Would your choice be chocolate or vanilla? The color red or blue? Apples or oranges? Bluegrass or Bach? Bluegrass or what? Bach.
As in Johann Sebastian Bach – a German musician and composer who was 47 years old when our future president George Washington was born in Virginia. In his estate at Mt. Vernon, music scores composed by Bach’s son are found among the music Washington’s granddaughter played for him on the harpsichord.
So, what does that have to do with Bluegrass?
At the same time classical music was being brought over from Germany, people migrating to America from Ireland, Scotland and England brought their style of folk music that is considered the beginnings of what we now call bluegrass. They created songs that reflected the joys and hardships of their daily lives.
Bill Monroe, the father of Bluegrass, said “I was determined to carve out a music of my own. I didn’t want to copy anybody”. Bach, though, copied out by hand music of many composers to help him create a music of his own. His thinking was “all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time, and the instrument will play itself.” Bill Monroe and Bach both were creative geniuses with large followings of fans, highly admired for the originality and ability to improvise and inspire.
Having to choose between Bluegrass and Bach will not be a problem in Floyd during the weekend of May 19 – 21. “Classical Music in the Mountains” will focus on Bach to Bluegrass, featuring Bach’s popular Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and a new work by composer Jeff Midkiff, whose music is strongly influenced by Bluegrass.
Virginia’s Blue Ridge Music Festival will present four events to celebrate a weekend of Bach and Bluegrass. Beginning Friday, May 19 you can hear a free concert outside Hotel Floyd beginning at 6:00 p.m. in the evening. Saturday morning at the Floyd Community Market on Locust Street, you have another chance to hear a free string ensemble performance beginning at 10:00 a.m. On Saturday afternoon renowned mandolinist, composer and educator Jeff Midkiff will present a Bluegrass Improvisation Master Class for musicians and non-musicians of all ages. The class, at 3:00 p.m. at the June Bug Center, has an admission fee of $15 for adults and $5 for students.
A concert, “Bach to Bluegrass”, will be presented on Sunday afternoon, May 21 at 3:00 p.m. The concert, at Celebration Hall at the Floyd EcoVillage, will feature Jeff Midkiff performing his Mandolin Quintet “Gypsy” which is scored for mandolin and string ensemble. Carpe Diem, one of the most unique and sought-after chamber ensembles on the concert stage today, commissioned Mr. Midkiff to write this new work for an appealing yet unusual combination of instruments. The new work pulls on folk and Gypsy style (Romani) themes to create a work sure to engage and delight.
A mandolinist and fiddler raised on bluegrass and a professional clarinetist, Jeff Midkiff is an outstanding musician who feels comfortable in more than one setting—musically and personally. “I feel at home in the Blue Ridge Mountains playing fiddle tunes,” Jeff Midkiff says, “but then again, I feel at home in a professional orchestra as well.”
The Sunday afternoon concert will also feature Roanoke Symphony Orchestra Music Director and keyboardist David Stewart Wiley performing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Number 5. This concerto scored for flute, violin and keyboard, features a dramatic cadenza for solo keyboard. Dilshad Posnock, flutist and Jason Posnock, violin will join Maestro Wiley in this performance.
The concert will also include Jeremy Kittel’s “The Boxing Reel” for violin and mandolin performed by students Aila and Eli Wildman, and Ernst Dohnanyi’s Quintet in C minor. Adult tickets for the concert are $25 in advance and $28 at the door. Student tickets are $5. Tickets are available at www.VBRMF.org (‘CONCERTS’) or by cash or check at the Floyd Visitor Center at 109 E. Main Street, Floyd, VA. Questions may be directed to [email protected]
So – Bluegrass or Bach? No need to choose! Join Virginia’s Blue Ridge Music Festival for this exciting weekend of music!
-Submitted by Sara Dalton