Attending summer festivals and parades in Seattle is all well and good, but sometimes an urbanite just needs a break. Whether the traffic's getting to you or the noise from that neighborhood block party is impeding your sleep, we've already got the perfect escape route planned.
It's simple, really: Get up early, grab your coffee, and drive north to Mukilteo. Breeze across Puget Sound for about 15 minutes on a ferry and you'll find yourself on charming, peaceful Whidbey Island. Then head north on Highway 525 for Freeland, home of the Whidbey Island Music Festival.
This intimate concert series, now in its eighth year, lasts just two weeks long but packs in a lot of beautiful, unexpected music. We'd expect no less from director and violinist Tekla Cunningham, who spends the regular concert series as concertmaster of the superb early music group Pacific MusicWorks, among many other things.
Audiences looking for a healthy dose of traditional chamber music can look forward to the first two series
of the festival, featuring Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Cunninhgam herself plays viola in that concert alongside three other esteemed musicians, including Monica Huggett
, one of the world's most respected Baroque violinists.
The festival's third concert
is probably its most original and inspired. It's a program made up entirely of songs written by the father of American folk music, Stephen Foster. Cunninhgam says she was interested in treating early American music with as much reverence as we do European classical music and finding out what results it may produce. It may well beg the question: Do we take classical music more seriously than other genres because it is superior, or is it superior because we take it so seriously?
Whether that question is answered or not, the concert is sure to be beautiful. A pair of violins joins a guitar, banjo and soprano in performing Civil War-era tunes such as "Hard Times" and "Battle Cry of Freedom," and Westward expansion anthems such as "Cumberland Gap" and "Old Kentucky Home." You can catch this concert on a Friday night at the festival's usual venue, Freeland's St. Augustine's-in-the-Woods
, or you can wait until Sunday to take it in at the bucolic Greenbank Farm, situated right in the middle of Whidbey Island and boasting a view of the Sound and neighboring Camano Island. There could hardly be a more appropriate setting.
The festival's fourth and final program delves into the rich folk music tradition in the Scottish Highlands, but with a twist: the entire concert is played on Baroque period instruments. The musicians featured here include guitarist Stephen Stubbs, the music director of Pacific MusicWorks, and Maxine Eilander, a baroque harpist who has played with Tafelmusik and Tragicomedia.
To find out more about the festival and buy tickets, visit its website.