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Charles Ives Music Festival explores America's contribution to classical music

Musicians perform during The Charles Ives Music Festival in Danbury.
The Charles Ives Music Festival
Musicians perform during the Charles Ives Music Festival in Danbury.

Danbury’s own Charles Ives was a composer way ahead of his time, often combining elements of traditional American music with jarring avant-garde flourishes.

Beginning in 2019, the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra started the Charles Ives Music Festival in Danbury to celebrate Ives’ influence on American composers.

After some COVID-related setbacks in 2020 and 2021, the festival is back this year providing concerts and educational experiences for students.

Paul Frucht, the artistic director of the festival, said the concert series honors the spirit of Charles Ives by presenting works by him and other American composers.

“American classical music has that immediacy,” Frucht said. “And it’s our music, and it’s beautiful, and it’s so polystylistic because that’s what America is. There are so many styles of music, and we should champion it, and we should cherish it. And that’s what our concert series is all about.”

The two-week festival is also a learning opportunity for members of the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra. These young musicians are given the opportunity to play in various chamber groups with professional musicians from around the country.

“It’s really cool for, say, a local violinist or violist to sit next to the principal second violin of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra all week,” Frucht said.

The festival continues through Aug. 12. Go to charlesivesmusicfestival.org for details.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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