Caramoor: A Garden of Great Music

Michael Barrett Conducting

When there is Music in the Air, I always think of Caramoor (  It’s that special place in the county that is called “A Garden of Great Music.”  Caramoor reverberates each summer with its seven-week International Music Festival, now in its 66th year.  This year the festival is truly a global affair with a roster of world music and a lineup of world renowned musicians.  What could be more spectacular than an evening at the 90-acre Italianate Estate in Katonah with its lush gardens, a picnic basket and the strains of celebrated musicians from around the world.

What I like about the festival is that there is something for everyone…opera, jazz, bossa nova tunes, jigs and reels, guitar strumming…and it’s all here in our backyard.  You can go many times during the festival and expect to see something different each night.  Under the leadership of Michael Barrett, the Caramoor program has become increasingly diverse in its explorations of many musical cultures.  Oumou Sangare of Mali, who is called “The Songbird of Wassalou,” will be dressed in her colorful garb on July 23 when she performs her music, which features a mix of both ancient and modern instruments.  The outstanding “Sonidos Latinos” returns this summer with a range of modern Brazilian music. Check the calendar for dates (  “I don’t have one audience,” says Barrett.  “I have ten or fifteen audiences,”  he says as he explains the diverse program.  “Some of our audience likes classical music, but without singing.  Others are crazy for opera.  Some like abstract music.  It’s a mixture.”

A hallmark of Barrett’s programming is “adventurous,” “new” and “fresh.”  For example, Gabe Kahane, singer, composer and virtuoso on many instruments, teams up with Celloist Alisa Weilerstein in a performance on July 29 of a mixture of Kahane’s own work along with Bach’s.  Says Barrett, “Kahane is known for his cycle of Craig’s List songs.”  Another first was the fact that he opened the season with Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore,” which was a sell-out. ( I regretted to miss it, as  I played “Dead Eye Dick” in a camp performance).  American sounds run through the festival.  Barrett says, “This is music written in America by Americans.”   Performances on July 22 and July 31 will feature “Music from Copeland House,” works by composers who have won the Pulitzer Prize for Music and some who were overlooked.  “The point is that we don’t just play music from Europe written before 1875.  I love that music, but that’s not all there is.”

Then Michael Barrett had to run.  He was presiding over the first in a series of four “Dancing at Dusk” for families, and of course families are another one of Caramoor’s audiences.  “Dancing at Dusk” is a great way to introduce children music, in this case the traditional folk music of Ireland, Greece, Italy and Brazil. Then there are the “Al Fresco Sundays.”  And that’s not all.  It’s affordable.  So fill up your picnic basket and bring your blanket to Caramoor.

Lastly, for a roundup of 250+ free or affordable (under $20) concerts throughout Westchester, check out!

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