Next weekend, May 19 to 21, I am excited to again participate in the Sugarmill Music Festival. The festival, now in its second year, was envisioned by a small group of Central Louisiana residents whose diligence and persistence is now being embraced by the local community as well as the larger region. For a single weekend each May, the historic Rosalie Sugarmill – a short drive south from Alexandria – welcomes the region’s leading classical musicians as they share chamber music with an enthusiastic audience. This year’s festival features eight individual concerts over the span of three amazing days. Among the ensembles and musicians to perform are the Pineywoods String Quartet, I-49 Brass Quintet, 2x2 Percussion, the Ajero Pianists, and local favorite classical guitarist John De Chiaro. Closing the festival Sunday afternoon is the festival’s signature ensemble, the Rosalie Piano Trio.
What is so special about the Sugarmill Music Festival? It is the opportunity to relax and spend a weekend listening to great music, to remove oneself from the stress of daily life. It is the opportunity to be among friends and neighbors who share an interest in this music, who want to see it grow and flourish in our local community. It is the opportunity to enjoy the natural environment of the Sugarmill’s rustic setting and to participate in the other non-musical activities our festival has to offer, from walking the Meditation Labyrinth to enjoying the exquisite cuisine of the Sugarmill Café. It is a perfect weekend and an unforgettable experience.
Here is a quick look at the weekend schedule. Friday, May 19, we will hear classical guitarist John De Chiaro at 5:30 PM followed at 7 PM by Euphonium Unleashed, a brass ensemble based in Natchitoches. Saturday, May 20, there will be a full day of activity beginning at 10:30 AM with Sarah Mason’s architectural tour. Saturday’s first concert follows at noon with the Ajero Pianists, featuring award-winning pianist Nio Ajero (age 11) who was recently featured on NPR’s From the Top alongside his talented sister Olivia and their father Mario. The Pineywoods String Quartet of Nacogdoches, Texas plays at 3 PM followed by a Musicians’ Panel at 4 PM. At 5:30 PM, the Voices of Appalachia, a Natchitoches-based vocal quartet, sings folksong arrangements by Louisiana composer William Hunt. 2x2 Percussion of north Louisiana closes Saturday evening with their concert at 7 PM. Sunday, May 21, begins with a talk about the Sugarmill’s newly-constructed meditation labyrinth by its creators Annelle and Martin Tanner at 12:30 PM. The I-49 Brass Quintet plays at 2 PM followed by the Rosalie Piano Trio at 3:30 PM.
The music, like the ensembles performing it, will also be of the highest caliber. Festival highlights include Alexander Borodin’s awe-inspiring String Quartet No. 2, the Sunrise Quartet and C-minor Piano Trio by Joseph Haydn, and the rarely-heard Piano Trio of French-Jewish composer Darius Milhaud. Festival goers will also have the chance to experience less-familiar but equally spectacular works, like Euphoniums Parfait by Japanese composer Yasuhide Ito, Nagoya Marimbas by American minimalist Steve Reich, and Canadian composer Morley Calvert’s impressive Suite from the Monteregian Hills. Giacomo Puccini’s Crisantemi for string quartet will be a welcome insight into this composer known for his operas, while John De Chiaro’s transcriptions of two Scott Joplin rags for guitar will contribute an air of nostalgia. There will also be premieres of two new works by Louisiana composers: Gestures III for solo cello by Lafayette’s Greg Robin and Commute for brass quintet by Shreveport’s Costas Dafnis. I have had the privilege to once again apply my scholarship and contribute program notes for many of the pieces to be heard.
Do not miss this incredible weekend of music! Three-Day Festival Passes as well as Single Concert Tickets are still available for purchase at the festival website. Or, you can always buy tickets at the door. Do yourself a favor and attend: what better opportunity is there to relax and hear first-rate chamber music outside and in the comfort of our own community? I can think of nothing else that brings the same the joy as the Sugarmill Music Festival!
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a composer, music scholar, 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 remains active in as concert annotator and creative consultant. 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. As a composer, Jackson has worked to integrate the vocabulary and grammar of modern music into pieces which are not only innovative but also engaging to the general listener. In fall 2016, Jackson began graduate studies in musicology at the University of Louisville where he has recently been awarded the Gerhard Herz Scholarship in recognition of his accomplishments. His current research interests include French spectral music and the compositions of Kaija Saariaho. He also sings with the University of Louisville Chorus and participates in the School of Music Composition Seminar. Learn more about Jackson Harmeyer, his scholarship, and his compositions at www.JacksonHarmeyer.com.