One of the things I’ve noticed as I grow older is the tendency to mark the advance of time in other people or things. Maybe it’s a defense against aging. If I can see a movie on TV that was made before I was born, it means I’m not so old. Attitudes toward aging change, too, as you start to do it yourself. You tend to move yourself from the “old and decrepit” category” into the “aged like fine wine” category.
I had one of those “I was around when…” moments earlier this spring when I began working on promotions for the 29th annual Cape May Music Festival, which is sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC). I was not on the MAC staff when the music began to play all those years ago, but I can remember its beginnings.
At the time, I was the editor of one of our local newspapers, and remember being on the receiving end of all of MAC’s promotion for events, and the brand new – at the time – Music Festival was one of them. Compared to our huge list of tours and events today, MAC’s roster was nowhere near as long almost 30 years ago, and a three week schedule of concerts was quite an undertaking for the relatively young organization.
What it did then, and continues to do now, is bring high quality music to Cape May County. For music of this caliber, local residents would need to drive a lot further than just down to Cape May and here we had, and still have, access to orchestras, chamber ensembles and a variety of musical genres at ticket prices unheard of in Philadelphia or New York. Not to mention the gas and tolls.
It has been interesting to watch the Music Festival grow and diversify in my 16-plus years working here. One of the words we use often to describe MAC is “multi-faceted,” and that surely describes the way the Music Festival morphed into a different creature from the early performances of years ago.
As much as our foundation is built on history and really, really old things, like an 1879 Victorian house museum, the 1859 Lighthouse, and the World War II Lookout Tower, we have always tried to stay in step with what our visitors and residents are looking for today. We may love old stuff, but we also value what’s new. After all, you have to have something old to appreciate something new.
The Music Festival is a good example of how we try to anticipate changes in taste, in this case for music. From what was primarily orchestral and chamber offerings, we branched out into everything from pop to swing to Irish, Zydeco, Klezmer and dozens of flavors of music.
This year’s Music Festival is no exception. The foundation of two wonderful groups remains as the Bay Atlantic Symphony returns, under the baton of Jed Gaylin, who is a delight to watch and listen to, as well as long-time Music Festival favorite, the New York Chamber Ensemble. It’s especially interesting because this year we will see a performance of a group called “Bailen,” comprised of the offspring of NYCE director Eliot Bailen. Talk about the years sneaking up on you… I’m sure he feels the same, with a heaping measure of pride thrown in for his kids.
We also have a new type of music in a group called Blue Jupiter, billed as “cutting edge a cappella,” in a free concert at Convention Hall, co-sponsored by the City of Cape May. Yes, lots of changes, but positive changes that say that while we’ve aged, we’ve aged well.
-- Jean Barraclough is manager of publications & website at MAC