By far the biggest Spoleto attraction is the music. From rousing orchestral performances to pure chamber pieces, it all promises to soar. Emmanuel Villaume, Charles Wadsworth, Joseph Flummerfelt, and John Kennedy have put together a collection of programs that are already causing excitement among music lovers. And to complement the big festival, Piccolo Spoleto has a wide variety of series that showcase everything from organ music and choral singers to recorders and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.


Bank of America Chamber Music Series

What is it? Host, keyboard whiz, and ersatz stand-up comic Charles Wadsworth brings some of the world's finest virtuosos together at the Dock Street Theatre for the very best in chamber music. Why see it? This legendary series has been part of Spoleto from the start. Dr. Wadsworth has done more for chamber music than anybody else on the planet. His passion for his art and his unstuffy humor have made him one of Spoleto's most beloved personalities. This series helped kick-start the careers of superstars like Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, and Paula Robison. Their artist roster always reads like a who's who of global musical greats. You'll hear glittering chamber gems — both famous and unknown — by composers ranging from the Baroque to right now. Eleven different hour-plus programs — each offered three times — span the entire festival. And you never know what you're going to hear 'til you get there. Who should go? Anyone attuned to — or wishing to explore — a more direct and intimate approach to the classics. A good bet for musical kids. Buzz: Every year, Chucktown is all atwitter about what's in store for us at America's oldest theatre. Book soon, or bring money — for, yea verily, these concerts sell out fast. Look for grinning scalpers furtively conducting mini-auctions on the Dock Street steps. (Lindsay Koob)


SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25-$35 • 1 hour 10 min. • May 26-June 11, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. • Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St. • 579-3100


Music in Time

What is it? Contemporary composer, conductor, and true believer John Kennedy presents — and talks you through — four cutting-edge concerts chock-full of the music of now. Why see it? Ears attuned to the music of dead Europeans often balk at "new music" — especially when you can't whistle the tunes. And it was getting hard to do that for a while there. But thousands of living composers are writing for real people again — not just the geeks. Kennedy seeks to bridge the gap each year and win new audiences with vital, accessible music from today's masters like John Adams, Osvaldo Golijov, Pierre Boulez, Philip Glass, and Kaija Saariaho. Try it — he just might show you how to find real music in the very tunes you can't whistle. Some of it will challenge you, stretching the comfy melodic boundaries you grew up with. But adventurous souls who seek beauty and meaning from fresh sources will be rewarded. Who should go? Anybody who's on the prowl for fresh musical horizons. Bring a friend who isn't — yet. Buzz: "Open your ears, people!" That's what you'll hear from the core avant-garde faithful that always fill the Simons Recital Hall for these. If one of them invites you along, take the chance. (Lindsay Koob)


SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $20 • 1 hour 10 min. • May 27, June 3, 6 at 5 p.m. • Recital Hall, Albert Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • June 10 at 5 p.m. • Grace Episcopal Church, 98 Wentworth St. • 579-3100


Intermezzi Concert Series

What is it? Hour-plus concerts — six of 'em — offering an eclectic, multigenre mix of smaller musical treasures, performed by top musicians moonlighting from their main Spoleto events. Why see it? This will depend on what your cup of tea is. Choose from among a virtuoso piano recital, classical-era piano concertos, a French vocal recital, a brainy Mozart theme concert with modern overtones, larger chamber works, and smaller orchestral delights. All the music is worthwhile, though you may find some of it a bit far out. The performers are all first-rate: willing refugees from Spoleto's various other operatic, orchestral, or specialty events. Who should go? There's something here for just about anybody. Buzz: Always worthwhile, always packed. You should book soonest for these, too — or get there early and make sudden friends with an usher. You might not get a choice seat, but Grace Church can hold a lot of people. (Lindsay Koob)


SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25 • 1 hour 15 min. • May 28, 29, June 1, 4, 5, 9 at 5 p.m. • Grace Episcopal Church, 98 Wentworth St. • 579-3100


