Kennebec Early Music Festival celebrates early instruments

Chamber concert series Aug. 15-20
Posted:  Friday, August 11, 2017 - 7:15am

The Kennebec Early Music Festival will take place from Aug. 15 to Aug. 20 at Grace Episcopal Church at 1100 Washington Street in Bath, and the Linden Tree Meetinghouse at 10 Church Lane in Phippsburg.

There will be three concerts: On Aug. 15 at the church, and Aug. 16 at the meetinghouse, the program is Bach Unaccompanied. On Aug. 17 at the church and Aug.  18 at the meetinghouse, the program is “What Then is Love but Mourning,” Music in the Time of Shakespeare. The last concert will be on Aug. 19 at the meetinghouse and Aug. 20 at the church. It is called The Sound of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven & Schubert. All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. except the Sunday afternoon, Aug. 20, which will begin at 3 p.m. There will be a pre-concert discussion 45 minutes before each performance.

The couple who founded the new festival are its artistic director George Bozarth, and Tamara Friedman, who plays one of two 18th century fortepianos.`

The fortepiano is the instrument on which Mozart, Haydn and the young Beethoven among others wrote their piano music. The instrument has a light touch, and plays like a harp with tiny hammers.

Bozarth and Friedman have several homes that house their ancient instrument collection. They have a home on Middle Street in Bath and homes in the Seattle area, where Bozarth is a professor of music history. He is an internationally recognized Brahms scholar. He will be on sabbatical until the end of September, which will give him the time he needs to launch the festival.

“We’re happy to bring so many dear, talented friends to Bath and Phippsburg to participate in our festival,” Bozarth said. He said they had known most of the musicians for decades, and had played with them all over the world.

Some of them live in Bath, including harpsichordist Linda Skernick.

“There are a lot of reasons why this is an excellent location for a new music festival of this kind,” Friedman said. “One is the number of highly talented people in the area. “Timothy Burris, who is playing the lute during the Shakespeare music concert, runs an early music festival in Portland.”

The other reason is the sheer number of period instruments in the region. The new festival will focus on period music played on period instruments by musicians who have made this their life’s work. The instruments themselves are works of art, sometimes quirky and complicated to play, but always beautiful and evocative of the past.

Other instruments include the 1660 Guarneri violin, played by Elizabeth Blumenstock, the violoncello, played by Sarah Frieberg, the harpsichord, played by Linda Skernick, and Friedman and her fortepiano. And that’s just the Bach concert.

The Renaissance concert, which follows, is for lute (Timothy Burris) and voice. The classical concert, including works of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert, includes soprano voice (Elizabeth Marshall) as well as Blumenstock, Frieberg, and Friedman, playing on a different fortepiano, a Viennese instrument.

There has never been a festival like this before in the Midcoast. Instruments like these have never been played regularly here. Hearing a familiar piece of music as the composer would have heard it and played it will be a unique experience, and hopefully, one that will be repeated in years to come.

Tickets range from $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, $10 for those aged 16-25, and anyone younger than 16 is welcomed for free.