It's An Appalachian Summer
Forecast this summer: Dierks Bentley, k.d. lang, Tony Rice and Broadway.
It's An Appalachian Summer Festival, and it returns to Boone July 1-30, with preseason events May 27 through June 29.
"This year, we've really tried to listen more to what everyone was saying, what worked for them, and to go just one step higher," event organizer Megan Stage said. "We really try to do things that keep it diverse - music, dance, theater, visual arts and film."
And, judging by the lineup, Stage and company have hit their target.
Highlights include a July 2 performance from the African Children's Choir.
"The premise behind it is these children come from all over Africa, and they're orphans, whether it's war or illness," Stage said. "Many years ago, a minister visited Uganda and formed the choir as a way to raise money, and they traveled all over the world."
Proceeds from the children's performances benefit their education, with new choir members joining each year. "It's a great show to be part of, and it's more than just great entertainment; it's such a heartfelt show, and you know you're giving to a great cause," Stage said.
This is followed by a July 3 performance from a festival favorite, the Eastern Festival Orchestra, featuring opera vocalist Susan Graham, and a July 10 performance featuring violinist Nadja Solerno-Soddenberg. And before that show, there's an opportunity to chat with conductor Gerard Schwarz at Crave Restaurant in Boone. Tickets for the Crave event include dinner, the performance and transportation to and from the concert.
The Broyhill Chamber Ensemble, for which the festival was originally founded, will perform July 6, 20 and 27.
As for theater, Greensboro's Triad Stage, helmed by Appalachian alum Preston Lane, returns to campus with "The Sunset Limited" on July 9. ASU Theatre & Dance will also host an open rehearsal night on July 21, featuring "Arsenic and Old Lace" and new dance works.
Broadway's also making its return to the mountains.
"Last year, we had Patti LuPone ... and she did really well for us," Stage said. "Everyone loved the fact we're bringing New York's Broadway stage to Boone, and this year we're doing a show called 'Our Broadway.'"
That show, scheduled for July 8, stars Broadway legends Ben Vereen ("Jesus Christ Superstar") and Chita Rivera ("West Side Story").
The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet returns to campus for a July 14 show. Stage described the group as "cutting edge and pushing the envelope."
It's followed by a July 15 performance from Grammy-winning singer-songwriter k.d. lang and The Siss Boom Bang.
This year's film series is called "Celebrating the Arts in Film" and includes "Mao's Last Dancer" (July 7), "Seraphine" (July 18), "Mad Hot Ballroom" (July 22) and "The Concert" (July 25).
"We're also doing something a little different with the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival (July 16) this year," Stage said. "That'll be on Duck Pond Field ... and we're encouraging people to come and pack a picnic, bring a Frisbee, have a good time and watch a film at night."
The free outdoor film series includes titles like "Meet Your Farmer" and "Bag It."
Art returns with the Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Competition, now in its 25th year, featuring 10 sculptures on campus with acclaimed artist Mel Chin as juror.
In honor of the late festival co-founder, Muriel Rosen, and her daughter, Nancy Schaffel, Appalachian Summer features the Rosen-Schaffel Young Artists Competition, which offers young artists at the university level the chance to perform with professionals. Open to universities across the state, each will nominate a music student to apply and perform at the July 25 competition. A jury will select the winner, who receives a cash prize and a chance to return as a soloist for next year's Eastern Festival Orchestra concert.
"And this year offers something new, but old: We're bringing back the outdoor fireworks concert," Stage said.
For the past couple years, the grand finale concerts were held indoors at the Holmes Convocation Center, but popular demand has returned them to Kidd Brewer Stadium. This year, the headliner is popular country musician Dierks Bentley, performing July 23.
"He's got a new record out, he's breaking records, has won many awards, been nominated for Grammys - he's kind of big deal," Stage said. "We're excited to bring him out, and we'll have fireworks and everything."
Following the Bentley show, the festival closes out with performances from Mountain Heart with Tony Rice (July 29) and The Manhattan Transfer (July 30).
"We've got bluegrass, pairing the new with the old once again," Stage said, referring to the up-and-coming Mountain Heart and finger-picking stalwart Tony Rice, "and a classic quartet vocal group - more than just a barbershop quartet, really cutting edge. We're really thrilled to bring them."
For more information, more acts, schedules and tickets, visit http://www.appsummer.org.