Westminster Choir

What is it? The esteemed Joseph Flummerfelt conducts the Westminster Choir in their traditional twin gigs at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul. Why see it? This is probably America's best college choir, and they've been spoiling Holy City choral fans rotten for more than 35 years. The program (same for both concerts) sticks mostly to the best smaller-scale sacred masterpieces. Bring an extra hanky, 'cause there won't be a dry eye in the place after "Danny Boy," their customary encore. Who should go? Vocal artists and fans who want their a cappella choral music done right. Buzz: Pure choral nirvana. These are often sold out before the festival even begins. Your only hope may be to get there early with lots of cash and be ready to play "gang-tackle the scalper" on the cathedral steps. (Lindsay Koob)


SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $32, $25 (restricted view) • 1 hour 20 min. • June 7, 10 at 5:00 p.m. • Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, 126 Coming St. • 579-3100


An Elegant Evening of Rachmaninoff

What is it? College of Charleston artists-in-residence Natalia Khoma on cello and violinist Lee-Chin Siow are joined by guest artist Volodymyr Vynnytsky on the ivories at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park for Rachmaninoff's lyrical Trio Elegiaque. The program also includes the composer's well-known Cello Sonata. Why see it? Rachmaninoff was 20 years old when his friend and colleague Tchaikovsky died of cholera. The news plunged him into a grief that he could only express through music. The D-minor Trio Élégaique, an elegy to Tchaikovsky, is a profound expression of that grief. Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata is probably his second most well-known chamber work after the Trio, though it's often described as a better showcase for the accompanying pianist than the cellist. Who should go? Those who love chamber music in a beautiful, ambient setting with a great view. Buzz: Khoma and Siow, both CofC artists and faculty members, will be stepping up later this year to fill the gap created by the disbanding of the Chamber Music Society of Charleston. This is a good chance to check out their chops before the inaugural season brochures go out later this summer. (Patrick Sharbaugh)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $10 • 1 hour • June 2 at 6 p.m. • City Gallery at Waterfront Park, 34 Prioleau St. • 554-6060


Mepkin Abbey Concerts

What is it? A pair of events from some of Charleston's leading vocal and orchestral artists with the monks at Mepkin Abbey, near Moncks Corner. Why see it? You get to experience one of the Lowcountry's most idyllic settings. And the music doesn't suck, either. On May 29, choral wizard Sam Sheffer leads his Vocal Arts Ensemble and members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in Handel's rich oratorio, Israel in Egypt. CSO players and resident conductor Scott Terrell return on June 4, along with revered local soprano Deanna McBroom, for a chamber version of the deep finale from Mahler's Song of the Earth, plus a related piece by Charleston's own Richard Moryl. The Mepkin Abbey Church is justly famed for its warm, clear acoustics. Souls and stomachs alike will get fed: there's an elegant under-the-oaks reception following each event. Who should go? Folks who like the idea of concert-cum-social event, or are curious about the finest church acoustics in the state. Buzz: Locals in the know snap these choice tickets up early. Get ready to be spoiled silly. Among the festival's remotest events, they're still well worth the drive. (Lindsay Koob)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $35 • 1 hour 15 min. • May 29 and June 4, 4 p.m. • Mepkin Abbey, Moncks Corner • 554-6060


Na Fidleiri

What is it? Celtic fiddle ensemble and dancers from the Drake School of Irish Dance perform Celtic dance, music, and ballads. Why see it? Touted as one of Charleston's "best-kept secrets," the fiddlers have headlined with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and at the Augusta Irish Festival and the International Festival at Francis Marion College in Florence. The performers, ranging in age from 9-18, are sure to have you dancing a jig with their spirited Celtic rhythms. Who should go? Young, talented performers, and the music and dance of the Green Isles, make this a concert that could bring even the Protestants and Catholics together. Great for all ages. Buzz: This lively ensemble hosted a sold-out show at Piccolo last year, and all signs indicate more of the same. (Elle Lien)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $10 • 1 hour • June 8 at 7 p.m.; June 10 at 2 p.m • Circular Congregational Church, 150 Meeting St. • 554-6060


