For those who love Baroque and classical music, Festival Williamsburg showcases some of the premiere performers of these genres. In keeping with the magnificent setting, the Festival emphasizes music from the 1600s, when Jamestown and Williamsburg were first settled by English adventurers, though the 1700s, as Williamsburg took its place as a hub of the American Revolution.
The Festival opens with the hauntingly beautiful, flawlessly blended voices of the acclaimed a cappella male vocal ensemble Cantus who fill the historic Bruton Parish Church on Thursday, May 21st at 7:30 pm. This evening of “genuinely glorious music-making” (Gramophone Magazine) takes on even more significance as it falls within the 300th Anniversary celebration of the elegant Bruton Parish Church, whose rich history includes such worshipers as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
Join gifted pianist André-Michel Schub and the Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players for a “Coffee Concert” at the Williamsburg Winery on Thursday, May 21st at 10:30 am. Beloved by previous Festival audiences, the “Coffee Concerts” are presented in small, intimate spaces—allowing the audience to savor every note, and witness the interactions of the artists with each other and with the music. After the performance, patrons can mingle with the performers, a lovely postscript to a perfect musical experience.
Friday, May 22nd at 10:30 am the Festival’s second “Coffee Concert” at the Williamsburg Winery features the Quicksilver Ensemble, a group “revered like rock stars within the early music scene” (The New York Times). Hailed by critics and early music fans alike, this highly acclaimed and much adored ensemble displays an astonishing mastery of Baroque music, demonstrating a keen understanding of its history and place as well as stunning musicianship.
In a delightful addition to the Baroque and classical theme of this year’s Festival Williamsburg, “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin" (The New York Times) fiddler Eileen Ivers performs at the Williamsburg Lodge on Friday, May 22nd at 8:00 pm. The devilishly deft Ivers is a sought-after collaborator with performers ranging from the London Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops to Sting and Patti Smith. Tens of thousands have witnessed her genius first hand at concerts around the world, and millions more have heard her fiery fiddle lift the soundtracks of movies like Gangs of New York and the animated Quest for Camelot.
The Festival welcomes The Handel and Haydn Society to the Williamsburg Lodge on Saturday, May 23rd at 8:00 pm. This performance by “H + H” – as it’s known to its innumerable fans and friends—coincides with the orchestra’s bicentennial celebration, marking it as the oldest continually performing musical institution in the United States. Performing on period instruments, this venerable orchestra offers music lovers the opportunity to hear the music of Bach, Vivaldi and other composers as it was performed centuries ago.
Festival Williamsburg comes to a spectacular conclusion on Sunday, May 24th at 7:00 pm at the Williamsburg Lodge with one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the season: an evening with early music superstar Nicholas McGegan. Entering his fourth decade on the podium, McGegan is hailed as "one of the finest baroque conductors of his generation" (London Independent). Music lovers travel from afar to hear this acclaimed artist’s interpretations of Baroque and other early music. Mr. McGegan will lead the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in two of George Frederic Handel's most popular works: the grand and jubilant Music for the Royal Fireworks; and the classic with one of the most familiar and elegant openings in all of orchestral music, Water Music. In addition, soprano Amanda Forsythe will sing arias from Handel operas including Giulio Cesare, Orlando, and Teseo. A favorite among early music lovers, Forsythe’s “international operatic career is soaring for good reason, reigned supreme. With her uncanny pitch control and apparently effortless, pure, and subtle vocal artistry, she cast a spell on the hall every time she rose to sing” (Boston Globe).
Tickets for Festival Williamsburg performances may be purchased beginning February 17, online at www.vafest.org, by phone at 757-282-2822, or in person at the Festival Box Office at 440 Bank St., Norfolk or at the City of Williamsburg Municipal Building at 401 Lafayette Street, Williamsburg. Groups of 15 or more may save on many performances; call 757-282-2819.