It wasn't too long ago that the chances of survival for the Eastern Music Festival looked dim. The six-week concert series and music school, held on the Guilford College campus in Greensboro each summer, faced the same problem many programs focusing on classical music do—decreasing attendance.
Several years ago, though, EMF managed to dodge the ever-present "graying classical audiences" question with the addition of Fringe, a series of concerts held at smaller, hipper venues and geared toward smaller, hipper crowds. Two of this summer's strongest acts—gospel powerhouse Mavis Staples and the infinitely summery Los Straitjackets—have come and gone, but there are still performances worth the drive. Highlights include:
Saturday, July 7: 9 pm: Tres Chicas, Jeffrey Dean Foster: Local ladies with Southern-style vocal harmonies. Triad Stage, $10-$15.
Tuesday, July 17: 8 pm: Hilary Hahn, Josh Ritter: Two of the leading young lights in music—violinist Hahn and songwriter Ritter. Dana Auditorium, $34-$45.
Sunday, July 22: 8 pm: Bruce Hornsby: On solo piano, the man who brought us "The Way It Is." Dana Auditorium, $35-$48.
On the classical side, EMF's repertoire is nothing outside of what you might find with any symphony, in any city. What EMF offers, between its student "festival orchestra" and its professional "Lincoln Financial Philharmonic Series," is the chance to hear world-class musicians play classical standards with a renewed vivacity. After all, it is more invigorating to play with a symphony for a couple of months than it is for a couple of years. Performances are in Dana Auditorium. Highlights include:
Saturday, July 21: 8 pm: Julia Fischer, with the philharmonic: Former violin prodigy Fischer does Glazunov's concerto. (The next night, 12-year-old violin prodigy Sirena Huang plays Mendelssohn's concerto with the festival orchestra.) Also, Dvorak's "New World" and Gershwin's "An American in Paris." $39.
Thursday, July 26: 8 pm: Concerto Competition: Winners of the school's concerto contest perform in what is pretty much always a staggering showcase of young talent. $25.
Saturday, July 28: 8 pm: "Brilliant Pianist: Tchaikovsky's Best": Guest pianist Barry Douglas performs Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1." Whether you agree on it being the composer's best work or not (his violin concerto is stiff competition), this is likely to be EMF's strongest classical showing. $39.