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“Come inside the festival,” says President Bakker

By Camie Fenton Sands

The other day, Dirk Bakker, president of the San Miguel Chamber Music Festival, looked over a seating chart of the Teatro Ángela Peralta and was once again reminded why the festival has, for 36 seasons, been a singular attraction in a city known for its culture. “Really,” he said, “where else can you sit in such an intimate space, so perfect for the ensembles’ fine-honed musicians to touch your mind, body and spirit, and to be stirred by the greatest composers’ feelings put to music, being performed by the best chamber musicians in the world?” He added, “From July 31 through August 23 this year, our annual San Miguel Chamber Music Festival will once again open up its ‘music room’ in the Peralta. Walking through the streets of San Miguel and crossing the Jardín already places one in this indefinable space, even before entering the theater.”

The Peralta, the colonial theater on the corner of Mesones and Hernández Macías, is known for its warm, intimate acoustics, even in its two balconies. But Bakker noted that, as always, the choicest seats in the performance hall will be reserved for festival patrons—placing those spectators so close to the musicians they will be able to hear the sounds of bows making contact with the instruments’ strings.

Bakker added, “We have room in the theater for many more patrons this season, and that is what we want the community to know—that you can have a reserved seat for the eight premier concerts, an invitation to four after-concert parties, and the ability to observe master classes, all for a minimum starting donation of US$500. These patron packages truly put you inside the festival and all the excitement. And these packages qualify for a charitable tax receipt.”

Bakker is highly enthusiastic about this year’s season, which promises to be one of the best ever,  on July 31 and August 1 with the Borromeo String Quartet. “This quartet brought the house down here in 2009,” he recalls. “They love our festival, and have agreed to take time out of their busy touring schedule to return and play for us.” Known as one of the world’s most adventurous string ensembles, the Borromeo pushes musical, intellectual and technical boundaries to a level achieved by only a very few musical groups.

The second weekend of the festival (August 9 and 10) marks the return of another audience favorite—the Gryphon Trio, generally regarded as the finest piano trio ensemble in Canada, and one of the best in the classical music firmament. “Their performances last year were so magical that we asked them right back,” Bakker says. “They themselves had fallen under the spell of San Miguel, so they happily agreed.” The Toronto-based trio has produced fifteen acclaimed recordings and won the 2011 Juno Award (Canada’s Grammy) for Classical Album of the Year.

The third weekend (August 15 and 16) marks the San Miguel debut of the Calder String Quartet, a group that, according to the Los Angeles Times, “seems to have reached a new level, and now the stars are the limit.” Bakker said, “The Calder has been wanting to share their innovations with us for years, and we finally connected.” The ensemble has earned a reputation for performing contemporary chamber music and making that music accessible to audiences around the world.

“We’ll say good-bye to our stellar 36th season with a group that Strad Magazine calls ‘one of America’s finest young chamber groups,’ the Claremont Piano Trio,” commented Bakker. “Even though they are highly in demand for performances at Carnegie Hall and the most prestigious festivals, they are so excited to come down and close our festival on August 22 and 23 that you really need to see and hear them. But better yet, meet them in person, too, by becoming a patron and truly being inside the festival’s four weekends of world-class music and parties. This is the best way in the world to experience it. “Right here, this August,” Bakker advised, as he placed a red mark over another reserved seat on the patron-seating chart.

To become a patron, email or call or visit the festival office on the second floor of the Bellas Artes, Hernandez Macias 75, open 10am to 4pm, 415-154-8722. For music programs and group information, please visit on the Web.


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