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Archive for Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sunflower Music Festival offers 10 free concerts

June 6, 2013

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The Sunflower Music Festival in Topeka gives the area an opportunity to attend concerts performed by artists from around the world — for free.

Beginning Friday music lovers can attend 10 concerts worth of classical, chamber and jazz music in White Concert Hall at Washburn University.

The Sunflower Music Festival will be held Friday through June 15 at White Concert Hall at Washburn University.

The Sunflower Music Festival will be held Friday through June 15 at White Concert Hall at Washburn University.

Kansas University alumnus and pianist David Allen Wehr practices for this year’s Sunflower Music Festival, which kicks off Friday.

Kansas University alumnus and pianist David Allen Wehr practices for this year’s Sunflower Music Festival, which kicks off Friday.





Program Schedule

The Sunflower Music Festival will be held June 7-15 at White Concert Hall at Washburn University. All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. except for the Blanche Bryden High School Concert, which begins at 3 p.m. June 15. All concerts are free for the public to attend.

June 7: Chamber Orchestra

June 8: Chamber Ensembles

June 9: Atrium Quartet

June 10: Jazz Concert

June 11: Chamber Ensembles

June 12: Chamber Orchestra

June 13: Blanche Bryden Collegiate Institute

June 14: Chamber Ensembles

June 15: Blanche Bryden High School Concert, 3 p.m. and Chamber Orchestra, 7:30 p.m.

Myrl Duncan, the President of the Sunflower Music Festival Board, said what makes the festival that full of talented musicians unique is that its been free since it started in 1987.

“We’ve got audience members who’ve been coming for years — decades — and they can come every night and every year,” Duncan said. “And a lot of the musicians have been coming for years and years, so they form a real camaraderie between musicians and the audience, and it’s kind of like a family reunion but there’s a whole lot of music.”

The concerts are performed by a small orchestra of about 45 musicians and smaller ensembles made up of the orchestra members. Two of the concerts will also feature college and high school musicians participating in the Blanche Bryden Sunflower Music Festival Summer Institute, which is a week-long camp of intensive study in chamber music.

“I think people kind of think, ‘oh goodness, how good can this be in Topeka?’ and newcomers just walk away stunned at the quality of the music,” Duncan said. “Part of it’s the concert hall, but most of it is just the excellent musicians.”

Although the institute has some students from Kansas and Missouri, most of the participating musicians come from across the United States and one quartet is coming from as far as Berlin.

The musicians receive their music a few months in advance and rehearse individually. Once they get to Topeka, they have limited rehearsal time before performances — something Duncan says is a representation of the talent the musicians possess.

“They can come in with a few practices and pull off this stunning music,” Duncan said.

Artistic Director Charles Stegeman recruited the performers and chose which pieces would be performed, including music by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Brahms.

Duncan said seating, especially at the orchestra concerts, tends to fill up quickly, and audience members should plan to arrive about an hour before the concert starts.

For a full program of all concerts and more information about the festival, visit the event's website.

Comments

Sarah St. John 1 year, 3 months ago

Last year was my first "Sunflower" year and it is some indication of the quality of these performances that I was looking forward to the 2013 festival immediately after the final 2012 concert was over! I can't recommend this festival highly enough for people who love music. It is astonishing that it is still FREE after all these years. These are musicians of international renown who play to huge (paying) crowds all over the world, yet for a week in June we get to hear them just by driving to Topeka.

I do second what the article says about getting there early, especially for the Orchestra nights. I'd recommend getting there at 6:30 (I think the doors open at 7) for the 7:30 concert. There was quite a crowd of us last year, hanging out in a group in front of the concert hall (not in a line) but everyone was very polite and nobody knocked anyone over getting into the venue. :-) The concert hall is very nice (I had never been there before) and the music was exquisite. Right then and there I made the decision to come back every night, and the music I heard stayed with me for months.

The opening concert tomorrow (Friday the 7th) will include Rossini's "The Italian Girl in Algiers," Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto, and Mozart's "Jupiter" symphony. These are beautiful pieces that are familiar to many people but will be new to some. Even if you've heard recordings of them a hundred times, come out and hear them live! There's nothing like a performance when the audience becomes almost one person, breathlessly quiet, or moved to tears, or bursting into unrestrained applause at the conclusion of a glorious piece of music.

Hope to see you there -- I'll be the one on the edge of my seat! :-)

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