Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey Island Music Festival returns

Violinist Tekla Cunningham is one of an ensemble of  master chamber music artists who will play at three  venues during the Whidbey Island Music Festival. - Photo courtesy of Tekla Cunningham
Violinist Tekla Cunningham is one of an ensemble of master chamber music artists who will play at three venues during the Whidbey Island Music Festival.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Tekla Cunningham

If you have a hankering to hear some Handel or are pining for the strains of Purcell, it’s your lucky summer.

The Whidbey Island Music Festival celebrates the life and music of the giants of the Baroque, Henry Purcell and Georg Frederic Handel.

Every year, the festival treats audiences to the best in early music played by some of America’s finest early music artists under the sponsorship of the Whidbey Island Arts Council.

Through the course of two weekends, between Friday, Aug. 7 and Sunday, Aug. 16, four programs of vocal and instrumental chamber music in a series of six performances will take place at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley, St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods Episcopal Church in Freeland and the main barn at Greenbank Farm.

Audiences will have the pleasure of hearing the fine work of artists Clara Rottsolk, soprano; Ian Howell, countertenor; Tekla Cunningham and Susan Feldman, violins; William Skeen, violoncello; Avi Stein and Henry Lebedinsky, keyboards; and John Lenti, theorbo.

This year marks the 350th anniversary of Purcell’s birth and the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death.

Audiences will hear works from Purcell’s England, including those by Uccellini, Matteis, Locke, Blow, Geminiani, the composer himself, and a new work by Whidbey Island composer Kit Mills.

The Handel portion will include a celebration of the composer’s sacred and secular music, including the recently discovered Sonata Op. 5 No. 4 in G major, Handel German Arias and Sonata Op. 5 No. 7 in Bb, Handel Gloria.

Another program features “The Music Behind the Master,” what Handel was listening to when traveling through Europe. Music by the composer will be complemented by that of Delphin Strungk, Johann Philipp Krieger, Wilhelm Zachow, Johann Schelle, Reinhard Keiser, Keiser, Arcangelo Corelli, Alessandro Stradella, Agostino Steffani and Giovanni Bononcini.

The final program features the music of women in Italy who happened to be nuns.

During the 17th century, it became a common practice for noble families to force their younger daughters into becoming nuns, often to avoid having to pay the exorbitant dowries that noble marriages demanded. The cloistered life did offer some privileges, including the opportunity for education and advancement within the order and, despite efforts by the Catholic Church — including several harshly worded papal edicts to curtail music-making by nuns and by women in general — convents continued to be dynamic centers of musical performance.

“Sacred Sirens: Music from Italian Convents,” features works by Isabella Leonarda and her contemporaries Maria Xaveria Peruchona, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani and Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana.

A complete program schedule and artist information is available online;click here.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $15 for students. Tickets are available in advance; click here or at 1-800-838-3006. Tickets will also available at the door the day of each concert.

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