The Kennebec Early Music Festival –
How Did It All Come About?
A Memoir by George Bozarth, Artistic Director
How Did It All Come About?
Well, I guess you’d need to go back thirty years, when a music historian from
New Jersey met a lovely pianist from Illinois via New York City over a fortepiano one evening in beautiful Seattle.
They played four-hand music together on her 1840s piano, their hands crossed . . . and, as they say, the rest is history.
Tamara & George playing together.
So how does Bath, Maine, enter the story? My new wife, Tamara, and I discovered this lovely little town while on our honeymoon! Imagine that.
The beauty of the grand houses, the gorgeous library and park, the stately city hall, the shops on Centre and Front Street – they all made indelible impressions on us. “Wouldn’t it be nice to live here someday?”
Fast forward through two growing careers as concert artist and music historian to the year 2010, when next Tamara and I came to Bath – to buy a bath tub (of course)!
Library Park, Bath, Maine.
The town remained just as beautiful, and the business district looked more thriving than ever. It was a Friday evening, the band was playing in the park, the Jewish congregation was assembling for services – as Tamara remarked, “it feels like we just fell done a rabbit hole,” and quite a perfect one for a couple dedicated to studying and performing music in appropriate historical styles on instruments of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Tamara & George enjoying Summer...
But when we returned to Bath in August 2014, it looked as if something not good was afoot – just about every fourth house had a FOR SALE sign on it. What could be happening?
My curiosity got the best of me. Though it was a Sunday morning, Nancy Carleton was stationed in her office. “What’s going on in this town?” I asked. “If you have a little time,” Nancy replied, “I can give you five reasons for what’s happening here in Bath.” Within minutes I understood, and also felt like I had made a new friend – indeed I had! And within days Tamara and I had made an offer for our current home on Middle Street.
Garden House, Bath, Maine
Now to the Festival! In the summer of 2016 Tamara played a benefit house-concert for the Cosmopolitan Club using her replica of a 1780s South German fortepiano and her original 1895 English grand piano. The Festival was born from the enthusiasm of those at the concert and a second performance – including our first Treasurer, Dean Swarthout, and our Secretary, the Rev. Neil Gastonguay.
Then came our discovery of the intimate Linden Tree Meeting House in Phippsburg and the enthusiasm of the Rev. Holly Morrison, and the highly productive collaboration we established with the Rev. Ted Gaiser and the Grace Episcopal Church.
Ken Brill – Nancy Carleton’s brother (small town!) – soon joined our merry little Board. The final member of our team joined us in the spring – the wonderful designer kdb, who created our distinctive website, Facebook page, poster, rack-cards, and bookmarks. Cole Hackney worked with us for a year before he went off to serve in the Navy.
Mark Mahnke, our newest Board member, has taken over our advertising sales with great energy. Thank you all!
Our first Festival of three programs took place on August 15–20, 2017:
“What then is Love . . . ?”: The Lute in the Time of Shakespeare
The Sound of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert
Elisabeth Marshall, soprano
Timothy Neill Johnson, tenor
Timothy Burris, Renaissance lute
Elizabeth Blumenstock, 1660 Guarneri violin
Sarah Freiberg, 1784 Merlin violoncello
Linda Skernick, Franco-Flemish harpsichord
Tamara Friedman, South German and Viennese fortepiano
Our second Festival took place on August 14–19, 2018.
Returning artists Sarah Freiberg, Linda Skernick, and Tamara Friedman were joined by Susanna Ogata, 1772 Klotz violin and Thomas Carroll, chalumeau, basset horn, and “Stadler” clarinet in three programs:
Toute de Suite: Bach and the French
Mozart à la Mode
Such has been the enthusiastic response to these two Festivals that it’s now on to our Third Season of fine solo and chamber music performed on beautiful historical instruments!
Since our inaugural summer we have received generous support from the Edgard & Geraldine Feder Foundation, the Maine Arts Commission, and the Davenport Trust Fund, as well as corporate sponsorships from the Bath Savings Trust Company, Androscoggin Bank, and William Raveis/Nancy Carleton Real Estate. A cohort of two-dozen Businesses of Distinction in Bath support the Festival with their advertising, and individual donors who wish to see the Festival become part of their community give their support.