Concerts include purely classical, crossover, fusion and alternative repertoire on a wide range of instruments. As in previous years, the classical concerts are divided into two series in downtown Bethlehem — five Vesper concerts, which are at 5 p.m. in Central Moravian Church, and five Chamber concerts, at 7:30 p.m. in Central Moravian Church's Old Chapel. The schedule allows plenty of time to hear a vesper concert, grab a bite from one of the festival's many food vendors and come back for the chamber concert later that evening.
The Vesper series opens Aug. 4 with Four Celtic Voices who will present a journey through the magic and wonder of the Celtic lands. Musicians/vocalists Celeste Ray, Carol Crittenden, Maria Banks and Alison Crossley mesmerize with harmonies and traditional Celtic instruments such as bowed psaltery, harmonium, flute and Celtic harp.
Four Celtic Voices' album, "Four Leaf Clover," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard World Music Chart and Top 10 on the Heatseekers chart.
Hot Brazilian jazz is on tap for Aug. 5. Choro das 3 is a Brazilian instrumental group of three sisters and their father that began in 2003. The group's specialty is Choro, a form of urban jazz native to Brazil that shares a feel with New Orleans jazz or ragtime or bluegrass. Members play mandolin, banjo, clarinet, piano and pandeiro, a Brazilian tambourine. In the last 10 years, Choro das 3 has played for many audiences, including President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil in 2005.
Few instruments are as versatile as the trombone, a fact that the trombone quartet Silver and Brass will demonstrate Aug. 6. The group has been exploring original repertoire and new arrangements for more than 30 years. The program features Baroque works written specifically for trombone quartet as well as transcribed pieces ranging from a Mendelssohn art song to ragtime, Gershwin and even Billy Joel.
"We're closing the concert with a sumptuous arrangement of Joel's 'Lullaby,'" says group co-founder Bryan HayT; the other members are Jon Conrad, Mike Damiani and Mike Moran. "The trombone can be such an expressive, vocal instrument. Sometimes we feel we're playing in a vocal chamber group." In homage to the significance the early Moravians gave to the instrument, the group also will perform a classic Moravian hymn — quite appropriate for the concert venue.
Pianist Eric Siepkes, a Pittsburgh native, takes the stage Aug. 7 for a program ranging from Bach to contemporary works. Whatever his repertoire, Siepkes' goal is in finding a composer's true intentions and delivering a direct, simple communication of the music.
In 2005 he won the Joseph Lawrence Noble Scholarship at Eastman for his pianistic merits as well as a prize the same year at the 11th Chautauqua International Piano Competition for the best performance of a lyric work, performing Schubert. Siepkes made his debut at Weill Recital Hall at
On Aug. 8 the Rainier Trio will perform gems from the violin-viola-piano trio repertoire from the 17th century to the present. Now in its sixth season, the group performs everything from Mendelssohn, Schumann and Glinka to Broadway themes and movie soundtracks.
Brothers Kevin (violin) and Bryan (viola) Matheson, after receiving acclaim at their Carnegie Weill Recital Hall debut, teamed up with pianist Brenda Wittwer to form the trio in 2008. Since then, it has performed a series of concerts in Pittsburgh and on the classical radio station WQED with
Bosnian guitarist Denis Azabagic, one of the most compelling classical guitarists on the international concert circuit today, opens the Chamber series Aug. 4 with a program of music for solo guitar from the Baroque era to the present. In 1993, at age 20, he became the youngest winner of one of the most prestigious international guitar competitions, Jacinto e Inocencio Guerrero, in Madrid.
Since then he has won 24 prizes in international competitions — 11 of which were first prizes. He has written a book, "On Competitions," based on his experience, and recorded nine CDs for international labels such as Naxos, Cedille and Bridge. He performs around the globe, maintaining a balance between his solo recitals, chamber music with the Cavatina Duo and engagements as soloist with orchestras.
On Aug. 5, Lehigh Valley-based flutist Nora Suggs teams up with classical guitarist Candice Mowbray for an eclectic program of music from Argentina to Japan. The Fairfield Duo, as the pair calls itself, has been performing together for two years, presenting diverse programs ranging from modern commissions to elegant classical era works. "I've always admired the way Candice plays. She brings an interest in different periods of music and different approaches to things," says Suggs, who is artistic director of the chamber ensemble Satori.
Although Suggs also plays the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute, she'll be performing on the classical Western flute for this concert. The program, however, does include "Two Japanese Songs," a work for flute and guitar by the contemporary Japanese composer Tadashi Sasaki.
Also featured are works by Jacques Ibert, Francesco Molino, Heitor Villa-Lobos and contemporary Brazilian composer Máximo Diego Pujol. Pujol's "Suite Buenos Aires" should be a real stunner. Each of its four movements is based on a different neighborhood in Buenos Aires, each with its unique sound. There's traditional Brazilian folk music, lush and romantic songs from the city's swank cafes, the Afro-Cuban beat from its port area and new-age funk from its thriving urban center.
You'll hear everything from classical and jazz to Brazilian samba when the eclectic ZigZag Quartet performs Aug. 6. The unique ensemble, founded in 2006, consists of Francisco Roldan, guitar; Alexander A. Wu, piano; Hilliard Greene, double bass; and Danny Mallon, percussion. The group is aptly named, as it zigzags through countries, time periods and dance styles with flamenco, early bossa novas, modern Argentine tangos and Caribbean dances, and jazz classics. A mix of solos, duos and trios showcases the artistry of each instrumentalist. The group is constantly expanding its repertoire, exploring more original music by contemporary composers.
On Aug. 7,
She'll be accompanied by guitar and piano in what she terms more of an experience than a concert. "Spirituals tend to be treated as novelty pieces, not as the serious pieces of art they are," Spruiell says. "The program is not just about the African-American experience. Many other issues we have hold us in bondage — a bad relationship, debt, addiction. These texts are simple and universal and speak to us on many levels."
The City Winds Trio, which performs Aug. 8, is a distinguished classical music ensemble unique for both its unusual combination of instruments and the variety of its repertoire. Featuring flute, oboe and bassoon, the group might play anything from a Scott Joplin rag to Mozart's Rondo alla turca to the holiday classic "Let it Snow."
Members are Crispian Fordham, flute; Meredyth Coleman, oboe; and Yuki Higashi, bassoon. The City Winds Trio is based in East Rutherford, N.J.
•Musikfest chamber/vesper concerts, 5 p.m. Aug. 4-8, Central Moravian Church, Main and Church Streets, Bethlehem, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4-8, Central Moravian Church Old Chapel, near Heckewelder Place, Bethlehem. Free. Info: 610-332-1300, http://www.musikfest.org.
Steve Siegel is a freelance writer.
Jodi Duckett, editor