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Monadnock Music Takes a Village to Make a Festival


Four founders and long-standing leaders of New England music organizations have been replaced by new faces within  the past year or so. Three legends — Craig Smith, founder of Emmanuel Music, Charles Ansbacher, founder of Boston Landmarks Orchestra, and Mark P. Malkovich, III, founder of the Newport Music Festival, all died recently. The fourth legend, James Bolle, who founded Monadnock Music in 1966, simply decided to retire a couple of seasons ago.

The big question for organizations such as these is what direction they will take under new leadership and what loyalties will remain. Does new leadership for each mean a change either in the mission or the support?

Bolle’s legacy is a highly regarded southern New Hampshire cultural institution;  Peter Van Zandt Lane, one of Boston Musical Intelligencer’s reviewers, wrote in 2009, “Monadnock Music is at the top of the music festivals in the Northeast.”

Yet for Monadnock Music, any transition is difficult, acknowledged William Chapman, who began his duties as executive director almost two months ago. “Even with James Bolle’s support, it is delicate.” However, he added, “We have a new board president, Michael Petrovic, an avid music lover who is based in Francestown [and new co-Artistic Directors, flautist, Laura Gilbert and violist, Jonathan Bagg].”

Chapman himself has a long association with the community. He and his partner bought a second home in Peterborough in July, 1985, and went to their first Monadnock concert that August.

“We would have gone in July,” Chapman added, “if we hadn’t gone immediately to Europe on vacation.”

His familiarity is an asset, according to Boston attorney Ernest Klein, a supporter of many years of Monadnock Music who has a home in the area.

“Will Chapman is just the man for the job,” he noted, “because he is familiar with what it is like to live in New Hampshire year-round. And he is efficient, knowledgeable, and a good guy.”

“Community,” specifically, the several communities in the Mount Monadnock area, is one of the big strengths of Monadnock Music.  The popular site for summer homes for many Boston and Cambridge families for over a century provided a built-in audience for classical music; but there is a second “community” peculiar to Monadnock Music, one that has been important from its genesis.

Many free concerts are still offered through the summer in the region’s picturesque town centers — at Walpole Unitarian Church, Harrisville Community Church, Wilton Center Community Church, Hancock Community Church, Francestown Old Meeting House, Deering Community Church, Milford Town Hall, Ahavas Achim Synagogue in Keene, Washington Congregational Church, and Franklin Pierce University in Rindge. In fact, village concerts were the genesis of Monadnock Music.

This appealing list of venues for those who wish to explore old New England villages is an added bonus to the concerts for those who drive up from the Boston area, but it has the very appealing primary value of attracting each village’s residents.

Chapman notes of any concert, “Half the village is there. When I first started coming up, I’d see the volunteer fireman, people working at the recycling center…”  Sometimes the locals go to concerts in other towns, but at the same time, “they are very loyal to their towns, there’s a lot of local cultural pride.”

The goal still is, he emphasized, to make music accessible to everyone in a rural area, and to do that “without falling back on safe and defensive programs.”

This season’s offerings bear that out.  A number of regular performers are returning, as they have for several years: Tawnya Popoff , Curtis Macomber, Jesse Mills and Rieko Aizawa, Ilana Davidson, Gabriela Diaz, Eric Pritchard, Rafael Popper-Keizer, Randall Hodgkinson, Stacey Shames, Krista River, Curtis Macomber, Adela Pena,  Greg Hesselink, Dan Lippel.

Bolle, as a conductor, often had an full orchestra— missing in this year’s lineup. But Chapman says the possibility of guest orchestral conductors will be brought up at the retreat scheduled for the board and staff at the end of the season.

There will be a chamber ensemble conducted by Hugh Keelan on August 6 for Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, arranged by Keelan, with soprano Jenna Rae and tenor James Anderson.

The concerts are as varied and full of contemporary composers’ works as they were in former years. Melinda Wagner is composer-in-residence for the summer; her Four Settings for soprano and ensemble will be heard in a program of “Emily Dickinson’s poetry in music and dance,” on July 23 at Peterborough.

On the following weekend, July 30-31, “Vox Americana” presents music of William Billings, Robert Beaser, and Dvorák, then Amy Beach, Aaron Copland, Gordon Getty, and Marion Bauer, in “Emily and New England.”

Other composers, many contemporary, whose works will be heard in various programs include Charles Koechlin and John Tavener, Amy Beach and Max Reger, Kaija Saariaho and Toru Takemitsu, André Previn and Eric Moe, Pierre Jalbert, Andrew Earle Simpson, Dahl, Schnittke, William Grant Still, Alberto Ginastera and Yu-Hui Chang, Bryan Christian, Daniel Brewbaker, and Thomas Àdes.

Ticketed concerts are held most commonly at the Peterboro Town House and the Jaffrey Center Meetinghouse.

The season opens on July 7 with the Choir of St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge, in English Renaissance music at Jaffrey Center, where Nicholas Kitchen will play Bach on July 10 and the Chiara Quartet, “Chamber Masterpieces” on July 24. The full Borromeo String Quartet, a favorite of many Boston concert-goers, is giving several concerts, on July 13, 15, and 16 in Hancock, Francestown, and Peterborough.

One concert theme is Emily Dickinson, another, Americana. Quite a selection. Quite a testament to the Bolle’s legacy for Monadnock Music. Truth be told, it is difficult to single out attractive programs. Readers are advised to check it out in BMInt’s “Upcoming Events” or by going to Mondanock Music’s website.

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  1. The Monadnock Music Festival was indeed a mecca for musicians, composers and listeners.  I am afraid all of that is ruined now.  Without once asking for their input, or even requesting that they make certain adjustments, William Chapman went ahead and fired Monadnock’s two wonderful Artistic Directors, ostensibly because they are not “local”.  This move was made with a complete lack of respect for two highly regarded musicians who have for years worked hard to bring the finest music-making to the Monadnock Region.  Please be aware: no professional musician was consulted concerning this complete “reconfiguration”—of a music festival!

    Comment by Melinda Wagner — October 31, 2011 at 2:33 pm

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