Festival Roundup: Insight and Comments from Festival Participants
The Mutual Inspirations Festival 2011 - Antonín Dvořák was an ambitious undertaking for the Embassy of the Czech Republic. After more than 30 concerts featuring over 500 artists throughout some of the most prestigious venues in the Washington area community, the festival has proven to be a rousing success story with over 10,000 people in attendance.
Reflecting on the many accomplishments of the festival, Czech the News, the official newsletter of the Embassy of the Czech Republic, interviewed festival participants to gain some insight into highlights that touched festival participants. Below are a selection of responses to the following questions:
After being a part of the festival, what does “mutual inspirations” mean to you?
“The festival brought into focus the concept of cultural interrelations, momentary and long-term inspirations,” said Murry Sidlin, Conductor of The Catholic University of America Orchestra. He further said, “The beauty of the festival was in its diversity of lectures, panels, orchestral, choral, jazz, pop culture as seen by both sides slightly separated by geography and cultural development. The conception of the many weeks of events was nothing short of brilliant. As a performer on the September 17 event, I felt a part of a whole, and not isolated into a semi-intrusion. I joined a much larger human mosaic to illuminate; it was joyous to prepare, and to take a work often thought of as American (New World) in its developments and elements, and allow its firm Czech roots and cellular composition to emerge as the basis for expression. Each session was important and enjoyable.”
Alison Combes, executive director of the Cathedral Choral Society that performed to close the festival and mark Czech National Day added, “I think ‘Mutual Inspirations’ was the perfect title for the festival. It was fascinating to see the effect of different cultures on each other as evidenced in the person of Dvořák.”
What did you enjoy about the festival?
“I enjoyed the opportunity to study Dvořák the man and the composer. It was the first time that I found out about the National Conservatory, Jeannette Thurber, and many of the other characters in Dvořák's American circle,” said Charley Gerard, composer of an original jazz piece entitled Dvořák Jazz Dances which premiered at the Czech Embassy on September 21.
Music program director at the National Gallery of Art, Stephen Ackert, responded, “I was delighted not only to present information about how Dvořák and America inspired each other, but also how his music and Czech art both reflected the aesthetics of his time.” Dr. Ackert presented the lecture Art in America at the time of Dvořák’s American Sojourn on September 18, to a full house at the National Gallery of Art.
Jody Gatwood, associate professor of violin and head of instrumental music at The Catholic University of America said, “In the minutes before walking out to perform with the Rome Trio in the National Gallery, I was mesmerized by a great Rubens painting. The brilliance of the artwork and the Gallery’s deep connection to and respect for tradition provided the perfect setting for the music of Dvořák and Suk. Surely this is the most inspirational venue for music, even more inspiring than Carnegie Hall where we recently performed.”
What do you think the festival brought to Washington, DC?
“With its abundance of cultural offerings, the Mutual Inspirations Festival brought to Washington a deeper appreciation of Dvořák’s impact on American culture, and a better awareness of the important dialogue between Czech and American culture that continues to enrich them both.”
Dr. Banner continued with a note of thanks to Cultural Counselor Barbara Karpetová saying, “I particularly appreciate Barbara Karpetova’s bold vision in supporting a new jazz work based on Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances. Her confidence in the continuing conversation between the works of the Czech composer and the language of American jazz was brilliantly vindicated by the success of Dvořák Jazz Dances, demonstrating that these have much in common and continue to speak truth to one another.”
The media also took notice of the festival with special programs running on Classical WETA showcasing conductor Murry Sidlin, J. Reilly Lewis, and Dvořák scholar and professor Michael Beckerman. Local and international media highlighted the festival in a number of reviews, including a special feature by The Washington Post. Czech Television also broadcasted stories of key events, including the Mass celebrated with Archbishop of Prague, Dominik Duka at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Over a dozen prestigious venues such as the Kennedy Center, The Phillips Collection, the National Gallery of Art, among others, collaborated with the Embassy of the Czech Republic to bring this festival to an audience of thousands.
The Embassy plans to continue the festival next season with a new theme: the cinematic realm. The festival will highlight Czech director Miloš Forman.