Article posted Thursday, July 2, 2009 3:31pm

Culture Club – Peninsula Arts and Humanities Alliance

By Kathleen M. Pearson, Executive Director, Midsummer’s Music Festival

Making a joyful noise. Those are the words I use to describe Midsummer’s Music Festival’s events. From the moment our audience members arrive, they are smiling. They are happy, excited, and joyful. For those who have attended a concert before, they know they are going to be treated to a very special evening. Beautiful music is assured and the intimate surroundings of the venue make it an event to remember.

For those who have not previously attended a concert, smiles abound as they arrive. Perhaps a bit nervous because they don’t know what to expect, but they find themselves in happy company. Once they step out during intermission their grins are accompanied by the statement, “This is wonderful! We can’t wait for the second half!”

So what is it that makes everyone smile? Why are they joyful?

“I love sitting in the front. I could actually read the pianist’s music!” exclaims one excited audience member a couple of weeks ago. Another enthusiastically reports, “I could have reached out and touched David Perry’s bow!” Still another, “I had no idea chamber music was so exciting!”

We often say that Midsummer’s Music is not for the faint of heart. Many people tend to think of chamber music as stuffy; thinking of musicians in old photographs wearing powdered wigs. And perhaps that accounts for the slight nervousness of newcomers. They could be wondering if this is going to turn out to be extremely dull, but their smiles at intermission reveal all. These events are anything but dull and stuffy. From art galleries to churches, educational retreats to private homes, each venue has a completely different atmosphere, which in itself contributes greatly to the overall experience. But the real magic, the joy, is expressed by the frequent comment, “We are so fortunate to have this outstanding talent here in Door County.”

Talent abounds within Midsummer’s Music. From the likes of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pro Arte Quartet, and Aspen Music Festival (to name just a few), the talent is unsurpassed. Our musicians love performing with Midsummer’s Music. It is evident on their faces as they perform; their joy shines through each and every note, and beyond. As I watch and listen to our musicians, I find myself in awe each and every night. It doesn’t matter if I’ve heard the program before; there is always something new and different with each performance.

Smiles abound in the audience as their attention is focused on the likes of violinist David Perry who is second to none; violist Sally Chisholm whose face just radiates joy (along with her talent); and Walter Preucil who has masterfully played cello with us since the very first season. Of course, there are the brilliant sounds of the winds. Jean Berkenstock’s flute sounds magical – the audience can’t help but keep their eyes on her when she plays. John Fairfield plays French horn with a perfect touch, adding a contrast to the ensemble. And let’s not forget the phenomenal style of pianist Bill Billingham, whose energy flows through the entire ensemble. There are many other musicians in our ensemble who return each year for the pleasure of performing with Midsummer’s Music.

But the talent doesn’t stop there. A great part of the magic begins many months before the first note is played. Jim Berkenstock, co-founder and Artistic Director, researches compositions and composers throughout the year. Of course, there are the great masters such as Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven whose names and works are more widely known. But it’s through Jim’s extensive research that unknown composers are given new life. In fact, earlier this summer we featured a composition by Mel Bonis. The audience was surprised to learn that Mel was actually Mélanie, who, in Jim’s words, “Her life story would make an excellent PBS documentary.” This wonderful composition was light, yet animated, and very well received by the audience. Thankfully, Mélanie made a joyful noise for us to share.

Talent comes in all shapes and forms. A huge part of making a joyful noise comes from the many volunteers who do everything from helping in the office to putting up road signs, from making wonderful treats for post-concert receptions to setting up concert-ready venues. Midsummer’s Music could not function without these wonderful people. Not to mention how fortunate we are to have a very active board of directors. They all deserve a standing ovation!

Next summer will be our 20th season of making a joyful noise. There will be a lot to celebrate from start to finish. Jim Berkenstock will again create wonderful programs for everyone to enjoy. Our ensemble will return, happy to share in the celebration of which they have been so much a part of. Our volunteers are already hard at work planning for next summer so Midsummer’s Music can offer another outstanding season of unforgettable musical experiences. Joyful, positive, and energetic experiences.

Oh, and smiles. Lots and lots of smiles.

Making a joyful noise, indeed!