Friday, January 28, 2022

Penn’s Woods Musical Festival returns after a pandemic-delayed year

By JASON L. LEVAN

The Penn’s Woods Music Festival returns in August to the Penn State University campus after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The music festival offers chamber music and orchestral performances by dozens of professional musicians from across the country performing alongside Penn State School of Music faculty and alumni. The festival seeks to inspire a passion for classical music through innovative concert programming, educational activities, and informal events.

Normally held in June, this year’s concerts will be during the first two weeks of August.

Gerardo Edelstein, director of orchestral studies at Penn State, will conduct the performances, as he has done since arriving on campus in 2000. He said he is eager to return to in-person music.

Gerardo Edelstein

“It’s exciting. We are desperate to go back to in-person concerts,” Edelstein said. “For the arts scene in general, it’s been a very difficult one-and-a-half years.”

Edelstein said PWMF, born in 1986 and scaled back after six years off in 2008, is important to the community because it is the only fully professional music festival in the region.

“We are very proud of that,” he said. “It’s a very unique experience. It’s been like a gem for State College.”

He said State College has a thriving arts scene, both on and off campus: “State College is a small town. It’s amazing the number of things going on, considering the size of the town.”

The return of the concert series – with two orchestral, two chamber music and a jazz performance – takes on added import this year, Edelstein said, because the annual arts festival has again been shelved because of the pandemic.

The public has been very supportive of PWMF, Edelstein stressed, because State College is a community that loves music and the arts in general. The music festival, with a community advisory board of musicians and community members, is supported chiefly by contributions from patrons.

A native of Argentina, Edelstein has conducted symphony orchestras, choirs and ballet and opera productions in Europe, Asia, South America, and the United States. He is also currently music director of the Philharmonic and Chamber Orchestras, and artistic director of the Penn’s Woods Music Festival. In addition, this year marks his 12th season as conductor of the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra.

Edelstein said that about 40 professional musicians will be involved this year, a smaller group than the 50 to 60 who usually participate, owing to the last remaining COVID restrictions on the Penn State campus. The limitations have also presented some challenges for the wind and brass musicians in particular, who must blow into their instruments, requiring more social distancing, he said.

“We are excited to return to close to normal,” he said.

Russell Bloom, assistant director for outreach and operations in the Penn State School of Music who has been the director of PWMF since 1989, said between 200 and 350 people have attended the orchestra and chamber concerts in past years, while more than 2,500 attended the Music in the Gardens performance in 2019. 

This year’s schedule of performances follows:

August 4: A Latin American Mosaic. Arrangements by the Herrera-Register Duo-Camerata Amistad Quintet for Winds. “Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49” (Felix Mendelssohn). Performance in the music building recital hall.

August 6: Jazz by Rick Hirsch and Friends. Olsan Stone Terrace/music building recital hall.

August 7: Chamber Orchestra performing “Serenade for Strings, Op. 20” (Edward Elgar); “Pastorele d’ete, H. 31” (Arthur Honegger); “Serenade for Wind Instruments, Op. 44” (Antonín Dvořák). Music building recital hall.

August 11: Chamber music – “La Valse” (Maurice Ravel); “Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano” (André Previn); “Quintet, K581 in A Major” (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). Olsan Stone Terrace/music building recital hall

August 14 (no rain date): Music in the Gardens: Chamber Orchestra – two symphonies, “Op. 11” (Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges); “Oboe Concerto in A minor, RV 463” (Antonio Vivaldi); “From Water Music Suite” (George Frederic Handel, arrangement: Wihelm Pfannkuch); “Symphony No. 27 in G major, K.199/161b,” (Mozart). The Arboretum at Penn State. Admission to this performance is free.

General admission tickets for the concerts on August 4, 6 and 7 are $25 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets for the August 11 concert are $35 and $10. Music in the Gardens on August 14 is free. Online ticket sales have already begun, and tickets will be on sale at the Eisenhower Auditorium box office August 2-6 and 9-11 from noon to 4 p.m. The box office opens at 6 p.m. before each concert, and all concerts begin at 7 p.m.

Ticketed concerts will also be livestreamed.

For more information: pwmf.psu.edu