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Big Sky Telemann Festival performing for music fans of all kinds this week

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The third annual Big Sky Telemann Festival is Wednesday through Saturday in Great Falls. Courtesy photo
The third annual Big Sky Telemann Festival is Wednesday through Saturday in Great Falls. Courtesy photo

Part of modern music’s beauty is how every genre — be it heavy metal, K-Pop, hip hop, acoustic folk, jazz or opera essentially comes from the same source, and nearly every performer uses the same language to express his or her music.

For this reason, classical music, particularly from the baroque era, has stood the test of time because it continues to influence nearly every genre even today. Think of it as Chuck Berry before Chuck Berry was Chuck Berry, the true king of Rock and Roll.

Some of the biggest pop acts in the last 60 years have taken elements of the baroque period and incorporated it into their own sound — band such as the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, Regina Spektor, Lana Del Ray, Tori Amos, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, and even the Beatles are technically considered “baroque pop artists.”

To see the full list, check out this page.

It’s for this reason, and a host of others, that this week in Great Falls, a group Electric City musicians pay homage to some of the biggest musical influences of all time at the third annual Big Sky Telemann Festival.

The festival is named after the iconic German baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann, who has more than 3,000 baroque pieces to his name.

It’s essentially four meaty days of music befitting of the massive classical period that lasted between 1600 and 1750.
Director Steve Olson has picked 18 baroque pieces to perform starting Wednesday through Saturday, with each show starting at 7:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Great Falls.

Continuing with that theme, Olson stressed that they created this festival in 2012 to reach out to the entire community of music lovers if you’re a Great Falls Symphony season ticket holder or not.

The Big Sky Telemann Festival features more than 30 musicians all from the Great Falls area. Courtesy photo
The Big Sky Telemann Festival features more than 30 musicians all from the Great Falls area. Courtesy photo

“There really is something for everybody in each concert,” Olson said. “And actually when Telemann was writing his music, he made it where his music is tricky but not hard-hard and one of the things he was aiming for is making sure it would be accessible for any audience and for the amateur player so everybody could enjoy it.”

In addition to pieces by Telemann, the festival also includes pieces from iconic composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi and George Frideric Handel, among others.

Olson said it was more difficult in deciding which pieces to play moreso than anything else. He said this year he wanted the musicians to perform a mixture of well known pieces such as Handel’s “Summer” from the “Four Seasons” concerto, and not-so familiar pieces such as Johann Joseph Fux “Overture in G-Minor”

Olson added that he credits YouTube with helping him find the not-so-familiar pieces.

“It’s been a great resource for picking out stuff because i’ll be listening to Telemann and it’ll give suggestions so I’ll start clicking random ones I’ve never heard of and I’ll be like ‘Oh, that’s a cool piece,’” he said. “The Fux Overture, for instance, I have never really heard about Fux or heard his music, but I listened to the piece and was able to pick out the music and there you go.”

While there 15 musicians in the festival’s main group, several evenings will be a chamber orchestra setting while others will have the whole group going.

One aspect of this festival that sets it apart from others in the state, Olson added, is the fact that it’s comprised entirely of musicians in the Great Falls region.

“Most of the group is made up of people who play in the (Great Falls Symphony) but a couple aren’t in it but probably will be and three are students at CMR and four people are Great Falls Public School music teachers and the rest are community members,” he said. “That’s the one thing that makes this festival extremely unique we’re the only one that features all local people.”

Olson said they have plans in the future to keep expanding the festival, as well. Last year they started doing a Christmas-themed show around the holidays, and next year they have plans to start an Easter-themed show, as well, to be performed on Good Friday.

The main festival is growing to five days next year and Olson said depending on the feedback, he can see a full-fledged season developing where they do shows periodically throughout the year.

For more information on the Telemann Festival, check out the festival's Facebook page here. Courtesy photo
For more information on the Telemann Festival, check out the festival’s Facebook page here. Courtesy photo

Part of what has made these plans possible, he added, is the support of other entities in town such as the Great Falls Symphony and the Great Falls College MSU.

“Gordon (Johnson) came to that Friday concert last year and he said ‘Wow, this really is awesome that you’re doing this,’ and he said that it looked like everyone in the group enjoys doing it and are having fun while doing it,” Olson said.

“Then in the future we’re looking at starting a partnership with another group in town at the Great Falls College. They’re talking about starting a choir and Cynthia Stevens said she’s thinking of possibly doing the Vivaldi “Gloria” in the spring. And, that’s one of things that’s really nice a out Great Falls is that it’s so supportive of the arts, and everybody in the arts fields are usually supportive of everything else, too.”

Admission to the shows for adults is $10 per single concert or $30 for a four-day pass. Admission for students is $7 per single concert or $21 for a four-day pass.

Keep checking back to Big Sky State Buzz for more coverage of this event including video and photos from the first few days.

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