Green Lake Festival of Music: Entertaining, Inspiring, & Educating

FestMusic2016-120dpiBY Michael Casper

In 1979, the choral director and voice teacher at Ripon College, David Morris, had a dream of creating a music festival. He and community members from Green Lake, Ripon and the Fox Valley got together and made it a reality.

By the summer of 1982 Morris had invited the renowned choral conductor, Sir David Willcocks, to lead a weeklong choral workshop during the festival.

“That was an important part in the early days of the festival,” Laura Deming, executive director of the Green Lake Festival of Music said. “The vision and mission of the founders was always to provide high quality classical music to an area that didn’t have its own professional music group like say, the Milwaukee Symphony. Thirty-seven years ago the kinds of concerts we perform now, were rare. These concerts and performances take place right here in this gorgeous resort town of Green Lake, as well as events held at Ripon College, and in Oshkosh.”

There are four segments to the Festival of Music.

“One is the concert series,” Deming said “which usually starts the season featuring young artists. On June 10th the Trio Lago Verde, which translated means ‘Green Lake Trio,’ who are comprised of musicians who met at the chamber music camp last year, will perform. They are 13 and 14 years old.”

The second segment is the Chamber Music Camp.

“It’s a very intensive two-week experience for kids from all over the world,” Deming said “in the past we’ve had young musicians from Syria, Mexico, Canada…this truly is an international camp.”

Auditions are held, and the kids are selected by the Festival’s artistic director Tom Rosenberg who himself is an accomplished cellist from St. Paul, Minnesota. Rosenberg is also artistic director of the prestigious Fischoff Chamber Music Competition.

“Tom knows a lot of people in ‘world’ of chamber music,” Deming said “and draws the highest level of students to come here. He himself went through a very highly regarded chamber music program when he was a student, and now some of his colleagues come to Green lake and serve as faculty members.”

The third branch of the Festival is the Choral Institute.

“Singers from all around the country and world,” Deming said “performing the great choral works with the chamber orchestra after four days of workshops, and rehearsals.”

The Festival’s fourth segment is a series of free concerts performed at local public libraries.

“It’s all underwritten by a wonderful donor, Thomas Caestecker,” Deming said “a fifth generation Green Lake resident, the son of a professional violinist. The Caestecker family has been very generous having helped fund the building of the Green Lake Public Library. The Caestecker’s have an art gallery within Ripon College with their name on it, and every year Thomas brings the Milwaukee Symphony to Ripon College. He too had a dream. And his was to bring free concerts to families, and kids. So we do six library concerts in Green Lake, Princeton, Berlin, Fond du Lac, Ripon and Oshkosh. He underwrites three of the concerts, and we also get a generous contribution from Oberreich Foundation in Fond du Lac. And in Oshkosh, the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation helps sponsor the library concert, so we have really wonderful support for the free family concerts, but Tom Caestecker started it all with his funding.”

One important performance of the many on the summer schedule is on Wednesday, July 13th.

“The Fauré Requiem,” Deming said “with a mass choir of singers from area choruses such as New Voices in Appleton with Dr. Philip Swan, Oshkosh Chamber Singers with Herb Berendsen, South Shore Chorale with Cory Schneider in Fond du Lac, Ripon Choral Union with Dr. John Hughes, and others from Beaver Dam, Madison, Milwaukee, and beyond. Dr. Stephen Alltop of the famed Chicago Apollo Chorus will conduct the chorus and chamber orchestra in composer John Rutter’s arrangement. If people would like to sing, they can sign up at the Festival website or call the office at 920-748-9398.”

It’s a free concert at First Congregational Church in Oshkosh at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s in memory of conductor Sir David Willcocks and organist John Scott,” Deming said “Sir David led the Green Lake Festival of Music Choral Institute for 20 years, from1982 – 2002, and John Scott was organ soloist and choral accompanist during the Choral Institute’s early years.”

Laura Deming, who is also professional cellist with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, will be in the orchestra.

The list of June Master Classes also lead to some brilliant performances.

“They are very interesting,” Deming said “because basically they become private lessons in front of live audiences. There’s a student who volunteers to play whatever he or she is working on, and then the ‘master’ or the teacher gives them a lesson on the piece. It’s a wonderful way for the students to learn as it can be more difficult when you’re on the ‘hot seat’ as opposed to just watching. You can learn so much from seeing another person demonstrate, and it’s very exciting when the teacher has something that immediately improves a performance.”

There are violin, viola, cello, and piano master classes.

“And the Calidore String Quartet gives a master class on string quartets,” she said.

Also coming July 8th to the Rodman Center for the Arts on the Ripon College campus at Union and Thorne Street’s is Christopher Taylor, an international concert pianist who happens to teach at UW Madison.

“We’re very lucky to have him close by,” Deming said “and we look forward to his performing a senior’s matinee concert that will include a lunch at the Heidel House, and then an evening concert at the Thrasher Opera House in Green Lake.”

The list of entertainment over the summer also includes the Boston Barn Concert….yes, a concert in a barn, V3NTO (correct spelling) a brass trio who are young, talented players unique in their interaction with the audience, and a Cabaret night at the Thrasher that features a mix of opera arias and show tunes with Stephen Alltop accompanying on piano.

“And we also have a German a cappella group coming back,” Deming said “called Calmus who were here in 2011. Oh my gosh, I’ve never heard such singing! Calmus is comprised of four men and one woman, and they are simply fun.”

Even if you attended only half of what’s scheduled for the Green Lake Festival of Music, you’re guaranteed not just fun, but entertainment, inspiration, and maybe even some edification.

For the complete list of entertainment visit

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