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Old music and new beginnings at the Carmel Bach Festival

Carmel Bach Festival

Every summer, the Carmel Bach Festival lights up the town with a rich musical experience. This year marks the 86th season with a theme titled “Beginnings.”

Beginnings is also the focus of a free family concert on July 22 called “The Hidden Forest.” It paints a vibrant picture of rebirth and renewal through classical music, poetry, and theater.

The original story is told through the adventures of a nine-year-old boy named Leonard and his alter ego, a stuffed horse named Rasmus. KAZU’s Lisa Ledin had a chance to speak with Adam Skerritt, who plays Leonard, and Suzanne Mudge - author and director of the production.

Mudge says the play revolves around trees and the ecosystem they support and around the theme of new beginnings. There's another important element that weaves its way through the play — grief.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Sue Mudge (SM): For Leonard, the main character, I added a situation where he had been experiencing loss. Loss of a very good friend, but also the loss of an ancient old oak tree. And you have to know that Leonard is into science and geography as well as music. So he's kind of a nerdy dude, and losing something like an oak tree is sort of representative of his very wonderful, sensitive, tender character.

Flyer for the Carmel Bach Festivals family concert.
Flyer for the Carmel Bach Festivals family concert.

Lisa Ledin (LL): Adam Skerritt, You've been acting and singing for a long time... you kind of grew up with the Carmel Bach Festival.

Adam Skerritt (AS): I very much did.

LL: How do you relate to a nine-year-old in this cast?

AS: For me, I think that Leonard has a wonderful spirit of learning and a wonderful spirit of childlike wonder. I am, for the record, 30, and even so, I still have that spirit inside of me. And I love reaching back to that for this part.

LL: That's lovely. That sort of eternal youth and hope.

AS: My grandmother once shared with me a quote that Mark Twain once said... that a child losing a stuffed animal has the equal significance of a king losing their crown. Loss is such a universal thing and is something that we all share. And I think that one of the great joys of the show is having kids look at starting afresh and from that in a meaningful way. It's a great message to have after COVID.

LL: Behind this production is a mission to keep classical music alive and accessible... bringing this music to children, to keep that music going forward?

SM: Indeed it is. One of the things that classical music is facing is not only getting its old customers and audience back after the pandemic but attracting new listeners. I think especially with younger people, they do need to hear old music. Some of the old masters - Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. But they also need to hear the newer music being composed by composers of today. And I think much of that music will be far more relevant to them. So one of the things that I try to do on each of these programs is to program quite a few composers who are still alive.

LL: Do you want to say anything about the cast? The fact also this is not just for five-year-olds and up, this is for everybody. It's multigenerational.

SM: It is definitely programmed for kids, as we say, five to 95. In terms of the cast, we have excellent musicians from the Carmel Bach Festival Orchestra. And within the group, we have a brass quintet, a woodwind quintet, a string quartet, plus a piano, bass, and two percussionists.

LL: Adam, can you say what the most meaningful scene is for you in this play?

AS: For me, it's planting a new acorn at the end of the show and starting that new journey. I also will be singing something towards the end of the show as well, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Adam Skerritt singing excert of Giants in the Sky by Stephen Sondheim.

The Carmel Park Festival's Free family concert will be performed on July 22 at 11 a.m. at Sunset Center in Carmel.

Lisa Ledin joined KAZU in 2009, bringing with her a treasure trove of knowledge and expertise in local arts and culture. She is a voice of KAZU's underwriting announcements and also hosts Morning Edition every Friday, and Weekend Edition Saturdays.