In March of this year, I received a phone call from Katie Tertell, who told me she was calling from Ireland. She is a cellist and said she was organizing the first ever Appalachian Chamber Music Festival. She asked if Happy Retreat would be interested in being a venue for some of their events. Given our pre-Covid success with the Charles Washington Chamber Music Society concerts, I was immediately interested. She explained that she grew up in nearby McLean, Virginia, and always loved visiting Harpers Ferry and this area. This had given her the idea of creating a chamber music festival that would meld “world-class chamber music performances, collaboration and outreach, with the rich and inspiring history, nature and culture of Harpers Ferry, Charles Town, Jefferson County and surrounding areas,” as described on the Festival’s website.
During the third week of August, performances took place in Charles Town, Shepherdstown, and Harpers Ferry as well as in Berryville and Purcellville, Virginia. The Festival opened with master classes at Happy Retreat and closed with a finale concert on our back lawn.
Eight top flight musicians from around the world performed classical works by Beethoven, Grieg, Janacek and Dvorak as well as music by contemporary composers, including two commissioned specially for the Festival. Composer Steven Snowden conducted two of his works. Thanks to our resident tech guru Neal Nilsen, several of the Festival performances are available on the Appalachian Chamber Music Festival YouTube channel, where you can enjoy them today – including two of the pieces performed at Happy Retreat.
I am pleased to say that plans are already underway for next year’s Festival. Given the quality of the musicians involved and the vision of Katie Tertell, I predict over time it will become a signature event for chamber music performances. We look forward to our future collaboration.
The timing of the Festival was fortuitous. The fall COVID-19 spike had not yet materialized and people felt comfortable attending performances. However, by September, with numbers rising, other events had to be postponed. The Harpers Ferry Historical Society held its 50th anniversary picnic as scheduled, but the Jefferson County Historical Society’s annual picnic was cancelled. No further events are scheduled this year except for a repeat of the lighting of outdoor Christmas trees that was so popular last year.
We look forward to returning to a regular schedule next year.
In the meantime, our work with Landmarks SGA to develop a master plan for the house and the entire 12-acre property is moving forward. We will have details to share in our December newsletter. A gorgeous aerial drone video of the house and grounds done by Landmarks SGA now graces the home page of our website. It was taken in spring when the trees were just starting to bud.