One of the signature features of Staunton Music Festival is its commitment to new music. At Staunton old and new music are often programmed together on the same concert; rather than having an event solely devoted to "modern" music, familiar and unfamiliar works take the stage together, shedding new light on each other. With leading support provided by the Allan & Margot Blank Foundation, SMF launched a New Music Initiative in 2017. The Initiative secures funding to help continue programming exceptional 20th- and 21st-century music, and a principal part of that effort goes to commissioning world premieres from invited composers-in-residence.
Each August the Festival invites several living composers to Staunton for a residency, involving chances to interact and discuss their music with the public, as well as featuring their music on numerous concerts. Recent composers-in-residence have included prominent European artists (Anders Hillborg, Moritz Eggert, Stefan Heucke, Willem Jeths), and many American masters have been spotlighted in Staunton in past seasons (Allan Blank, Susan Botti, Gabriela Lena Frank, Zhou Long and Chen Yi). In addition, Festival programs are often graced by the best new works from Virginia composers, including Judith Shatin, Matthew Burtner, Eric Guinivan, and Casey Cangelosi.
PERFORMING HEUCKE'S OBOE SONATA
Oboist Roger Roe and composer Stefan Heucke discuss the Staunton premiere of Heucke's powerful Oboe Sonata, composed in memory of homosexual victims of the Holocaust.
BURTNER'S SYNTAX OF SNOW
A video performance capturing the world premiere of Matthew Burtner's Syntax of Snow, commissioned by the Festival and featuring percussionists I-Jen Fang and Brian Smith.
With the presence of so many talented composers each summer, the Festival began an Emerging Composers Program in 2008 to help support the youngest composers at the starts of their careers. This program led to the creation of many premieres each season. From this program emerged one of the brightest lights in American music: Zachary Wadsworth. Wadsworth has appeared on Festival programs every year since his debut here in 2011, and the Festival is proud to have commissioned a dozen new works from Zachary in that time.
Photo credit (c) Dallas Southcott
WADSWORTH'S TAKE ON HAROLD ARLEN
In addition to numerous original compositions, Wadsworth has also been involved in scoring and performing many great arrangements for Festival concerts.
INSIDE THE COMPOSER'S STUDIO
In this Perspective Video, Zachary Wadsworth focuses on the musical ideas developed in his "Bad Child's Book of Beasts" collection, commissioned by the Festival in 2014.
The effort does not always stay within the boundaries of traditional "classical" music. For many years the Staunton Festival had a fruitful collaboration with Chuck Dotas, trumpeter and jazz composer, who created original music inspired by classical works for the August series. More recently, the brilliant bandoneon player and composer, Juan Pablo (J. P.) Jofre, appeared in Staunton for several original creations and joined the performance of Piazzolla's Maria de Buenos Aires. World music has also featured heavily in past seasons, with such figures are Simon Shaheen and Music From China bringing their unique blend of traditional regional styles to merge with Western idioms.
J.P. JOFRE'S UNIVERSE
Recorded in concert at the Festival in August 2019, J. P. Jofre (bandoneon) and Federico Diaz (guitar) perform Jofre's Universe, a captivating blend of textures and rhythmic verve.
PIAZZOLLA'S MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES
Video recording of excerpts from the Piazzolla opera, performed in 2019 and featuring Cecilia Duarte (Maria), Celeste Lanuza (El Duende), and Octavio Moreno (Payador).