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U. of I. Music Barn Festival adding two concerts; music to be wide-ranging


Virtuoso Bandoneon
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Peter Soave will perform on the bandoneón – an accordion-like instrument indigenous to Argentina, with buttons instead of keys.

Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The expansion has begun.

After a successful inaugural event in 2007, the University of Illinois School of Music is augmenting this year’s Allerton Music Barn Festival performance schedule with two additional concerts. The Labor Day weekend festival, with a line-up ranging from jazz to classical to klezmer, will take place Aug. 29 through Sept. 1 in a refurbished Dutch hay barn on the southeast edge of the U. of I.’s Allerton Park and Retreat Center near Monticello, Ill.

Plans for jamming in two extra concerts are right on track with music school director Karl Kramer’s initial vision of how he hopes the festival will evolve.

“Our plan all along has been to start out small, with the idea of growing the festival slowly in the first few years before eventually adding a 4,000- to 5,000-seat arena and an educational component,” Kramer said.

“Last year’s festival was a big hit. Our five-concert lineup was completely sold out, so that was a clear message that our audience is responding to what we’re offering.”

Once again this year, music lovers will be able to satiate their appetites for superb music and food. A major difference this year is that concert tickets and food may be purchased separately. A bistro-style menu and beverage service will be available prior to each performance. In addition, on Friday and Saturday, festival-goers will have the option of ordering from a fixed-price menu, with wine pairings, offered at Montgomery’s restaurant before the evening concerts. Reservations are required and may be made by calling 217-762-3833.

Also new this year will be improvements to the concert space, made possible through regional foundation grants. Upgrades include life-safety enhancements and the installation of new lighting and a recording-quality surround-sound system.

Pacifica Quartet
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Pacifica Quartet, the U. of I.'s quartet in residence, will perform with Ian Hobson in "Eine Nacht in Wien."

Kramer said all of this year’s festival performances will be recorded. The performances will be available for streaming from the School of Music’s Media Center Web site, which is expected to go live at the end of August. It will be accessible through the school’s main site.

The festival’s opening-night program, “Beyond Cool,” will show off the talent of the U. of I. music school’s world-class jazz faculty, featuring the players on “Jeru,” “Moon Dreams,” “Boplicity” and newly commissioned works for the original instruments of the Miles Davis/Gil Evans nonet.

“Bach Unaccompanied” is the theme for the Saturday-morning addition to the line-up. Performing at 10:30 a.m. will be U. of I. music faculty members Stefan Milenkovich, violin; Ani Aznavoorian, cello; and Charlotte Mattax, harpsichord. That evening, at 8:30, some of the music school’s brightest stars will be out for the evening performance, “Eine Nacht in Wien,” featuring Pacifica, the U. of I.’s quartet in residence, with Ian Hobson, piano.

“A big reception, open to concert goers and sponsored by Montgomery’s restaurant in Monticello, will follow the evening performance on Saturday at the Music Barn,” Kramer said.

The next morning’s program, at 10:30 on Sunday (Aug. 31), will feature the Allerton Bach Choir and Soloists with the Allerton Festival Orchestra in a program titled “Bach Cantatas,” conducted by U. of I. music professor Fred Stoltzfus. The Rev. Roger Digges will deliver an ecumenical homily. The Pacifica Quartet returns to the barn’s stage that night at 8:30 for a program featuring compositions by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Prokofiev.

The festival takes on a more ethnic tone on Labor Day (Sept. 1), beginning with a 10:30 a.m. concert, “The Virtuoso Bandoneón,” featuring Peter Soave on the bandoneón – an accordion-like instrument indigenous to Argentina, with buttons instead of keys. Highlights will include reconstructions of tangos by Astor Piazzolla.

“The Piazzolla tangos are rarely done,” Kramer said. “He (Soave) is the only guy out there going around the world playing his bandoneón.”

Wrapping things up with an “old country” bow will be the klezmer ensemble “Veretski Pass,” at 8:30 p.m. The ensemble will perform dances from Moldavia and Bessarabia; Jewish melodies from Poland and Rumania; Hutzul wedding music from Carpathian-Ruthenia; and Rebetic aires from Smyrna, interwoven with original compositions.

As was the case last year, Kramer said cooperation from the community of Monticello will be an integral part of the four-day music festival. In addition to culinary support provided by Rhonda Killian-Sinkosky, owner and executive chef of Montgomery’s and K-Spear Culinary Arts, the entire town is once again planning to roll out the red carpet to festival visitors.

“The people and merchants of Monticello have really embraced the festival and we’re all looking forward to another successful weekend,” Kramer said.

Tickets for individual festival performances are on sale now at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts ticket office, 217-333-6280, or through its Web site. Prices for individual concerts are $26 for adults; $20 for students and senior citizens. Weekend passes are available for $154 for adults; $105 for students and seniors.

More information about the festival, including performers and programs, is available on the festival Web site.