Vespro Della Beata Vergine

What is it? Monteverdi tops the heap of early Baroque composers, and his 1610 Vespers of the Blessed Virgin is his sacred masterpiece. Why see it? This may just be the best Baroque sacred music before Bach and Handel came along. It's a huge and colorful choral-orchestral canvas, with variety and spice from a bevy of soloists. You'll savor classy period flavors along with some heavy pomp and glory. Expect fine work from the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus — led by Robert Taylor, our resident choral guru of national repute. He's recruited some top solo talent for this, like local super-soprano Margaret Kelly Cook. Until Taylor took it on this year, this spectacular music was heard only once before in the Holy City. Catch it while you can. Who should go? Early music nuts and those partial to grand sacred spectacle. No kids, please: this piece runs not far short of two hours, and begs mature attention spans. Buzz: There were some thorny stylistic issues 'twixt chorus and orchestra when these same musicians had their first go at this extravaganza during the regular season. But Taylor means to have those ironed out by the second time 'round, and the soloists are fab. (Lindsay Koob)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $10 • 1 hour 15 min. • June 6 at 6 p.m. • St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, 405 King St. • 554-6060


Festival Concert: Mahler's Fifth Symphony

What is it? Maestro Emmanuel Villaume and his crack Spoleto Festival Orchestra perform Gustav Mahler's mighty Symphony No. 5 and the lush tone poem Don Juan by Richard Strauss. Why see it? This is Spoleto's big orchestral blockbuster. Mahler's Fifth may be symphonic music's ultimate manic-depressive roller coaster ride. The beloved adagietto movement drips tender romance like honey through a sieve. Think of it as musical psychotherapy, but cheaper than a shrink. Strauss's Don Juan is a brilliant big-band showpiece that's based on the same ancient legend as this year's festival rerun of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Both are guaranteed to batter your senses and rattle the rafters. The Spoleto Festival Orchestra is the summer gig for the nation's best young musicians, and you can count on them for some heavy dazzle. Who should go? It's a must for fans of late-Romantic fare and massive orchestral sound. Don't bring the kids unless they're precocious. Buzz: Folks are still gushing about Villaume's stunning go at Mahler's Ninth a couple of Spoletos ago. Move fast if you want a ticket for anywhere lower than the nosebleed section. (Lindsay Koob)


SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $10-$65 • June 1 at 8 p.m. • Gaillard Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St. • 579-3100


An Evening of Porgy and Bess

What is it? Soprano D'Jaris Whipper-Lewis and "baritenor" Warnell Berry, backed up by members of the Chamber Music Society of Charleston, deliver a program of beloved arias from George Gershwin's immortal Porgy and Bess. Why see it? Robert Rosen will speak on Gershwin's ties to Charleston and the music of our cherished sea-island Gullah culture that fired his muse. Nary a Spoleto goes by without some celebration of Charleston's greatest musical monument. Singers and players alike are sure to please. Who should go? This is just the sort of show that we often put on for our out-of-town guests year-round. Buzz: We may have heard all the music before, but it's another near-last chance to hear the soon-to-be-extinct CMSC. And there are still plenty of us native Geechee folk who can never get enough of it. (Lindsay Koob)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $10 • 1 hour 15 min. • June 5 at 8 p.m. • Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, 90 Hasell St. • 554-6060


