Laguna Beach Music Festival Starts This Friday

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The 21st annual Laguna Beach Music Festival runs from today through Sunday

Prominent concert pianist, New York Times best seller and MacArthur “Genius” Grant Fellow Jeremy Denk will perform a wide range of classical and contemporary pieces over the three-day festival. Photo courtesy of Orange County Philharmonic

The Laguna Playhouse will be humming with a variety of classical and contemporary concerts and music-related activities when the 21st annual Laguna Beach Music Festival kicks off this Friday at 8 p.m.

Artistic Director, New York Times bestselling author and MacArthur “Genius” Grant Fellow Jeremy Denk will team up with renowned violinist Stefan Jackiw, the Isidore String Quartet and Choral Arts Initiative for three days of classical and contemporary concerts hosted by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and Laguna Beach Live!

The event opens today at 8 p.m. with “Hymns, Songs, and Sonatas,” featuring Denk and Jackiw performing Charles Ives’ Violin Sonatas Nos. 3 and 4. The Choral Arts Initiative, led by artistic director Brandon Elliott, will perform “Beulah Land” and “I Need Thee Every Hour,” two popular gospel hymns referenced in Ives’ Third Violin Sonata. 

“Stefan and I have spent years of sweat and toil on the Ives Violin Sonatas,” Denk said. “These pieces pretend to be modern, but, at their core, are desperately romantic and nostalgic for an American, idealized past.”

Classical violinist Stefan Jackiw will perform at the Laguna Beach Music Festival this weekend. Jackiw has appeared as a soloist with the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco symphony orchestras, among others. Photo courtesy of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County.

Denk and Jackiw will also play Brahms’ Sonata No. 1, “Regenlied,” which will be preceded by a performance of Brahms’ lied Regenlied from Lieder, Op. 59 by Denk and a voice soloist from Choral Arts Initiative.

Saturday’s concert is “An Evening with Jeremy Denk.” The 8 p.m. performance kicks off with a solo piano recital. Denk will perform a wide-ranging program that contrasts music from the Baroque and Romantic eras. Denk will also play pieces from Black composers Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, Scott Joplin, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The recital includes Bach’s Partita in G major, Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor, and Frederic Rzewski’s “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues,” from his North American Ballads, which commemorates 1930s textile mill workers protesting their working conditions. 

The festival concludes with “Jeremy Denk and Friends,” a chamber music concert featuring Denk, Jackiw, and the Isidore String Quartet. The program includes Mozart’s Duo No. 1 in G major for violin and viola, Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1, and Franck’s Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor. 

Before the concert at 2 p.m., Denk will read excerpts from his new memoir, Every Good Boy Does Fine.

The Festival also features ancillary events to supplement the concert program. Tomorrow, from 9 a.m. to noon, the Laguna Beach Music Festival and the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painters Association will hold a gathering of local artists and musicians at Heisler Park for a morning of art, music and ocean views. This event is open to the public. 

Denk has performed multiple times at Carnegie Hall and, in recent years, has worked with the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra. He has also performed with the London Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC Symphony and Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Jackiw has been a soloist with the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco symphony orchestras. 

Founded in 2002, the Laguna Beach Music Festival has produced concerts that have, in recent years, featured virtuosic artists such as Augustin Hadelich, Conrad Tao, the JACK Quartet, Chris Thile, and Natalie Joachim, as well as local groups such as Salastina, the Orange County Women’s Chorus, and Wild Up. The Festival also provides lifelong learning opportunities for Orange County residents through meet-the-artist events, open rehearsals, symposiums, and educational programs in Laguna Beach schools.

Single tickets for each concert start at $38 and can be purchased on the Philharmonic Society of Orange County’s website or the Laguna Beach Live! website. Concert packages for the Laguna Beach Music Festival are also available; contact [email protected] for more information.

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