BMInt is offering a series of notices on the summer concert series and festivals in attractive sites that we believe will be of interest to our readers. The concert schedules are listed in our Calendar of Events. In the interview below Rockport Music Artistic Director David Deveau responds to some questions from BMInt staff.
We’re all very excited about the opening of the Shalin Liu Performance Center. This must have been a stretch financially for a entity like RCMF. Tell us how you did it.
Of course, this enormous project presented a major challenge to Rockport Music. We changed the organization’s name from Rockport Chamber Music Festival to Rockport Music in 2009 to encompass our status as a year-round presenting organization, whose signature offering remains the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. It is now spread over six weeks in June and July, with 20 programs.
The original budget for the center was considerably less, but after some fairly predictable litigation resulted in very high legal expenses, our overall costs rose to $20 million. To date we have raised over $16.4 million and have secured interim financing to complete the construction without delay. Much of the money has been raised from individual and family foundations, with some support from corporate and business sources. Needless to say, when we began the campaign, the economy was in a far different state than it is now. But we have great confidence that, as people experience the sound and beauty of the space, the campaign will be completed in due course.
The exterior architecture seems extremely sensitive to its 19th– century context. Did you have a lot of meetings with historical associations and commissions?
Oh yes, indeed. We were deeply engaged with the Rockport Historical Society as well as with the Conservation Association, Planning Board, and several other Town boards. The building that stood on this site, the Haskins Building, was originally built in 1876 and was a true exemplar of Second Empire style. Unfortunately, over the years it had been comprised, and the beautiful original windows had been reduced in size, vinyl siding had been slapped on, and the original detail had been pretty much lost. The architects succeeded spectacularly in restoring it to its original splendor.
The interior looks a bit like Ozawa Hall. What are its antecedents?
You have good eyes! The reason it looks somewhat like Ozawa Hall is simple: the principal architect in charge (under William Rawn) for the design of Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in the early 1990s was Alan Joslin. When Rockport Music was selecting a design team for our hall, we chose Epstein-Joslin Architects to do this project. Alan left Rawn to form his own firm with his wife, Deborah Epstein. He does the exterior and ‘guts’ designing; Deborah does the interior architecture and selects the interior finishes. They also work closely with R. Lawrence Kirkegaard, the acoustical engineer, on the acoustical design of the space. This team has studied the great halls of the world, including the Musikverein in Vienna, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and, of course, Symphony Hall here in Boston, to learn and research what makes a great space for music.
After whom is it named?
The performance center is named for Shalin Liu, a most generous and unassuming Taiwanese/American who has a great love for music, nature, the humanities, and children.
How does it sound? Are there any “tuning” possibilities?
The hall is simply beautiful. It is crystal clear. On May 22, we presented three hour-long concerts — at 1 p.m. a concert of solo piano, string quartet and piano quintet music; at 3 p.m. a brass quintet program; and at 6 p.m. a Celtic fiddle program. I was both performing and listening during the first program.
On the stage for some solo Chopin, I felt a warmth and yet an immediacy that was stunning; every note was sculpted and yet vibrant. I snuck out to listen to the Jupiter Quartet play Janacek and Dvorak from the loge seats and the balcony: absolutely sensational! And when I joined them for a movement of the Schumann piano quintet, JOY! Then, hearing the Triton Brass Quintet, I was a bit nervous that their robust sound might be overwhelming for the space, but it was perfect. They played a fantastic quintet by Etler that ranged from pppp to ffff, and it was simply brilliant. The audience was enthralled, and there was never a moment when the sound was too much. And for a final test, with amplification during Hanneke Kassel’s Celtic fiddle fest, we learned that subtly amplified jazz, pop, or folk and world shows can be successfully performed in the new hall with style! As this July and August feature concerts by Paula Cole, Paquito d’Rivera and others, this was good news, indeed.
Am I correct that there will be 100 more seats per performance than at the Rockport Arts Center? Does that mean the entire season will no longer be sold out by subscription?
Not quite. In our old venue, we had 248 seats; now we have 330. We have never sold the entire season out by subscription. While we’d love to be in such a good position, I think it will be a few years before that will be the case. …
I see that a lot of your old and new friends are performing this season. Is the programming celebratory?
Yes, Many friends are back, but many artists are new this season, too. Midori, Alpin Hong, Cantus, Boston Brass, all of the “Rockport Presents” artists, to name just a few. And yes, all of this year is celebratory.
How many of your listeners come from places other than Rockport?
Oh, many, many. I can’t recall the exact demographics of years past, but it’s roughly 40% North Shore, 30% greater Boston, 30% around the US, something along those lines. People often plan vacations around our schedule and stay at inns in the area for a weekend.
Why was Rockport originally chosen for the festival locale? Tell us about the founder and your arrival on the scene.
In 1981, Two New York City musicians, composer David Alpher and soprano Lila Deis (who just died last year) were vacationing with their spouses in Rockport and said, “Wouldn’t this be a great location for a summer music festival?!” The innkeeper of the B&B where they were staying introduced them to a local businessman, Paul Sylva, and they decided to make a go of it the following summer. In 1982 they began a series at the Rockport Art Association. The Festival began with two weekends of four concerts each weekend, and quickly grew to four weekends of four concerts each weekend, which is the schedule that remained for many years. David Alpher left in 1990 to pursue other things, and Lila left in 1995. After a national search, the Board invited me to become Artistic Director in 1995, and I’ve served happily since then. The growth of the Festival in terms of national recognition, commissions, audience, and donor base has been such that in 2006 we began the campaign to build the Shalin Liu Performance Center.
How will the Shin Liu Center be used after the Summer Festival is over?
The Center has secured the rights to broadcast the Metropolitan Opera Simulcasts throughout the season, with 11 Saturday matinees and 11 Sunday re-broadcasts. We’ll also be presenting the English National Theater broadcasts and various films about music. We’ll have a number of concerts through the season, including the pianist Peter Serkin in recital on September 24, the Boston Chamber Music Society on November 20, and violinist Christian Tetzlaff on April 30, 2011. There are a number of educational and school events planned throughout the year as well.