Zoie Clift, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
The Hot Springs Music Festival brings together hundreds of international musicians each year to the city. During the festival June 3-16, around 200 international musicians will present 20 concerts and more than 250 free open rehearsals.
“We have at least one concert every day,” said festival director Todd Cranson. "There is a concert every evening for two weeks.”
A goal of the event is to make sure classical music is and remains relevant to people today by making the music easily accessible to a wide audience range. Central to the festival is a mentorship program, which pairs world-class musicians with pre-professional apprentices. The two groups play side by side throughout the festival.
The event brings in over 100 young musicians on the cusp of entering their professional careers. “They are very creative and are very influenced by what audiences are influenced by and the music they make is not necessarily what people think of when they think classical music,” said Cranson.
“We are going to be doing plenty of Bach and Mozart and Beethoven but we are also going to be doing some new things that today’s classical musicians are doing,” he added.
This includes bringing in musicians such as Rick Robinson, who goes by the alter ego name Mr. Cuttime. “When you hear the term classical music right off the bat some people think they might not be interested,” said Cranson. “Well, Rick Robinson sees that, acknowledges that, understands that and is on a mission to change that. So he is going to bring his own brand of music and will be reaching out to new audiences, younger audiences, to more diverse audiences. To try to show people who don’t already know about classical music that there is something there they might like.”
High caliber musicians are signed on to perform, including the Cassatt String Quartet. “What is special about that is these folks are considered one of the top chamber ensembles in the country,” said Cranson. “And they’ve been playing together for almost 30 years. They are coming to use from New York...Hot Springs has a lot of great music including chamber music going on, but some of the pieces we present at the festival would not be able to be played here except by the best musicians in the world and that is the kind of things we are able to offer by bringing these people in,” he added.
The festival takes place in a variety of venues around town including art galleries, hotel ballrooms and historic buildings.
The schedule highlights a variety of musical options. Among these are opening day festivities (June 3) that showcase a brass ensemble outside on the steps of the Arlington Hotel. The Cassatt String Quartet will be playing in the evening in the ballroom.
A new event on Saturday June 9 features a free concert down Bathhouse Row. The concert is led by Rick Robinson, a longtime bassist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and will progress from Buckstaff Bathhouse to the Superior Bathhouse.
There is also a concert on June 14 that stars young musicians and “some of the new things being done and not what you think of when you think of classical music,” said Cranson. “It’s going to be things that musicians like and that we think the audience will like.”
“One of things that the festival does that is very important for the community is producing large scale symphonic works and extremely high level chamber music,” he added. “For two weeks Hot Springs gets to be home to an entire orchestra of world-class musicians."
Detailed concert and program information is available at the festival’s website. For more information on the Hot Springs Music Festival call 501-623-4763 or visit www.hotmusic.org.
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