Allerton Music Barn fest bigger, better second time around

Allerton Music Barn fest bigger, better second time around

MONTICELLO – The University of Illinois School of Music has added two concerts to its Allerton Music Barn Festival from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1, making it a seven-concert event, up from five last year.

Last summer, all five concerts sold out. Tickets and festival passes remain available for all of the concerts in the second annual festival.

The concert lineup ranges from jazz to classical to klezmer, with the opening concert "Beyond Cool" featuring the music of the original Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaboration "Birth of the Cool," along with new works written for the same Davis/Evans nonet instrumentation by UI faculty members Chip McNeill, Jim Pugh, Dana Hall, Larry Gray and Glenn Wilson.

The UI School of Music commissioned them to write the pieces.

In addition to UI School of Music faculty members, other performers at the festival will be Veretski Pass, a klezmer band from the East Coast, and Peter Soave on the bandoneon – an accordion-like instrument indigenous to Argentina, with buttons instead of keys.

Karl Kramer, director of the UI School of Music, came up with the idea for the festival after he first saw the soaring loft space in the Dutch barn on the southeast side of the Allerton Park and Retreat Center near Monticello.

"Last year's festival was a big hit," he said. "Our five-concert lineup was completely sold out, so that was a clear message that our audience is responding to what we're offering."

His plans all along for the festival were to start small and expand slowly in the first few years. Long-range, Kramer would like to add to the festival a 4,000- to 5,000-seat arena and an educational component.

Food will be available for this year's festival, with the major difference being that concert tickets and food are purchased separately.

A bistro-style menu and beverages, provided by K-Spear Culinary Arts in Monticello, will be available before each performance. Last year, K-Spear catered a sitdown dinner outside the barn. People also are welcome to take picnics dinners to the event.

In addition, on Friday and Saturday, festival-goers will have the option of ordering from a fixed-price menu, with wine pairings, at Montgomery's restaurant in Monticello before the evening concerts at the barn. Reservations are required; call 762-3733.

Also new this year: improvements to the concert space, made possible through regional foundation grants. The upgrades include life-safety enhancements and the installation of new lighting and a recording-quality surround-sound system.

The barn does not have air-conditioning, but large ceiling fans move an "incredible amount of air through the barn; it's very comfortable," Kramer said.

All of the festival performances will be recorded and streamed later on the School of Music Media Center Web site, which is expected to go live at the end of August. It will be accessible through the school's main site.

Kramer also plans to submit some of the festival performances to National Public Radio for possible broadcast.

Klezmer band to lead dance workshop at UI

URBANA – Veretski Pass, a klezmer band that will perform on Sept. 1 as part of the second annual Allerton Music Barn Festival, will stay an extra day to perform at a music/ dance event on Sept. 2 at the Courtyard Cafe in the Illini Union on the University of Illinois campus.

Yiddish dance master Steve Weintraub of Chicago will teach a workshop from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. and then lead the dancing from 8 to 10 p.m. The event will be free, though donations will be accepted.

Often called the "Pied Piper of Yiddish Dance," Weintraub has taught Yiddish dance workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. A trained dancer, he studied in Manhattan with Alvin Ailey and Erick Hawkins, among others.

He has devoted most of his career to creating and performing Jewish dance; he has worked with choreographers Felix Fibich and Shula Kivel, and has performed the work of Fred Berk. He also choreographed a production for the Joseph Papp Yiddish Theater and created the company Bottle Dancers. He was a principal dancer and choreographer with the Israeli folkdance group Parparim and was assistant director of the annual Israel Folk Dance Festival.

The East Coast-based Veretski Pass plays "old country" music in a collage of Carpathian, Jewish, Romanian and Ottoman styles. Their typical suites contain dances from Moldavia and Bessarabia, Jewish melodies from Poland and Romania, Hutzul wedding music from Carpathian-Ruthenia, and haunting Rebetic aires from Smyrna, seamlessly integrated with original compositions.

The members of Veretski Pass – the band performed in February 2007 at Smith Music Hall on the UI campus – are Cookie Segelstein on violin and viola, Josh Horowitz on tsimbl (cymbalom) and 19th-century accordion, and Stuart Brotman on bass, basy, tillinca and baraban. All have impressive music credentials.

The sponsors of the music/dance event are the Illini Folk Dance Society, the Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation and the University of Illinois Department of Dance.

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