of the full opera. That will wait until October, when it will be premiered as a fully staged production to kick off the 50th anniversary of computer science at Michigan Tech. It is being presented in partnership with Michigan Tech’s Colleges of Computing and College of Sciences and Arts, The Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts Presenting Series, and the Department of Visual and Performing Arts. Funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts and Michigan Arts and Culture Council.
The opera and the original graphic novel are in the style of steampunk, which combines Victorian-era fashions, steam-powered machinery and anachronistic accessories. In keeping with the theme, this year will also have a steampunk-themed gala at the Quincy Mine Hoist with dessert, music and conversation.
That will be held from 8 to 10 p.m. June 14 at the Quincy Mine Hoist House. The event is free, but has a $10 suggested donation.
Perennial festival favorites The Bergonzi Trio will return this year with a program including works by Tailleferre and Haydn, and the stunning Ravel Piano Trio. They will play a children’s concert from 1 to 2 p.m. June 13 at Portage Lake United Church in Houghton, followed by evening concerts: one from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. that night at the Rozsa Center and one from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. June 15 at the Ontonagon Theater for the Performing Arts.
Meyer is excited about bringing the festival back to Ontonagon.
“That’s something we haven’t done in a while, and that’s a really hugely underserved area in terms of artists getting out there,” she said.
Lindsay Garritson of the Bergonzi Trio will also perform a solo piano concert, “Reimagined,” and teach several masterclasses for local students. She will perform evening concerts from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 8 at the Ontonagon Theater and from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 10 at the Rozsa Center. The masterclass will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. June 11 in the MTU Band Room.
Soprano Christine Seitz and composer/guitarist Paul Seitz will also be returning to the Pine Mountain Music Festival.
“We did a survey last year, and so many people said, ‘You’ve got to bring Christine back,” Meyer said.
The program will include art songs by Paul Seitz with pianist Susan Byykkonen, the world premieres of two new works by Paul, the song cycle Some Things That Fly for voice and guitar, and a new chamber work for violin, guitar, and cello.
They will play from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 3 at the McArdle Theater at Michigan Tech.
Four young artists with ties to the U.P. will be featured in the festival’s UPstarts! program. This year’s roster is Oskar Gaenssle (bassoon), Maitri White (soprano), Michael Halvorson (saxophone) and Adam Hall (cello). Gaenssle will also play the contrabassoon, which is lower-pitched and double the length of a regular bassoon.
“I think it’s really cool, because we usually get UPstarts! performers from all different towns in the U.P. — sometimes really small towns, sometimes Marquette,” Simandl said. “This year’s instrumentation is very unique and cool, because we have such different instruments together onstage.”
They will perform locally from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. June 19 at the Ontonagon Theater and from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 21 in the lobby of the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts.
This year’s festival will also include a belated tribute to Isle Royale’s 80th year. In 2020, former artists in residence Libby Meyer and Katherine Bergman had been among the artists commissioned to write string quartets to celebrate the park.
“Then the pandemic happened, and it never happened,” Meyer said. “So we decided this summer to actually finally premiere them.”
Those pieces, and Elena Ruehr’s Keweenaw Quartet, will debut on Isle Royale at a concert June 9. People stuck on the mainland will also be able to hear the pieces from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 11 at the Orpheum Theater.
On June 14, audiences will be treated to the return of the On the Town concerts, free 30- to 45-minute chamber music concerts at locales around the Keweenaw.
“We didn’t know what to expect last summer,” Meyer said. “The first one was at K.C. Bonker’s, and the place was hopping. So many people went, and they were so happy, and they were handing me checks — the concerts are they’re free, but people were leaving donations.”
The concerts will happen at noon in Copper Harbor, 2:30 p.m. in Calumet, 4:30 p.m. in Hancock and at 6 p.m. on the new pier outside the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton. Prior to the library concert, Meyer and Ruehr will also give a talk at the library.
Expanding on a pilot program from last year, all Pine Mountain Music Festival events are “pay as you’re able.” Although there are set ticket prices, there are also lower tiers, with a minimum of $5.
During last year’s “pay as you’re able” events in Houghton, it evened out, Meyer said: “Many people used the lower tiers, but some generous people took the opportunity to pay more.”
The Rozsa Center will be moving to the same system starting this fall.
“If someone has a challenge to their finances, I don’t want them to feel they can’t come to an event,” Meyer said. “…Part of our striving for diverse audiences includes things like economic diversity and taking away as many barriers as possible for people.”
For more information on the festival, go to https://pinemountainmusicfestival.com/events