Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Birdfoot Chamber Music Festival 2013 - A Musical Feast at Madewood Plantation House

On Sunday, May 19, the Birdfoot Chamber Music Festival began its second year of festivities with A Musical Feast at the Madewood Plantation House.  Open rehearsals in the afternoon and early evening hors d'oeuvres with wine were followed by a concert of selections from works to be performed throughout this week. The evening culminated in a delicious dinner by Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon, where guests mingled with and met the brilliant young musicians that have come from all over the world to share their talents with us.

The beautifully preserved and restored plantation homes of the American South enshrine a cultural history as rich and fascinating as it is difficult and deeply vexed, but the intense intimacy of chamber music as a genre is amplified by the antebellum grace of Madewood.  These are the chambers this music seems made for, and hearing it here is completely unlike any other music listening experience. High, shimmering notes sparkle in the crystal chandelier. Lush middle tones unfurl along scrolls and leaves of plaster molding.  The deepest notes billow and undulate in lace curtains draped against dusk-dimmed windows. Damasked wall paper, gilt frames, dark woods, and pale marbles all capture and resonate with the tapestry of sound, both broad and intricate, miraculously spun from empty air and woven into magic by a only handful of mortals with nothing more than wood, hair, ivory, steel, the skill of their bodies, and the passion in their souls.

But this is not the insulated opulence of wealth and rank, separated in a bubble from the vibrant, chaotic world outside. The stark, neoclassical lines of tall keyhole doors in this correctly symmetrical rectangle of a room reverberate with strange, unearthly harmonics and overtones, softened by the faint murmur of breeze through oak and Spanish moss. Flame-colored roses and carnivorous pitcher plants adorn each table, amid china, silver, and wine-filled glasses. And as the most ethereal music floats up to the ceiling, it drifts into the lost, lazy wanderings of a mud dauber wasp, buzzing drowsily from window to window. Everything here conspires draw together a civilized refinement and a wild swamp savagery into a union so unique to Louisiana, and so appropriate to this festival.

After all, at its essence, the Birdfoot Chamber Music Festival is not about keeping chamber music in the chambers of the elite. If A Musical Feast at Madewood evokes and brings to life an iconic and historical view of chamber music as performance for the privileged few in a luxurious setting, this week the Birdfoot artists and organizers will surely explode that stereotype in a variety of venues, from community center to university concert hall, and by mentoring and featuring many of New Orleans’ own young musicians. They will release chamber music from an insulated, FabergĂ© elegance, allowing it to fan out and flow like the Mississippi delta that gives the festival its name, to live and breathe in our often delightfully unrefined city, and to take root and grow in the minds and souls of a broader, brand new audience.

Do NOT miss this.