Enjoying a vintage Music in the Mountains’ concert this week

This year’s MIM SummerFest celebrates the group’s legacy and its future. It reflects Artistic Director Pete Nowlen’s talent for programming, combined with the support of an energized staff, board and volunteers.

SummerFest includes 12 concerts in 13 days, ending on July 3 — an ambitious effort. The headliners include Don McLean and Judy Collins at a new venue, Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley, as we’ve been reporting.

But it also includes some vintage MIM classical concerts, and I appreciate that. On Tuesday afternoon, we attended such a program at the Amaral Center at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. Called “Seductive Serenades,” it featured an original MIM orchestra member, Neil Tatman on oboe, a tribute to MIM’s longstanding orchestral talent.

Neil has performed as principal oboist for Music in the Mountains since the festival orchestra’s inception in 1982. After 40 years of teaching university oboe students in California and Arizona, he recently retired from the University of Arizona, where he lives for most of the year. His symphonic activity includes regular posts with the Arizona Opera, Reno Philharmonic and Carmel Bach Festival.

Neil joined conductor Lucinda Carver — a first-rate guest conductor from Southern California — and MIM strings in performing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Concerto for Oboe and Strings” (1944). It was a delightful performance that brought the crowd to its feet and left Neil and the other musicians smiling at being widely appreciated.

MIM strings also performed Gustav Holst’s “St. Paul’s Suite, Op. 29 No. 2” (1913) and Antonín Dvořák’s “Serenade for Strings, Op. 22” (1876).

We bought some front-row seats and were fortunate to have Pete join us at our table for much of Wednesday’s performance. He is energetic and ebullient. Pete also was equally impressed at the program and led the standing ovation for Neil Tatman’s solo performance on the oboe.

Pete likes Western Gateway Park

We chatted with Pete about this year’s SummerFest, and he’s excited about the new venue at Western Gateway Park for outdoor concerts. Attributes include clear sightlines, excellent sound and a spacious lawn to picnic under the stars. I also couldn’t help but notice that Pete was wearing a purple shirt on Tuesday afternoon, redolent of Northwestern University where he graduated with a degree in music. (I’m a Northwestern alum too, and we talk about that).

Few details are going unnoticed at this year’s SummerFest: I remarked, for example, about the quality of the program notes in the SummerFest program. One example: “Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Antonín Dvořák were all composers of the late Romantic period who referenced folk song and dance in their music.” Or “Williams did not write any music from 1914 to 1919 because he volunteered for military service in World War 1 at 42 years old — driving ambulance wagons in France and Greece.” Come to think of it, so did Ernest Hemingway and Walt Disney, I recalled.

MIM’s Executive Director Mieko Hatana calls SummerFest the “first movement” of MIM’s year-round season. “Movement 2” features the MIM Orchestra and Chorus with “Holiday Pops” and “Spring Classical” concerts. “Movement 3” features the events and fundraisers of the MIM Alliance and board. (We write about the Sierra BrewFest and Wine Dinner in our Summer issue). The “grand finale” features the youth of Nevada County. MIM is the largest provider of private music education services to public schools in Nevada County.

“I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the magic for all 35 years of discovery, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store ahead,” said Board President Terry Brown.

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