The Red Lodge FRINGE Festival has begun the year 2014 with two well received concerts: one by the world-famous Muir String Quartet, and one by Red Lodge’s own brilliant young soprano, Lynell Kruckeberg. At the Muir Quartet concert on January 17 in Billings, we had a near capacity audience in Cisel Hall, at Montana State University, Billings. Afterward we heard many comments on what a treat it was to have really outstanding music in the winter for the Billings-Red Lodge area to enjoy.
The Red Lodge FRINGE, as you may have heard, is a supplement to the big festivals in the summer, particularly the Red Lodge Music Festival and the Festival of Nations. The name was “stolen” from the famous Edinburgh Fringe, which presents everything that doesn’t fit in the official Edinburgh Arts Festival in August and September of every year. While we sincerely recommend the Edinburgh Festivals, we try to offer some eclectic music closer to home.
The Red Lodge FRINGE has been going for one year now, but we are hoping that it will eventually become a year-round festival of performing arts. Perhaps then we can enthusiastically and honestly claim that Red Lodge is a cultural and entertainment destination, like so many other towns in the mountains of Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Our offerings are mostly classical music in the winter and spring months, and a mix of popular, ethnic, and light classical in the summer. Last year, the big hit of the series – which included programs of Beethoven sonatas, contemporary music for percussion instruments, and music for brass ensembles – was the Celtic-folk music duo, Four Shillings Short. 4SS will indeed be returning this year in August.
While we looked at the possibilities of performance in many local venues, the FRINGE has generally settled into the lovely St. Agnes Church. St. Agnes is comfortable, beautiful, and has fine acoustics. The church has also become the home of an excellent new piano, which is currently the property of an individual who has offered it to the community if the people of the Red Lodge area can contribute $5000 toward the cost of purchasing the piano and moving it here from San Francisco.
That new Kohler & Campbell grand piano will be featured in two exciting concerts on the weekend of March 21 to 23. The first concert, on Friday evening, March 21, at 7:30 pm, is by another world famous artist, pianist Gustavo Romero, who appeared here two years ago after a solo performance with the Billings Symphony Orchestra. Gustavo’s previous performance was to a packed house at the Community Church. We hope that every music lover (and some who haven’t yet made up their minds) in the region will turn out to fill St. Agnes Church.
For the past fifteen years, Mr. Romero has dedicated his focus toward preparing a series of concerts featuring music of one or two composers each year. So far, he has presented works of Chopin, Bach, Schumann, Schubert, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Haydn, Handel, Liszt, Debussy, and Gershwin, including complete piano sonata cycles of Beethoven and Mozart. This year he will be playing music of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, and Stravinsky: a varied program that should be especially suited to the new piano, which, like the pianos of Beethoven’s and Chopin’s day, is smaller and brighter than the huge concert grand pianos.
The second concert of the weekend features Red Lodge’s own virtuoso ensemble, the Red Lodge Chamber Players, on Sunday afternoon, March 23, at 3:00 pm. The local musicians will be joined by pianist Nancy Fonicello for a performance of the monumental Quintet in F minor by Brahms. That challenging work set the standard for piano quintets, generally comprising a string quartet plus a piano. It is big, difficult, and full of some of the richest, warmest music ever composed for a small ensemble. The Chamber Players will also be performing a String Quartet by Mozart.
Whether you live in Red Lodge or the surrounding area, or only visit Red Lodge for recreation and entertainment several times a year, don’t miss the fourth weekend in March for some of the finest music you are ever likely to hear. We believe we can also promise superior skiing and exceptional dining on Saturday, between concerts.
For more information, music lovers are urged to visit the FRINGE web site: www.RedLodgeFringeFestival.org or visit the offices of the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation. The FRINGE operates as an arm of the Foundation, as one component of A Place for Our Arts – an enterprise to support and expand awareness of the arts in Red Lodge.