Thrall's Opera House Stage

2014 New Harmony Music Festival schedule-at-a-glance

Concerts & Events

Monday, July 7th Celtic Jam Session at Sara’s Harmony Way, 7pm FREE
Tuesday, July 8th Festival Art Opening at the Owen Community House, 6:30pm FREE
Tuesday, July 8th Festival Showcase Concert at The Meier Atheneum, 8pm FREE with RSVP
Wednesday, July 9th Festival Film Screening “This Ain’t No Mouse Music” at Sara’s Harmony Way, 6:30pm FREE
Wednesday, July 9th Celtic Jam Session at Sara’s Harmony Way (following the film) FREE
Thursday, July 10th Festival Contra Dance at The Rapp-Owen Granary, 7pm. Tickets: $10; Kids 12 and under FREE
Friday, July 11th Festival Concert & Live Broadcast at The Historic Thralls Opera House, 7:30pm
Tickets: $25-$35-$50
Saturday, July 12th Outdoor Grand Piano Concert at the Roofless Church, 9am. All seats $30
Saturday, July 12th Festival Closing Night Concert & Live Broadcast at The Historic Thralls Opera House, 7:30pm. Tickets: $25-$35-$50

Indiana’s New Harmony Music Festival to feature architectural theme, live broadcasts, film, art show, in historic & outdoor concert venues, for 2014.

“Filling historical spaces with music brings life to to those spaces. Suddenly the walls shatter the musical vibrations into rainbows of sound for our ears and musical food for our souls,” says festival founder and director Christopher Layer, the New York City-based musician and producer who first imagined the week of music, workshops, and art events back in 2011. Layer, whose musical talents will be featured on Broadway this fall in “The Last Ship”, a new musical written by the rocker Sting, grew up in The Hoosier State. He started the Indiana festival to share the joy of music after 30 years of playing with symphony orchestras, dance companies, touring with folk and rock bands (including work as a sideman for The Waterboys in 2012) and participating in chamber music festivals around the world.

The festival & summer music school are celebrating their third concert season this July 6-12 with a week of acoustic concerts, an art show, a film, a dance and several public “jam sessions” of traditional music. The music ranges from classical chamber music to traditional Irish, Scottish and American old-time music, to improvisation and occasionally some enthusiastic melding of all of those genres. The annual festival was the subject of the 2012 documentary film, Harmonista: Finding Festival, shown on PBS television, and also gained some national attention when Fred Child, of American Public Media’s Performance Today, hosted the live broadcasts in 2012.

A highlight of this year’s festival is an outdoor concert with festival artists and pianist Michael Brown of New York City. The concert is Saturday morning, July 12th inside the “Roofless Church”, designed by architect Phillip Johnson and completed in 1959. Layer said, “We’ll move the grand piano to the apex of the Roofless Church very early in the morning, assemble the players and perform music that was inspired by, or inspired great works of architecture, including The Sunken Cathedral by Claude Debussy, art songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, and works for violin and piano by Aaron Copland.” Traditional celtic music for harp, fiddle, pipes and flute are also on the bill in the unique “roofless” venue Saturday morning.

According to Layer, much of his creative inspiration comes from musical polymaths like Yo Yo Ma, Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Leonard Bernstein (whose family foundation and children have lent support to the festival since its genesis). At the same time, some of his deepest inspiration has come from the town of New Harmony, its historic venues, and the townsfolk who volunteer to work for the festival every year. He said, “Given the architectural and historical themes of this year’s festival, I sought out the help and interest of The National Trust for Historic Preservation, and they responded. Stephanie Meeks, the director of the National Trust in Washington, DC will be writing an essay for the program book on the relationships between art, music, and architecture; how we should preserve and utilize our historic spaces in this country.”

The town of New Harmony, IN, known as the birthplace of Utopianism, is celebrating its bicentennial this year. Several of the historic buildings are being restored this year as well.

One of the featured concert spaces is the Historic Thralls Opera House. The theater is administered by the Indiana State Museum & Historic Sites, and was built in 1824 by the utopian Harmony Society as a dormitory; it was converted to an opera house and theater in 1859. The festival concerts on July 11th and 12th will be broadcast live from the opera house on public radio, via WNIN Public Media in Evansville, Indiana and will also be available to listeners as a live stream on the world wide web. Friday night’s concert “14-14-14” will feature music spanning the two hundred years of New Harmony’s existence, including original Harmonist music from handwritten manuscripts found in the Working Men’s Institute Library, works from the centennial year 1914, and a new work commissioned by the festival in 2014 for the bicentennial.

