First-time visitors to the village of Mendocino are always awed to discover that the entire landscape of the town looks like a watercolor painting come to life, with garden paths meandering among cozy shops, waves carving fantastic shapes into the cliffs, and the Cypress trees posing dramatically against the skyline like enormous bonsai. Even the picket fences manage to sink gracefully to the earth, crowned with wild roses and with a backdrop of old water towers.
Every summer in the middle of July the Mendocino Music Festival settles into this spectacular backdrop with the perfection of a rare jewel carefully placed in the perfect setting. Blending into the crash of waves and songs of birds are the haunting strains of horns and flutes warming up and the soul-stirring sounds of the greatest music on earth, pouring from the fully-professional symphony orchestra, performing at the edge of the world.
This summer’s classical schedule is especially exciting, featuring Livia Sohn performing the Barber Violin Concerto and John Novacek playing the magnificent Second Piano Concerto of Brahms. (Festival Orchestra rehearsals are open to the public.) The Festival Chorus will sing John Rutter’s Magnificat, and the opera will be Cimarosa’s witty Il Matrimonio Segreto. Music of Leonard Bernstein will celebrate the centennial of his birth, including the dances from West Side Story and songs are sung by Shawnette Sulker, including “Glitter and be Gay”. Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, the Enigma Variations of Elgar, and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan-Williams are other highlights of the season.
World-class chamber musicians from the Spoleto Festival and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will give their own concerts, in addition to the renowned Calder Quartet and the New Esterhazy Quartet, which performs Haydn on original instruments. The music of Chopin will be the focus of Susan Waterfall’s multimedia lecture and of the piano recitals played by Spencer Myer and John Novacek.
Other types of music will include contemporary a cappella group Business Casual, the Celtic step and tap dancers StepCrew, and for Cajun fans, the Pine Leaf Boys. The Big Band concert will feature three great singers, Kim Nalley, Kenny Washington, and Zoe Ellis, who are good friends too. Americana groups include Barefoot Movement and Dustbowl Revival. Singer-songwriter Eric Bibb presents his unique style of acoustic blues, and jazz singer Clairdee returns with her powerful renditions of the American Songbook. For locals, the Festival provides a rare opportunity to hear these wonderful groups in your own backyard without the higher ticket prices or travel requirements of going to the city. Visitors are always delighted to discover the Mendocino Music Festival, and many have made it a yearly treat.
For tickets and info, (707) 937-4044 or www.MendocinoMusic.org. Check out our parties too: The stunning Sostenuto on July 6 and the gracious Ledford House Dinner on July 16.