MMF to offer annual Thanksgiving concert


DORSET >> After 25 continuous years, most events have probably earned the right to be considered "annual."

Such is the case with the Manchester Music Festival's upcoming Thanksgiving concert on Saturday, Nov. 28 at the United Church of Dorset and East Rupert. Every year, since 1990, an ensemble from the music festival has performed there, said Ariel Rudiakov, the festival's artistic director, and marking one way to start the beginning of the holiday season.

"It's a lovely occasion to experience music and we try to throw in some new elements every time," he said. "This year is no different."

The musical feast — for those ready to take a break from the more traditional forms of Thanksgiving feasting — will include pieces by Franz Joseph Hadyn, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Luigi Boccherini and Stephen Dankner, a contemporary composer from Williamstown, Mass.

Haydn's "Lark" string quartet — so called because of some birdcall imitations early in the piece — will launch the performance.

It's one of Haydn's best string quartets of the 81 he composed, Rudiakov said.

"This one has all of the mature Haydn ingredients of wit and the perfect structure with a lot of boisterous interplay between the instruments," he said.

That will be followed by a string quartet by Dankner, who has composed 18 string quartets along with numerous other pieces that include symphonies and a quartet for saxophones, betraying perhaps a jazz influence that stems from a long career living and teaching in New Orleans. Not only is he a prolific and distinctive composer, but his creative work also includes digital-based art and writing as well as music.

The music festival performed his String Quartet No. 18, his most recent, earlier this summer at the Weston Priory, and will be reprising that Saturday in Dorset. The church setting should fit the piece well, with its hymn-like first movement, which shifts gears into a more romantically flavored second movement.

"It's a fun piece, not profound," Dankner said during a recent phone interview. "Romantic to be sure, not passionate to be sure; it's more subdued but it's also very direct. The audience will find it to be very accessible and understandable."

Rachmaninoff will be represented by a performance of a string quartet he composed as a young man. When he was still a student at the Moscow music conservatory where he was studying, he was interested in smaller compositions than the larger orchestral works he later composed. He wrote a couple of string quartets but didn't finish them, Rudiakov said.

"But what you see is kind of an introduction to what Rachmaninoff was going to become," he said. "Two movements exist from his the first string quartet; the first is a very beautiful, languorous, typically Russian slow movement, followed by a very lively, happy scherzo. It's interesting to me to see the early stages of a composer's development — and what happened later on."

Rachmaninoff's String Quartet No. 1, which the music festival will perform, isn't often played, and it will be their first time playing them as well, he added.

The final piece on the program will be Luigi Boccherini's "Fandango" quintet, which is widely known, and will feature the classical guitar playing of Brett Grigsby, a Manchester resident who teaches music at Skidmore College in Saratoga, N.Y. and also performs with the Finger Lakes Guitar Quartet. Boccherini, who emulated Hadyn to a degree, lived in Madrid for many years and became a fan of Spanish music and wrote the piece for his patron, a Spanish duke who also played guitar, Grigsby said in a phone interview.

The final of three movements of the piece is the "Fandango" — one that many listeners are likely to find familiar, he said.

This will be Grigsby's first time performing with the Manchester Music Festival. The Manchester Festival Quartet is comprised of Deborah Buck and Joana Genova, violins. Ariel Rudiakov, viola and Ben Capps, cello.

The concert starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, and is expected to last about 90 minutes. Tickets may be obtained by visiting the festival's website at, or by calling their office at 802-362-1956. Tickets may also be purchased at Northshire Bookstore.


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