By Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist | Apr 8, 2018The folks who have been working the past few years to rebuild BLEMF, the Bloomington Early Music Festival, made known some of their plans for BLEMF 2018 a couple of weeks ago. The nine-day event (May 18-27), marking the 25th anniversary since the founding of the festival, will bring us a series of what look to be outstanding programs featuring locals and artists from elsewhere: fortepianist Robert Levin, the Bloomington Bach Cantata Project, Costanoan Trio, violinist Ingrid Matthews, harpsichordists Melisande McNabney and Jory Vinikour, soprano Adriana Ruiz, violinist Rachel Wong, the Festival Orchestra, the Festival Sacred Music Project, Historical Performance Institute Goes POP, Les Ordinaires, and Rumore Terribile. Some are familiar to me; others not.
The developers and presenters, BLEMF (through Bloomington Early Music) and IU’s Historical Performance Institute, have achieved a partnership with the prestigious institution Early Musical America that will result in a series of concerts featuring emerging early music artists and college ensembles from the U.S. and Canada; three days of programs will bring us competition-winning young artists and student ensembles not only from the Jacobs School but Case Western, Oberlin, the University of Southern California, and Peabody. The festival will also take prominent note of Bloomington’s Bicentennial celebration, reach into the city’s folk music past, and tie into a national conference on “Historical Performance: Theory, Practice, and Interdisciplinarity,” to be held on the IU campus.
Dana Marsh, head of the Historical Performance Institute (HPI) and instrumental in achieving the tie with Early Music America (EMA), says: “This festival marks a milestone in BLEMF’s fulfillment of serving as an artistic catalyst for the Bloomington community. With the presence of EMA, BLEMF, and HPI, we bring together three dynamic visions, all of which are complementary and share a particular interest in education. This summer’s BLEMF extravaganza will fulfill important educational aims for all three organizations, and those overlapping benefits will be shared among all who attend or participate.
“Speaking for the three organizing institutions, respectively,” adds Marsh, “I think it’s safe to say that this year’s festival is our ‘next step’ in the progress of long-term growth and service. It is my sincerest hope that listeners will emerge from performances having reveled in the realization that there is an astonishing and incredible future for our profession, one evinced through the ingenuity, creativity, and artistic excellence of great performers united in their dedication to bring great music from our past vividly to life in our present.”
Alain Barker, who ran BLEMF in its previous glory years and now serves as president of Bloomington Early Music, says, in looking ahead: “At essence, the festival is keeping close to its values, while exploring new opportunities, collaborations, and partnerships. At its core, BLEMF celebrates artistry in Bloomington, the extraordinary legacy of historical performance at IU, and the abundance of talent and innovation in young musicians who shape our collective future. In addition, we’re excited by the bi-centennial project and intend to grow this aspect of the festival in future years by exploring and collaborating with different parts of our wonderful community.”