Picking highlights out of a decade of musical performances is no easy task, especially considering the wealth of world-class artists that have graced our stage. Of course we could easily just list all the big names that have appeared, iconic musicians like Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis for example, but often it was just a particularly spine-tingling moment in a concert– those little glimpses of musical grace that sometimes happen –that’s what we’ll still remember when memories begin to fade.
Unsurprisingly many of the most powerful memories relate to the mingling of music and ocean views. The first time an audience got a taste of that was on Opening Night of 2010’s Rockport Chamber Music Festival, when Artistic Director David Deveau (in a piano trio), performed the world premiere of Scott Wheeler’s Granite Coast, and an all-star chamber ensemble performed Copland’s Appalachian Spring. The emotion was palpable. That powerful combination of melody, sea and sky was enough to draw tears from many in the awestruck audience. Other moments:
- Recall a 90-year-old Dave Brubeck, slowly and delicately ambling out onto the stage, looking like he might topple at any minute, only to transform into a youthful fleet-fingered jazz piano wizard as soon as his hands touched the keys. It was one of the last performances of his life.
- Last year when the boundary-defying Art of Time Ensemble came to Rockport for the first time, they made quite the impression. This was especially so during their Take This Waltz concert, a night that spanned everything from Strauss to Shostokovich to Leonard Cohen, but when vocalist Sarah Slean enchanted the audience with a goose-pimpling cover of Tom Waits’ “You’re Innocent When You Dream,” a collective exhalation of delight could be heard throughout the hall, followed, of course, by rapturous ovations.
- Some will remember the then-unknown young Cuban pianist Harold López-Nussa delivering an astonishing heart-pounding set of stirring Afro-Cuban jazz to a shocked and delighted audience. The next time he came, tickets weren’t so easy to come by.
- There was that time sweet-singing troubadour Martin Sexton made his debut on a night that happened to be Rockport Illumination, and as the fireworks rained down on Rockport Harbor, a surprised but game Sexton somehow seamlessly morphed his guitar solo into a stunning rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
- We are an intimate venue, used to small ensembles, so when the 21 members of A Far Cry (as well as violinist Chee-Yun and our own Artistic Director Barry Shiffman) took the stage, some wondered if it logistically could even work. It became quite apparent that it could work when they dove into the triumphant swells of Mozart’s joyous Sinfonia Concertante, as outside the window, swells of a different sort rolled in on the beach below. Wolfgang himself would have been smiling.
- Brian O’Donovan’s Celtic Sojourn concerts are always lively, soul-filling evenings, but one in particular stands out, with legendary Irish fiddling elder statesman Kevin Burke joining the heralded young Foghorn Stringband to demonstrate how an Irish folk tune changed as it traveled across the Atlantic to Appalachia—a supremely effective educational strategy that doubled as a joyous, foot-stomping musical moment.
- In light of recent tragic events, it feels right to recall the raw emotion and power of Davóne Tines’ baritone surging through the righteous social justice call of his Were You There concert. Bare light bulbs lit the stage and were extinguished as he called out the names of black men killed by police brutality. At one point, Tines lay flat on his back, his voice still reverberating about the hushed room, as the audience raised their own voices to join him in “Amazing Grace.”
If you asked ten people what their favorite musical moments are, they’ll likely give you ten different responses. That’s the beauty of art and music! When asked, Artistic Director Barry Shiffman couldn’t decide on just one, so he provided two! Check out Barry’s favorites, as well as a few from long-time supporters. We want you to get in on the fun too! Tell us your favorite concert!