The festival-sponsored art show, “Musica Arquitectura” (The title is a tribute to 20th century composer, engineer, and architect, Iannis Xenakis) will open Tuesday, July 8th at the Owen Community House and will feature artworks created by architects and designers around the country. Later that evening, the festival’s showcase concert will take place in the glass and steel atrium of The Atheneum, designed by Getty Museum architect, Richard Meier. “It’s a chance for festival goers to hear the artists solo, to really taste what each of these diverse artists can do,” said Layer.

The festival film this year will be shown on Wednesday, July 9th. “This Ain’t No Mouse Music” is Utah filmmaker Chris Simons’ award-winning tribute to the life of Chris Strachwitz, the founder of the roots music label, Arhoolie Records. Both the film and the Wednesday night celtic jam session will take place at Sara’s Harmony Way, the local coffee shop and wine bar on Main Street in downtown New Harmony.

The summer music school during the week attracts musicians seeking to broaden their musical horizons in traditional music, chamber music, and improvisation. The students will perform for the festival contra dance at the Rapp-Owen Granary Thursday, July 10th, and at a few “pop up” concerts and jam sessions thru the week. “Concert goers can take advantage of the pop-up concerts via last minute push notifications on the festival’s facebook and twitter pages, or by word of mouth, which given the size of New Harmony is likely to be faster than looking down at your cell phone.” quipped Layer.

2014 Festival Artists/Bios

Natalie Haas: Classical Cello & Cello-Fiddling
As a Juilliard grad, Natalie excels at chamber music, but her real passion rests with the progressive style of “Cello-Fiddling” she has pioneered and uses in her Scottish Duo with fiddler Alasdair Fraser.

Brittany Haas: Old-time & Bluegrass Fiddle, Classical Violin
Natalie’s younger sibling is a veteran of Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings and the progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still. She is as comfortable in the Nashville session scene as she is mixing with singer-songwriters in Boston where she makes her home.

Arnaud Sussmann: Classical Violin
Winner of a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Arnaud Sussmann is a member of the prestigious Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. A student of both Boris Garlitski and Itzhak Perlman, his musical passion is drawn from the heart blood of the classical and chamber repertoire.

Mazz Swift: Voice, Violin, Improvisation, Festival Composer
Mazz Swift grew up in Queens, New York where she attended the Laguardia High School of Performing Arts and later, the Juilliard School. Since then, her innovative violin playing and improvisational skills have led her beyond the world of classical music to tour with African bands, funk bands, new classical orchestras, and roots music groups across the USA. Her work was recently featured on The Today Show on NBC.

Michael Brown: Piano & Festival Composer
Michael Brown was the winner of the 2012 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition, the 2012 William Petschek Piano Award at Juilliard, and is a 2014 Steinway Artist as well as a current member of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Yann Falquet: Guitar, Voice Jaw Harp & Quebecois Foot-tapping
Hailing from Montreal, Quebec, Yann Falquet is a founding member of the popular French-Canadian trio Genticorum. His vast knowledge of traditional Quebecois songs and fiddle music distinguishes him among the many purveyors of this unique North American traditional music.

Susie Petrov: Accordion, Piano & Dance Caller
By day Susie Petrov teaches music to children at the French Language School in metropolitan Boston, but by night she is one of the most sought-after Scottish pianists and dancing teachers. Each summer she returns to Scotland to teach music in the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides’ Islands.

Dr. George Wolfe: Saxophone
Author, musician, advocate for world peace…All of these could describe Dr. George Wolfe, but the saxophone is his voice. The preeminent saxophonist of the 20th century, Eugene Rousseau, described George as “an artist of exceptional ability and great sensitivity”. He is the Professor of Saxophone at Ball State University.

Martha Waldvogel: Classical Harp
Martha Waldvogel holds degrees in music from the Cleveland Conservatory of Music and the Ball State University School of Music. Her teachers Alice Chalifaux and Lucille Lawrence were among the greatest harpists of the 20th century. Martha excels at both classical harp repertoire as well as the traditional harp music of Ireland.

Patrick Ourceau: Irish Fiddle
Originally from Paris, Patrick “The Frenchman” Ourceau mastered the art of Irish fiddling by years of study and performing in the West of Ireland. Today he is considered a master of the craft and one of the great bearers of the East Galway and West Clare traditions of Ireland’s national music.

Christopher Layer: Festival Founder/Creative Director, Irish Uilleann Pipes and Flute
Born in Indiana, Christopher Layer makes his home in NYC where he has worked as a freelance musician for the last 21 years. His career has taken him many places around the world, touring with dance companies, as a sideman for rock bands, as a soloist with major symphony orchestras and occasionally in the subway as a street performer. An adept at traditional and classical music, his love for festival-making came at a young age when his father, Indiana fiddler Edwin Layer, began taking him to folk festivals in the 1970’s.

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