A Summer Evening at Birch Creek

A Summer Evening was the theme of the  July 8 symphony concert at the Birch Creek Music Performance Center, and a beautiful summer evening it was both in the historic barn that serves as a hall, and across the Northern Door countryside. Young musicians who have auditioned to be a part of the summer music academy performed side by side with their instructors, the concert a culmination of sectional and chamber music instruction and orchestral rehearsals.

Those of us in the audience who are teachers by career, or by inclination, delight in this learning model that pushes talented students to rise to a professional level of performance. These concerts allow young people to stretch their ability, as they play better when in an ensemble with established musicians.

The rustic barn at Birch Creek, with earnest young orchestral performers that astonish both members of the community and parents in the audience, becomes more than a concert hall; it becomes a world of possibilities.

Birch Creek features three summer sessions:  Percussion and Steel Band, Symphony, and Big Band Jazz. Over 60 students from throughout the Midwest are attending the two-week Symphony session, receiving instruction from 19 faculty, in addition to their teaching assistants, and are given the opportunity to perform in eight concerts at Birch Creek, along with chamber music ensembles before each concert and during intermissions.

The Summer Evening program (repeated on Saturday, July 9) began with the 1890 tone poem “Summer Evening” by English composer Frederick Delius. The lovely evocative lyricism of that orchestral piece established the mood for two of the following program selections.

Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov’s 1894 “Caucasian Sketches” allowed the orchestra to evoke the wonders of a region that charmed the Russian composer. The four movements (In a Mountain Pass, In a Village, In a Mosque, and Procession of the Sardar) each conjured the impressions of a place. Especially enjoyable was the last movement, one that is frequently performed at pops concerts.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the thematically appropriate “Summer” concerto from Vivaldi’s 1723 work The Four Seasons. Faculty member violinist Betty Lewis, who performs and teaches in the Chicago area, was featured soloist with this string chamber ensemble. The familiar strains of the piece, which attempt to evoke the languor brought on by summer heat, were especially delightful as the listening audience enjoyed a temperate Door County evening.

The concluding 1843 Overture to The Flying Dutchman opera by Richard Wagner was equally evocative but took the audience away from the delights of pastoral summers to the bombast of the open sea, picturesque sea-faring music summoning the sensory impressions of a ghost ship.

The Symphony concert series concludes July 16, with the Big Band Jazz programs presented from July 20 through August 13. For information and tickets visit or call 920.868.3763.

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