Cape May Music Festival opens Memorial Day

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CAPE MAY – The Cape May Music Festival enters its 23rd year soon, a testimonial to its resiliency and fortitude.

The festival began in 1990 at the Christian Admiral Hotel and during the next two decades its notes were played at various venues including the old Convention Hall. Today the hotel and the hall have been torn down, but the festival lives on, despite the perils of the economy and, sometimes, the weather.

This year’s series by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC) might be described by some as a born-again event as the festival returns to Convention Hall, albeit a brand new one, for three concerts, one of them free for the public. And much like that opening series in 1990 there will be nine concerts, this time covering a two-and-a-half week period from May 28 to June 14.

Although early tourists are invited, the festival was conceived to provide entertainment for local music lovers before they are too busy accommodating tourists in the prime summer season. Since then, of course, the so-called “shoulder months” have grown into the “main body months.” It is estimated that some 50,000 music lovers have attended the festival in its first 22 years.

As there always is in the arts, the main challenge for the festival is the funding. Ticket sales obviously help, but to bring those prices down the festival needs contributions, including grants, from other sources. When the economy sinks, so does the funding.

This year’s budget, including fees for the performers, administration and marketing, is $225,000 and much of it comes from PNC Arts Alive, the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, plus some local contributors.

The series opens on Memorial Day, May 28, at 7 p.m. with a free outdoor concert by the 35 piece Atlantic Brass Band, led by Salvatore Scarpa, at the bandstand of the Rotary Club at Lafayette Street and Lyle Lane.

The next night, Tuesday, May 29, at 8 p.m. the New York Chamber Ensemble, directed by Alan R. Kay, will present “Music By The Numbers” at the Church of the Advent, Washington and Franklin Streets.

One of the biggest events of the series follows on Thursday night, May 31, at 8 p.m. when the new Convention Hall will offer a free concert by the Masters of the Celtic Harp. It is being presented jointly by MAC and the city of Cape May as a gift to the community.

A tribute to the late pianist George Mesterhazy will take place at Convention Hall on Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. On Tuesday night, June 5, also at 8 p.m. the New York Chamber Ensemble will return to the Episcopal Church of the Advent.

The scene shifts to Cape May’s Presbyterian Church, corner of Hughes and Decatur Streets, on Thursday, June 7, at 8 p.m. when the Bay Atlantic Symphony, conducted by Jed Gaylin, performs. Two nights later, on June 10 at 8 p.m. it’s back to the Convention Hall for a performance by singer-musician Eilen (sic) Jewell.

On June 12 at 8 p.m. the New York Chamber Ensemble, featuring soprano Adradne Grief and accordionist William Schimmel, will return to the Church of the Advent. And to conclude the series, also at the Church of the Advent, at 8 p.m. on June 14 the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players will perform.

The festival will also offer a series of Bach’s Lunches at the Carriage House Café and Tearoom on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate. They will be held on Wednesdays, May 30, June 6 and 13 at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $30. Ticket prices for the concerts vary. Call 609-884-5404.


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