Arts and Entertainment

Festival celebrates music giants

Seattle violinist and festival organizer Tekla Cunningham, will perform at the Whidbey Island Music Festival, Aug. 7 to 16. - Photo courtesy of Kit Mills
Seattle violinist and festival organizer Tekla Cunningham, will perform at the Whidbey Island Music Festival, Aug. 7 to 16.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Kit Mills

This year’s Whidbey Island Music Festival happens to coincide with the anniversary of the two greatest composers from the Baroque period— Henry Purcell and Georg Frederic Handel.

The festival will celebrate their life and music with chamber music on two weekends for a total of six performances, Aug. 7 to 16.

This year marks the the 350th anniversary of Purcell’s birth and the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death.

“These are concerts devoted to some great oldies...really old oldies,” Oak Harbor composer Kit Mills said.

The Baroque period stretched from the 1600s to about 1750. The concert will feature mostly Seattle-based musicians who specialize in early music, including Clara Rottsolk, soprano; Tekla Cunningham, violin; and John Lenti, theorbo.

Mills said he has composed a new work inspired by Handel and the Italian Baroque.

“I decided to write a piece that would fit with that time period. Rather than do things my normal way, I put on a wig and wrote like a baroque composer,” Mills said.

He named his piece “A Little Baroque Suite.” Mills said the music is meant to be danceable or remind people of dances.

The festival is an island-wide event with venues at Greenbank Farm, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (WICA) in Langley and St. Augustine in-the-Woods in Freeland.

Mills said people are likely to see an instrument they’ve never seen before such as the theorbo, a guitar-like instrument related to the lute.

“People new to the festival can look forward to hearing excellent musicians with splendid technique and a gift for revealing the mind of each composer in a highly compelling way,” Mills said.

The first program is titled “An Excess of Pleasure—Music from Henry Purcell’s England” beginning Aug. 7 at WICA. KWPA radio in Coupeville will broadcast recordings from the music festival.

Mills said newcomers and musicians alike might be interested to see how this early music inspired later artists.

“It’s neat to be aware of what our ancestors heard and what formed the backdrop of their lives,” Mills said.

Tickets are $20 for general admission, $18 for seniors and $15 for students. Children are admitted free with a paying adult. Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.brown papertickets.com. For more information visit www.whid beyislandmusicfestival.org

Festival Program

PROGRAM I

An Excess of Pleasure - Music from Henry Purcell’s England

Works by Uccellini, Matteis, Locke, Blow, Geminiani and Purcell. Also featuring a new work by Whidbey Island Composer Kit Mills.

Friday, Aug. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at WICA and Sunday, Aug. 9, at 4 p.m. at Greenbank Farm.

Program II

Handel - Gloria!

A celebration of Handel’s sacred and secular music including the recently discovered Gloria.

Saturday, Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Augustine in-the-Woods in Freeland.

Program III

Handel’s Inheritance: The Music Behind the Master

Music by the masters who influenced Handel’s music and the formative years of the Baroque period including Johann Philipp Krieger, Wilhelm Zachow and Johann Schelle.

Friday, Aug. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at WICA and Sunday, Aug. 16, at 4 p.m. at Greenbank Farm.

Program IV

Sacred Sirens: Music from Italian Convents

Works by Isabella Leonarda and her contemporaries.

Saturday, Aug. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at Greenbank Farm

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