Peninsula Music Festival Ephraim, Wisconsin August 1–19 MERRILEE ELLIOTT, flute, Peninsula Music Festival
Merrilee Elliott, flute, Peninsula Music Festival (at right, pictured with colleagues Melissa Snoza and Suzanna Self)
What aspect of performing at Chamber Music Northwest do you most look forward to? Playing in the awesome Woodwind Section. Eating and drinking with great friends. What do you like most about traveling to/ staying in northeast Wisconsin for the festival? Does being in this setting have an impact on how rehearsals are conducted—on performances themselves? Door County is like a second home, this being my 33rd year. I enjoy having only 1 job instead of 5 or 6. Rehearsals and concerts are just as intense at PMF as anywhere else I play. In your experience, what scores have worked best at Peninsula? Does a summervacation atmosphere seem to alter the audi-
PAUL LEDWON, principal cello, Peninsula Music Festival
Courtesy Peninsula Music Festival
in our instrument cases, there to greet us the next day when we open them up again!
Courtesy Merrilee Elliott
certgoer to “cease and desist” from eating, chastising him for poor concert etiquette. Horrified, I remember thinking, “We will be banished from ever performing in the Napa Valley again!” (Amazingly, that guy continued to come to future concerts!) Can you describe the experience of performing at a winery? What has made our concerts unique over the years is the ever-changing Napa Valley venues. Not only does each winery have its own unique charm and ambiance, but the wineries themselves are active partners with us in presenting each concert: wine from the host venue is poured at intermission. And of course the retail counter might just happen to be open if you are particularly fond of what’s being poured. There are two interesting side effects of featuring wine at intermission. As you might expect, our intermissions are, by necessity, just plain longer. Apparently, our audience “will drink no wine before its time,” stretching our interval to at least 30 minutes or more. Secondly, the audience that returns from intermission can be quite different from the audience we performed for on the first half; looser, shall we say. For that reason, we sometimes plan “upside-down programs” that feature the heavyweight work on the first half instead of the second, with shorter, lighter pieces after intermission. Regardless of where we play, there is one constant to Music in the Vineyards concerts: the sweet, musty smell of fine wine. We are usually surrounded by barrels or production areas where the aroma is omnipresent. We even find that it fills up the air
At Vineyards Music Festival in Napa Valley, chamber music concerts take place at wineries. Violinist Ara Gregorian and ensemble perform Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires in the Cave Theater at Clos Pegase Winery.
ence’s reaction? Playing the music well is most important, no matter what we play, and we do a very good job of doing that! I don’t notice a different audience reaction so much. Maybe they are a little more vocal at PMF. How has this festival changed and developed over the years? How have audiences? When I first came to PMF in 1984, the orchestra was much smaller and the rep. reflected that. Victor Yampolsky changed that; more players, bigger rep. What’s the “best” moment you’ve experienced performing at this music festival? What’s the “craziest” or most unusual moment? So many “best” moments. Playing Russian music with Maestro Yampolsky is an experience like no other. I enjoyed playing the Cimarosa Concerto for two flutes with Susanna Self. The most unusual moment was when we were rehearsing the Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Paganini with pianist John Browning. His dog, Tyler, was in the hall with his babysitter. There was a moment when the orchestra and the soloist had a difference of opinion and Tyler started barking and ran up on to the stage and more or less told us that this was not acceptable! Broke us all up! Another unusual moment was when the audience strenuously booed after we played a relatively harsh contemporary piece. That was a first for me and I hope the last! Do you have a ritual before or after a festival performance? Is that ritual different from what you might do for a regular-season concert? No special ritual … eat dinner, make myself presentable, go to the hall, and be awesome. Afterwards it’s fun to drink a beer with our friends.
What aspect of performing at Peninsula do