Geneva Music Festival wraps 14th season

Well, the instruments are packed up, the chairs are empty. But the spirit of Geneva Music Festival lingers on. For 14 years, musicians have come to Geneva for three weeks of the early summer to collaborate, perform together, and share their talents with audiences from across the Finger Lakes.

This season presented a beautiful circle, with opening band Biriba Union concluding their electric concert with an Appalachian fiddle tune, and The Brothers Blue closing out the festival season with their homegrown fiddle music.

final resident artists’ concert, Night and Day, photo credit to Jan Regan.  Geneva Music Festival
photo by Jan Regan

The Night and Day resident artists’ finale was a gem in an already excellent themed season. It was also the most visually descriptive, with the musicians introducing their pieces with imagery like water over the sea and light through leaves, in a poetic synesthesia that remains with you even after the music has faded.

A highlight of this season was the world premiere of a Mark Olivieri piece, “Artifacts of a Valiant Past”, commissioned by Director Geoffry Herd specifically for the concert theme this year. Olivieri, composer and associate professor of music at HWS, said that he wanted to play with the idea of consciousness and memory as encompassing the theme of light and dark, and commented after the Thursday night concert, “That was just one of the most intuitive and energetic performances that I’ve had the pleasure of to hear, and I was very excited for them to be performing my piece. I look forward to working with them again in the future.”

The final concert also featured an intellectually challenging modern piece, “Light and Matter”, composed by Kaija Saariaho. Less approachable than the shimmering Haydn “Sunrise” string quartet earlier that evening, it presented a different form of light – light that is harsh, competing with darkness, struggling as it fades in and out of existence.

And it would be remiss not to mention Anna Petrova’s stunning piano solo at Night and Day. Since GMF is primarily a chamber music festival, there are generally few solos on the program. Petrova’s rendition of Scriabin’s Sonata No. 2, which was performed entirely from memory with a breathtaking finesse during the first movement and a tightly controlled passion that made the entire piano shake during the second, was an incredible treat. She received an immediate standing ovation both nights. 

After the performance on Thursday night, Mark Gearan, President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, commented, “I think as a Genevan, for 14 years this festival … every year … gets bigger, longer, more interesting, with a brilliant theme. We’re just so fortunate to be in these intimate settings and to have the musicians share their talent, describe it – the way they describe the music is such a highlight. Hobart and William Smith is proud to have it on our campus, but I think for everyone here the range of talent and musicians coming from literally all over the world, it’s great for Geneva.”

After the emotional intensity of the violin on Thursday and Friday night, it was a delight to finish out the season with the violin’s down-home brother for some danceable fiddle music outdoors.

The local bluegrass band The Brothers Blue brings home the special sense of place that the Finger Lakes offers – where else are you likely to hear bluegrass singers mention “glacial till” nostalgically in their music? Even a passing shower Sunday afternoon couldn’t dampen the audience’s enthusiasm, with attendees dancing through the rain. “These guys are awesome, I’ve seen them three or four other places. I’m very much a fan of this event and the whole [GMF] series, it’s incredible, absolutely incredible.” Said Dresden resident Donna Rae Sutherland.

Geneva Music Festival notes the following sponsoring organizations this year:

•      Rochester Area Community Foundation
•      Nelson B. Delavan Foundation
•      Max and Marian Farash Foundation
•      Brenda & Dave Rickey Family Foundation
•      Williams Family Foundation
•      Wyckoff Family Foundation
•      New York State Council on the Arts
•      National Endowment for the Arts

The Geneva Music Festival was founded in 2011 by Geneva, New York violinist Geoffrey Herd as a weekend of chamber music in his hometown. The festival has grown over its fourteen years to a nearly month-long event that draws thousands of attendees from across the Finger Lakes region. Each year, the Festival continues its mission of inspiring people with world-class chamber music and engaging diverse audiences in its outreach programs. All concerts are wheelchair accessible. To learn more, and to purchase tickets, visit:

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