This May we welcome you to the inaugural Sugarmill Music Festival! The weekend of Friday, May 13 through Sunday, May 15, the historic Rosalie Sugarmill just south of Alexandria will come alive as twenty-two of Louisiana’s finest musicians present seven exquisite concerts of chamber music at this incredible venue. This first-ever event is made possible by CreativeSurge Louisiana—a new local nonprofit committed to cultural excellence in central Louisiana—and community partners including the John W. and Bertie M. Deming Foundation, the Rosalie Sugarmill Foundation, Rosalie Pecans, Inc., The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, and Sylvan Learning Center of Central Louisiana as well as numerous individual donors. The rustic environs of the Sugarmill, “where roosters crow and pecan trees awaken green each spring,” will make a wonderful venue for this three-day presentation of chamber music here in central Louisiana.
Planning for the Sugarmill Music Festival began a short three months ago in January when my father, Tom, and I met with cellist Paul Christopher to discuss the possibility of staging a music festival. We did not yet have either a venue or a name, but the three of us were inspired by our success with Abendmusik Alexandria as well as recent trips to two world-renowned summer music festivals—the Aspen Music Festival and the BachFest Leipzig. We knew, however, that our local series would end when I left for graduate school in August. Over two seasons of Abendmusik, we had hosted a total of fifteen chamber music concerts, reawakening love for this artform within our community. This series, which I directed and Paul curated on behalf of the Arts Council of Central Louisiana, had, furthermore, provided opportunities for musicians throughout the state, in different cities and at different institutions, to collaborate. This interest in collaboration, we noticed, extended back to concerts at their own institutions as well. In short it brought musicians throughout the state into a closer-knit community than ever before. The Arts Council had no plans for continuing the series after my departure, so the three of us and quickly additional allies made plans to continue these endeavors on our own—through the establishment of the nonprofit, CreativeSurge.
One of our new allies was Dr. Stephen Norman, owner of Rosalie, who agreed to host the new festival at his property’s Sugarmill. This structure, made of brick and wood, is one of the few surviving antebellum sugarhouses in the country. Sarah Mason, a local historian and preservationist, also volunteered to lead an architectural tour of the Rosalie Sugarmill on the Saturday of the festival. Proceeds of the festival, we agreed, would go toward the restoration of the Sugarmill which Stephen sees, not as a monument to some flawed notion of the Old South, but as a vital testament to the African-American slaves who built the mill, worked this land, and suffered such hardships here two centuries ago. Furthermore, Rosalie, which a generation ago would often host Maestro William Kushner and musicians of the Rapides Symphony Orchestra for casual evenings of chamber music, would again become a place to hear extraordinary classical music in friendly surroundings.
Our first Sugarmill Music Festival next month includes seven concerts and four scholarly activities. Friday musicians will include the Dýchanie Duo of flutist Dennette McDermott and bassoonist Douglas Bakenhus playing Baroque and Classical-era music on historic instruments; and classical guitarist John De Chiaro, who will play my Suite for Solo Guitar, Op. 21 one final time among a diverse program titled “A Musical Journey.” On Saturday, eleven-year old pianist Nio Ajero, who was recently awarded a National Gold Medal from The Royal Conservatory, will wow audiences with a recital of classics, including music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, and Claude Debussy. The Young Artists Chamber Orchestra, the talented student ensemble led by John De Chiaro which has graced Abendmusik with several performances, will play next. Then in the evening Maestro Kermit Poling and his West Edge String Quartet will give our feature concert including the American Quartet by Antonín Dvořák, Four Bagatelles by Alan Hovhaness, and Poling’s own Within the Orb of Glories Wearing. Sunday afternoon our festival will conclude with concerts by Quatuor de Trombones de Louisiane and our house ensemble, the Rosalie Piano Trio, who reprise the amazing program which launched our second season of Abendmusik, “Meeting of the Minds.” Scholarly presentations throughout the day Saturday include Sarah Mason’s architectural tour; a masterclass with RSO concertmaster Lin He and co-principal cellist Paul Christopher; and the panel discussions, “Classical Music in the Twenty-First Century” and “Composing Today.”
I hope you will join us for this weekend-long celebration of chamber music in central Louisiana! As lead festival scholar, I am busily preparing program notes for all seven concerts and will also post two interviews with Louisiana composers, Kermit Poling and Samuel Stokes, whose music is featured at our festival. Then, in August, look out for the new series Nachtmusik von BrainSurge, the successor to Abendmusik Alexandria, which will hold monthly concerts at the new BrainSurge center on Texas Avenue. As I depart for graduate school at the University of Louisville, I look forward to remaining active in the central Louisiana music community through the Sugarmill Music Festival and Nachtmusik series.
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a music scholar, composer, and advocate of music. Jackson graduated summa cum laude from the Louisiana Scholars’ College located in Natchitoches, Louisiana in May 2013 after completing his undergraduate thesis “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” As series director of the successful Abendmusik Alexandria chamber music series from May 2014 to April 2016, Jackson played a vital role in the renewal of interest in chamber music across central Louisiana. This interest has encouraged the creation of the annual Sugarmill Music Festival and the new series Nachtmusik von BrainSurge, both of which Jackson will remain active in as concert annotator and creative consultant. Jackson has in fact written program notes for many of central Louisiana’s key music presenters, including the Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Arts Council of Central Louisiana, and Northwestern State University. He also blogs at MusicCentral where he shares concert experiences, gives listening recommendations, posts interviews with contemporary composers, and offers insights into his own compositions. Jackson has followed classical music around the world, including trips to Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival and the BachFest Leipzig in Germany. As a composer, he has worked to integrate a modern vocabulary into established classical forms in ways that are not only innovative but also engaging to the general listener. His four-movement Suite for solo guitar, Op. 21 received its world premiere on November 5, 2015 and has also been aired on public radio. In fall 2016, Jackson will begin graduate studies at the University of Louisville with the ultimate goal of earning his doctorate in musicology. Learn more about Jackson Harmeyer, his scholarship, and his compositions at www.JacksonHarmeyer.com.
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