My taste in music has always been rather eclectic. As a teenager in the ’60s, I was introduced to some of the artists who are considered musical icons even today (although I did not go to Woodstock, I envied those who did). On the other side of the balance sheet, I can still remember taking a gift certificate to a local book store and buying a record collection of Pablo Casals conducting the Brandenburg concertos. I never liked the heavy metal bands my son later listened to, like Kiss and AC-DC, but I did have the requisite ‘60s-era Iron Butterfly album.
My “all over the ballpark” taste in music was a perfect fit when I came to work at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) in Cape May, shortly before the annual Music Festival. This is part of MAC’s mission to bring quality cultural programming to the area, and I not only met even more new musical genres, but enjoyed a behind the scenes experience, as well.
Over the course of my 17-plus years here, I have broadened my musical tastes, thanks to Music Festival offerings. Pulling from classical, chamber and world traditions, it truly does offer something for everyone. Even me.
On the classical side, I’ve had the privilege of not only hearing the Bay Atlantic Symphony, an annual part of the Music Festival, but got to meet its artistic director, Jed Gaylin. Like all artists, musicians are stereotyped as temperamental, egotistical and generally difficult. None of those describe Jed Gaylin, who is an all-around huggable, wonderful guy and a joy to watch for the passion he puts into every performance.
“World traditions” covers a lot of territory. I had never heard an Irish group perform before, and had no idea how much hand-clapping enthusiasm went into every performance, affecting the audience as well as the musicians. One of my all-time favorites was a Zydeco concert. If that doesn’t make you want to get up and dance, nothing will. New to the Music Festival in the past couple of years are the a cappella groups.
Now it’s time for the 30th annual concert series, and there’s plenty to look forward to. First of all, there are two free concerts. The first is Sunday of Memorial Weekend, May 26, when the Atlantic Brass Band will play at the Rotary Bandstand in Cape May. This is great, all-American music with plenty of John Philip Sousa for his fans. The second is the a cappella offering, The Cat’s Pajamas, on June 11 at Convention Hall. MAC is teaming up with the City of Cape May to once again offer both of these free concerts as gifts to the community.
Also of particular interest to locals is the continuing tribute concert to the late George Mesterhazy, slated for June 9 at Convention Hall. This is the eighth annual tribute to George, who was a Cape May favorite for many years, and his musical friends have come together to make sure that the music will go on, as he would have wanted it to.
Of all the music I’ve heard over the years, however, the type that surprised me the most was the chamber music. You know, the stuff that white-haired society ladies listen to, while their husbands nod off in the seat next to them. Not so! This is classical on a smaller, lighter scale and perfect for those who find classical music intimidating. With just a handful of performers, chamber music is more personal and intimate. Come listen to the New York Chamber Ensemble or the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players and see if you don’t agree.
Let the music begin.
-- Jean Barraclough is the manager of website and publication at MAC