Early Music Series

What is it? Here's a mammoth series (17 events!) covering mostly secular instrumental music from the Middle Ages through the high Baroque. Why see it? These cover mainly antique instrumental music heard on both sides of the Atlantic through the late 1700s. The two main acts are Piccolo regulars: the renowned Chatham Baroque just keeps coming back, and Steve Rosenberg's world-class Charleston Pro Musica can be heard here year-round. Some programs add vocal attractions, too — like the CPM's rising international star José Lemos — his unearthly countertenor voice will floor you. Rosenberg and friends fascinate and amuse with unstuffy demonstrations of ancient instruments that you've never heard of. Other groups and individuals round out the schedule with varied fare ranging from Vivaldi concertos and Bach suites to early American choral music. Who should go? Anybody who dotes on (or is curious about) ancient music played primarily on original instruments. Youngsters will love most of these. Buzz: Pretty, perky, and undemanding music. You'll come away from most events with the same sense of wonder and appreciation you get from a good interactive museum exhibit. (Lindsay Koob)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $12 • May 26-June 11 at 3 p.m. • First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, 53 Meeting St. • 554-6060


Charleston Symphony Orchestra Gospel Choir

What is it? Beloved Charleston treasure and gospel guru Vivian Jones leads the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Gospel Choir in Wade in the Water, an African-American musical tribute to the sacrament of baptism. Why see it? There aren't too many orchestras out there that take gospel music seriously enough to offer it in symphonic context, and often. Thanks to Jones, the CSOGC jumped and jived into the local breach six seasons ago. And they've been packing happy houses and making the spirit move ever since. Here they'll offer a swinging, hand-clapping, multimedia look (video, narration, and song) into the baptismal practices of the Southern gospel tradition — plus moving musical links to the bad old days of slavery. Their regular-season go at this program was sold out, so Piccolo is offering two repeats. Who should go? Anybody who gets that helpless, primal urge to "move and groove" whenever a good AME choir gets cranked up. Buzz: Wouldn't ya know it — it's still a fair majority of white folk around here that joyfully pack their concerts the rest of the year. No surprise in Chucktown — good thing we love to share our adopted birthright with our Spoleto guests. (Lindsay Koob)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $10 • 1 hour 15 min. • May 26, 27 at 5 p.m. • Citadel Square Baptist Church, 328 Meeting St. • 554-6060


Mozart's Gran Partita

What is it? It's merely Mozart's supreme chamber work for woodwinds, performed by the excellent Chamber Music Society of Charleston. Why see it? We don't get to hear this very special music often and this may be the last hurrah for Charleston's esteemed Chamber Music Society, whose governing board suddenly dissolved the group a couple of months back. Who should go? Chamber music fans — it'll serve as certain consolation for those who get turned away from Dock Street. Even kids can pick up on Mozart's genius — they're sure to groove on all the jaunty sound and lovely melodies. Buzz: We've been grooving, too, but let's resolve to keep our chins up and let these valiant artists go out with a real bang. (Lindsay Koob)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $20, $10 seniors/students • June 5 at 6 p.m. • Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, 126 Coming St. • 554-6060


Choral Artists Series

What is it? Piccolo's usual array of first-rate choirs — ten of them this time — performing mostly sacred choral material. Why see it? Many of the nation's top church, college, and independent choral ensembles vie each year to perform here during Piccolo. Three are local: the esteemed Grace Episcopal Choir, and two of resident choral doyen Robert Taylor's ensembles: the Taylor Festival Choir and his College of Charleston Concert Choir that emerged just last year as one of America's best. Add four crack North Carolina teams (two of them women's groups), one each from Houston and Kansas City — and an especially hot bunch of singers from New York known as Antioch. Who should go? Choral fiends will think they've died and gone to heaven — at least the music will foster that illusion. Buzz: Charlestonians know and love their choral music. Make friends with local aficionados, and follow them around. You can happily fall back on these when you get shut out of some of the glam big-festival acts. (Lindsay Koob)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • $7, $5 seniors/students • May 27-29, June 3-10; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (see festival calendar section — pgs. 61-76 — for specifics) • Grace, St. Philip's, and St. Luke & St. Paul Episcopal Churches • 554-6060

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