June is chamber music month in Sitka. The Sitka Summer Music Festival (SSMF) has been a feature of or town since 1974. Chamber music is everywhere, at Mean Queen Pizza, on the Sheldon Jackson Fine Arts Campus, in the Tribal Community House, on boats, in the radio studio and in homes. And oh yes, in Centennial Hall with its natural backdrop of Sitka Sound just on the other side of the glass.
Musicians play instruments made in over 5 centuries, from classic Cremona instruments to a modern string quartet of instruments made of black carbon fiber a year ago. The compositions range from the baroque to the current decade. The diversity of the music keeps me intellectually engaged. The power of music keeps me emotionally engaged. And seeing friends who have been coming to Sitka for years, both musicians and folks from Juneau or Anchorage, make June a joy.
But what I particularly like is watching the communication between musicians, eye contact, a nod, a smile, the flick of a bow or nod of a head. Constant communications through the sound of the music and the body language is why I like to sit in the front row, even though the front row is not always where the best sound is.
The final work was the Brahms Piano Quartet in A Major. When the piece started the mountains were clear against a blue sky. As the piece developed clouds moved in rapidly, swirling around the peaks, At the end of the piece bows flew up triumphantly, the audience jumped to its feet and the fog dropped into the Sound. .
Thank you Paul Rosenthal for starting the festival, and thank you Zuill Bailey for taking it on and keeping it fresh. In June, if I am in Sitka, I know I am where I am supposed to be.