SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Arthur Russell Festival for Creative Music Making, formerly called “Arthur Russell Strings,” sponsored by the Ellsworth Community Music Institute, will be held here July 2 to 7.
The festival includes two public concerts, both at St. John Episcopal Church on Main Street. On Thursday, July 5, at 7 p.m., festival students and faculty will perform together to benefit the Westside Food Pantry.
The festival culminates with a student performance Friday, July 6, at 5 p.m. Both concerts are free admission and donations are welcome.
The festival is a one-week summer day camp for young musicians ages 11 to 18 to experience musical collaboration in small groups. It is designed to “encourage young musicians to experience the joy of musical collaboration, to form deep and lasting friendships, to be coached by professional mentors and to share the wonder of performance,” wrote a festival organizer. Younger students (ages 6 to 10) will have the opportunity to participate in a half-day program.
The festival is for students who are curious about ensemble playing and music exploration. Offerings will include improvisation, musicianship and music appreciation, ear training and intensive coaching by “highly-trained faculty.” On a given day, one group will rehearse Mozart while a jazz/composition ensemble is working just down the hall. Mixed group electives will follow with the program’s orchestra at the end of the day, working on an arrangement of an original Arthur Russell piece.
In 1998, Arthur Russell Strings was founded as a way to honor the legacy of the New York City avant garde cellist, composer, singer and musician with ties to Mount Desert Island. Russell approached music with a sense of openness and wonder. His work spanned the genres of classical, disco, folk and rock. He collaborated with artists like Allen Ginsberg, Talking Heads and Philip Glass.
When Russell died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 40, he left a volume of compositions and recordings “admired around the world,” said the organizer. “Arthur may be best remembered for the extraordinary and beautiful sounds he produced with his cello and his exploration of the range of musical emotions, from reverence to playfulness.”