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WQXR Hosts Share Their Festival Tips

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Summer is festival time, even for our hard-working WQXR hosts. Here they reveal a few of their favorite spots for your summer travel planning.

Elliott Forrest
On Bard Summerscape, Annondale-on-Hudson, NY

I’ll never forget the first time I visited the Hudson Valley. I was awestruck. It is hard to believe that just an hour or two from Times Square is some of the most beautiful countryside in America. The rolling hills and vistas of the Hudson River are spectacular. If you can find a way to venture north (rent or borrow a car, if you don’t have one) make sure to visit Bard Summerscape, a six week festival on the campus of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson.

This festival includes dance, theater, operetta, film, cabaret, family shows and classical music. This year the Music Festival portion (from August 13-22) focuses on the 20th Century composer Alban Berg.

Bard is the summer home of the American Symphony Orchestra lead by Leon Botstein, who also happens to be the long time President of Bard College.

Go for the music, but the campus is a draw anytime of year for the Richard B. Fisher Center designed by one of great classical music hall creators, Frank Gehry. As you may know, he also designed Disney Hall, the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Fisher design includes large warped brushed stainless steel roof pieces which reflects the constantly changing sky, time of day and country side. The inside just as inviting, with great acoustics.

Check the website and I’ll see you upstate!


David Garland
On the Amherst Early Music Festival (New London, CT) & the Utrecht Early Music Festival (Utrecht, The Netherlands)

I don't expect to have time to attend any music festivals this summer, so that leaves me free to fantasize about it, unhindered by practical concerns. This is what I'd do, if I could: I'd go to two early music festivals, one close to home, the other across the pond.

The Amherst Early Music Festival takes place at Connecticut College, New London, CT, July 11-18 and 18-25. It looks like a lovely mix of concerts, workshops, and presentations.

And then, sure, toward the end of the summer why not fly over to Holland, one of the early music capitals of Europe, to experience the venerable Utrecht Early Music Festival, August 27-September 5th.


Naomi Lewin
On the Shaw Festival
, Niagra-on-the-Lake, NY

One of the most idyllic spots on earth is Niagara-on-the-Lake--the perfect place for a summer festival...or two. The town is charming: two main streets bursting with flowers and shops; lovely, tree-lined side streets, full of historic houses. 

Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to the Shaw Festival, a theatrical extravaganza with nearly a dozen productions running in repertory from April through October. In addition to George Bernard Shaw, the Festival presents work by a host of other playwrights, old and new--plus musicals. At the height of the season, you can choose from as many as four different productions a day. 

The Festival has four theaters, ranging from a modern proscenium, to a World War I vaudeville stage, to an 1840's courthouse.  Niagara-on-the-Lake is also home to Music Niagara--a chamber music, jazz, and cabaret festival that takes place in churches, parks, and wineries.

Yes, wineries. The climate of Niagara-on-the-Lake (which lies between Lake Ontario, the Niagara Escarpment and the Niagara River) is perfect for producing ice wine--dessert wine made from grapes left on the vine until they freeze. So the area is full of wineries, which also produce some fine regular wines. When you're not taking in a matinee, you can spend the day visiting one vineyard after the next, tasting to your palate's content. Since the terrain is flat, the best way to do that is by bicycle; if you don't have a bike, you can rent one. Along with all the wine, there are also some really great restaurants.

But wait!  There's more!  Needless to say, about half an hour south, there's a pretty famous waterfall. But don't stay in Niagara Falls.  Stay in one of the charming inns or bed and breakfasts in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Theater, music, wine, food, natural beauty--all within an easy day's drive of the City.  And it's in Canada, so you get the fun of being in a foreign country, too.


Terrance McKnight
On Festival-Going--New York-Style

For those who enjoy bright sunshine and 80-degree temperatures to musical accompaniment, New York is the place to be during the summer. Not only is the range of music staggering but many of classics heard around the city were intended for outdoor performance in the first place.

This is my third summer living in New York and I’ve represented the radio station at several festivals so far, including the River to River Festival and Celebrate Brooklyn. I’ll be back out at both this year and will add to that Summerstage in Central Park.  These festivals around the city and state are often at discounted rates, free or donation, which makes them affordable and family oriented.

Last year as part of River to River, I heard New York City Opera performing outdoors and was astounded by the level of appreciation for the music given by audience members who sat and stood at full attention. While I am looking forward to representing WQXR in Brooklyn and in Manhattan, I’m also looking forward to expanding my summer festival horizons by checking out the Caramoor Festival in Katonah New York. We’ll preview that festival in The Greene Space on June 24th.  Hope to see you outdoors this summer.


Midge Woolsey
On the Caramoor Festival - and one for the "to-do" list

Last summer, I was invited by Michael Barrett for my first visit to the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, New York. I had an amazing time!  From the moment my friends and I arrived on the grounds, we were welcomed with enthusiastic smiles from everyone. Michael prides himself on the contentment that prevails. The weather was perfectly suited for a summer evening of picnicking followed by music under the tent. I was impressed by the acoustics which are often difficult to handle in outdoor settings. And, the audience was a lovely mixture of age groups all of whom shared a love of classical music. What could be better? 

My brother, Robert, has lived in Sitka, Alaska since he graduated from college. He is busy raising two children with his wife, Stacey. And, he is a newsman for the public radio station there. Each summer, he and his family enjoy the Sitka Summer Music Festival which is--as I understand it--a quiet festival where musicians gather to work on their artistry in a relaxed atmosphere. Recently I discovered--much to my delight--that cellist Zuill Bailey has been named Artistic Director Designate. Needless to say, I would love to go there someday.