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behind the scenes

Duxbury Music Festival offers classy fare from Brahms to Beatles

Jeffrey Cohen and Lucie Robert (left photo) and Katherine Wolfe and Gregory Sauer perform at a previous opening concert of the festival.
Jeffrey Cohen and Lucie Robert (left photo) and Katherine Wolfe and Gregory Sauer perform at a previous opening concert of the festival.Photos by Kathy Dixon/Kathy Dixon

Founded on the belief that music kindles the richness of the human spirit, the Duxbury Music Festival brings great musicians and music teachers together with students from top conservatories for a 16-day period of intensive study and performance.

The festival includes student recitals, faculty chamber music concerts, last week’s master class in piano performance by renowned pianist and teacher Nelita True, an upcoming master class in strings performance, and this weekend’s series of popular events on the Duxbury town green.

Last year’s festival faculty are returning to Duxbury and bringing top students from their teaching studios. “They had a really fabulous experience,” said Amy Schomp, development program manager for the South Shore Conservatory of Music, the festival’s parent organization.

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“They bring really special students, they get to spend more time with them, and the faculty feel that the audience is really appreciative at the Duxbury Music Festival,” Schomp said.

Festival director and pianist Stephen Deitz has recruited a faculty of highly regarded musicians to perform in four faculty concerts, including pianists True, Jeffrey Cohen, Monique Duphil, and Regina Yung; violinists Felicia Moye and Lucie Robert; violist Michelle LaCourse; and cellist Gregory Sauer. Some 20 students are coming from a dozen different schools.

They teach and study at Eastman, Oberlin, and the Manhattan School of Music, among other conservatory music programs.

The students are studying solo performance and chamber pieces for the festival’s competitions. Winners of the concerto competitions and chamber group competitions will perform in the festival’s closing concert on Aug. 2.

Targeted to an outdoor setting, this weekend’s “music for everyone weekend” stages events under the tent on the Duxbury green, with music that falls outside of the traditional chamber music genre.

On Friday, the Boston String Quartet, a high-energy string ensemble (two violins, viola, cello) with an unconventional emphasis on rhythm and beats (they say the group is “not your parents’ classical music string quartet”) brings its version of the music of the Beatles to the green. Last year this group performed “movie music” at the festival.

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The concert opens with performances by the top jazz and percussion groups from the South Shore Conservatory of Music.

Saturday night beginning at 6:30, a concert program brings rhythm and blues to the green, plus a buffet dinner. Dance music is provided by the powerhouse band In the House, a favorite at previous festivals. The cost is $75 per person.

The Family Fest on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. is headlined by popular children’s performer Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys. It’s an interactive show, with a drum circle and an instrument petting zoo.

Festival students get to strut their stuff on Sunday evening’s “Sunday in the Park.” The festival’s select group of students have studied their chamber pieces, worked with faculty all week, and some have already given solo recitals. Depending on which groups are chosen for this concert, Deitz said, this concert will offer all or selected movements from Schumann’s string quartet in A major; Benjamin Britten’s string quartet in D major (written in 1931); Debussy’s piano trio; Josef Suk’s piano trio; Shostakovich’s piano trio number 1; and a Brahms piano trio. All these works are written for piano, violin, and cello, the traditional configuration for piano trio.

Students are also preparing works for another trio configuration, piano, violin, and viola. These piano trios are by English composer Arnold Bax and Prussian-born Xaver Scharwenka.

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The weekend also offers a strings master class open to the public on Saturday morning taught by LaCourse, chairwoman of the strings department at Boston University.

“You’re watching a teacher who is so in tune with her instrument and so in tune with her teaching, and a student working on the repertoire,” Schomp said of master classes. “And how she actually highlights things that can make an immediate difference. You can hear the differences right in front of you.”

Student recitals continue on Monday at the Ellison Center for the Arts, 64 St. George St., and Tuesday at the Village of Duxbury, a senior living community at 290 Kingstown Way.

Jazz, America’s original contribution to international music, meets classical in some of the closing performances of this year’s festival.

“This year I’m working really hard to expand the notion of what chamber music is,” Deitz said last week. To do that, he has combined jazz-influenced works from America and Europe in the meaningfully titled “All That’s Jazz” faculty concert at the Ellison Center for the Arts on Monday evening. “These pieces are not jazz, but are a lot of first cousins to jazz,” Deitz said.

The works include Alec Templeton’s “Pocket Size Sonata” for clarinet and piano, with a second movement that sounds like a song by Gershwin, Deitz said; James Grant’s “Chocolates for Viola and Piano” (“at the end of the concert we’ll have wine and chocolate”); American composer Allen Shawn’s “Three Dance Portraits,” a work that traces jazz influence from “American in Paris” to American jazz in the ’30s and ’40s, to ’60s rock and roll; contemporary minimalist Steve Reich’s “Nagoya Marimbas”; and French pianist Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Piano Trio.

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That’s a meal and a half of music, but save room for the wine and chocolate.


Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@gmail.com.