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Music festival will celebrate American Originals and European Masterpieces

Ballet dancers will move to the American rhythms of Appalachia during two Lakes Area Music Festival concerts Saturday, August 11 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, August 12 at 2 p.m.

The following Wednesday, August 15, at 7 p.m. the Festival will present European masterworks for small groups of musicians, including Antonin Dvorak's "Serenade for Winds." All of the concerts will be at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd and are free of charge.

Saturday's and Sunday's Concerts

Aaron Copeland's "Appalachian Spring" tells the story of a young couple about to be married, an overzealous preacher, and an old pioneer woman overseeing the events from the perspective of age and wisdom. Members of the St. Paul Ballet will perform on stage in front of a full orchestra.

According to Zoe Emilie Henrot, the ballet company's artistic director, "Appalachian Spring is celebrated because its music, dance, visuals and inspiration were each truly 'American.' In 1944 Martha Graham and Copeland collaborated to portray the pioneer history of America—not your typical ballet topic."

Copeland's "Old American Songs: Book 1" are also on the program. John Taylor Ward, the Festival's associate artistic director, will perform them along with the orchestra.

Samuel Barber's haunting "Violin Concerto" rounds out the program. Suliman Tekalli, who will play the violin solo, says the concerto "is a work that resonates with performers and audiences alike because of its soaring lines for the solo violin, the rich orchestral textures, and its quintessentially romantic spirit." Tekalli has won several music competitions and has performed throughout the U.S., Canada, Central America, Europe and Asia.

The conductor for the concerts will be Christian Reif, who is currently resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and music director of that symphony's youth orchestra.

One-half hour before each performance Scott Lykins, the Festival's executive and artistic director, will give a pre-concert lecture about the music to be performed.

Wednesday's Concert

In 1878, Antonin Dvorak attended a Vienna Philharmonic concert that included a Mozart serenade for winds and double bass. Inspired, Dvorak decided to write a wind serenade of his own, which he composed over the course of two weeks. The piece is scored for two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, three horns, cello and bass.

Dominic Rotella, one of the Festival's horn players, said, "Performing Dvorak's serenade feels almost like being in a tiny orchestra playing a miniature symphony. I love that the entire piece is imbued with the spirit of Czech folk music."

Johann Sebastian Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3" is also on the program. Bach composed the Brandenburg concertos as a job application, hoping to secure a position with the Margrave of Brandenburg. The job never materialized, and the concertos remained undiscovered until 1849. They are now among the favorites of Bach's compositions.

Felix Mendelssohn's "String Octet" will conclude the program. According to Emily Hogstad's program notes, the octet "is likely the closest thing classical music has to a miracle. Mendelssohn was only 16 when he wrote it as a gift to his violin teacher. His later works may have equaled its brilliance, but none ever exceeded it."

Hogstad continues: "All of the works on this program are unique, but they share one important element in common: the inspiring technique of their composers. From the brilliance found in Bach's long-neglected concertos, to Dvorak's strikingly original homage to Mozart, to Mendelssohn's youthful exuberant masterpiece, this concert is a celebration of composers' craftsmanship—and the joy it brings to listeners."

Lykins will again give a pre-concert lecture one-half hour before the performance at 6:30 p.m.

The Lakes Area Music Festival, an annual summer series attracting many leading instrumental and vocal performers, takes place August 4-26. All performances are at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd and are free of charge. More than 150 professional musicians from around the world will be in the Brainerd Lakes area as guest artists. For more information visit