– The following was published in The Floyd Press newspaper on October 25, 2012
It was an afternoon of firsts at the Floyd EcoVillage on Sunday. Virginia’s Blue Ridge Music Festival (VBRMF) – set to launch its first season from May 31 to June 9 – presented an inaugural concert featuring a chamber ensemble conducted by David Stewart Wiley, the festival’s artistic director. The concert was also a celebration of the Floyd EcoVillage’s newly-finished Celebration Hall, and of the hall’s new grand piano.
EcoVillage host, Jack Wall, was the first to address the crowd of the well attended event. “It’s the humanities that express our humanness,” Wall said. “We want to see this space filled with lots of theater, music and events.” He invited attendees to learn more about the EcoVillage, “a bourgeoning zero carbon footprint intentional community.”
VBRMF Executive Director Jennifer Brooke also addressed the crowd. VBRMF Board President Linda Fallon introduced David Wiley. “This is truly a celebration,” said Wiley, who is also the music director and conductor of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra (RSO) and New York’s Long Island Philharmonic. He told the crowd that they were part of history and that, years from now, attendees will look back and remember they were at the inaugural concert to benefit the VBRMF.
The chamber ensemble performed with passion and mastery. It consisted of violinist Elise Blake of the RSO, Samuel Kephart on viola, Lisa Liske-Doorandish on cello, violinist and RSO member Katherine Wiley (David’s sister) and bassist John Smith, who also plays for the RSO. There was a solo performance by guitarist Joseph Pecoraro and some pieces featured Wiley on piano.
Wiley, an engaging and inventive conductor, introduced the first piece, A Little Night Music by Mozart, saying that it was “the first sounds heard in this beautiful acoustic space.” At one point, in between musical performances, he spoke about the festival’s mission of outreach and education and asked festival board members to stand for applause.
The VBRMF board was formed after the relocation of the directors of theNational Music Festival (NMF), hosted in Floyd in 2011, and includes former NMF board members. The VBRMF goal, as stated on their website, is “to build an annual festival that is financially stable, while broadening the musical richness already found in the beautiful Blue Ridge.” Like the NMF, the VBRMF will bring together an academy of pre-professional musicians with mentor professionals to produce quality music at various venues in Floyd and the surrounding area.
A range of music created through time and geographical location was presented at the concert, in order to give listeners an idea of the possibilities that could happen in the Celebration Hall and when people come together for the arts, which Wiley noted brings vitality to our community and our area.
Along with pieces by Mozart, Vivaldi and Bach, the concert included Celtic music performed by Pecoraro and Katherine Wiley, a lullaby by George Gershwin, and an opera piece titled Meditation that featured Blake on violin. Several compositions by Wiley were performed, including Suite for West African Prepared Piano, in which Wiley used the piano as a percussion instrument.
Other Wiley compositions were Blue Ridge Spirit, written as a theme song for our mountain region and used widely to advertise the area. The ensemble also performed Wiley’s original piece, Lake Effects, scored for an independent movie, filmed at Smith Mountain Lake and staring actress Jane Seymor.
The President of the RSO and Floyd fiddle maker Arthur Connor were among those in attendance. Floyd Countian Liz Stucki, one of the concert attendees who was disappointed when the NMF relocated, expressed her excitement that the accessibility of classical music will continue through the VBRMF. “It’s wonderful! The music and the venue are awesome,” she enthusiastically stated.