Traveling through the south of France one glorious September, regardless of where my companion and I found ourselves, it seemed that at one point in the afternoon, there would be a classical music concert, en plein air. Typically, it was in a centrally located part of town, although in Nice, it happened to be on the grounds of Matisse’s home, a ways up the hill from downtown.
There were always crowds in attendance, sometimes comprised of individuals, blissfully dragging on their cigarettes (this was France, remember), tapping a foot, eyes closed, as they sat alone in the folding chairs provided by whomever had arranged the concert. More likely, the audience was a constellation of small groups – often families – relaxing on their blankets with elegant spreads of bread, wine, and cheese.
There was rarely anything fussy about the scene. No tickets, no kiosks, no bunting. People arrived on foot, so parking was not a hassle. The live music was simply a drop-in, drop-out occasion that brought the community together in an outdoor setting.
Now, it seems Gaithersburg’s Kentlands community is on a path to create its own such summer ambiance with its Musica Viva Kentlands Orchestra. Two early evening concerts are currently scheduled, one to kick off the summer season, and another to close it.
“The freedom an outdoor concert offers makes it easier to attract people,” Musica Viva’s artistic director and conductor, Simeone Tartaglione, told DC Theater Arts. “People can have a little food and drink, and feel more at ease to just be comfortable and enjoy the concert. It’s very European.”
The unique layout of the Kentlands inspired the Italian native to bring that Continental vibe to his adopted hometown. “The Kentlands are a lot like Europe. You walk everywhere. The neighbors are close to each other. There is a wonderful sense of community. We want to make it even more European-like by having these concerts,” Tartaglione said.
On Sunday, June 23, at 6 p.m. on the Kentlands Mansion lawn, Musica Viva’s line up is scheduled to include our National Anthem, Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Bartok’s Romanian Dances, the “Intermezzo” from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, and Percy Grainger’s Molly on the Shore, Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Music, the “Allegro” from Mannino’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Mancini’s Theme from The Pink Panther, and Johann Strauss’s Radetzky March.
The soloist for the Mannino piece will be violinist Alessandra Cuffaro, Catholic University of America faculty member and the first Italian woman to play all 24 of Paganini’s notoriously difficult Capricci.
Tartaglione said that when he first moved to the area, he wasn’t so sure he would stay. “I missed the food back in Italy. But, once he moved to the Kentlands about six years ago, he started to feel more at home. “We are not so obsessed with the meatball [there], and I had never heard of a chicken piccata until I came to America. But it’s okay now, I am starting to like the food better here, and I love to live in the Kentlands.”
Among his several music director roles in the region, Tartaglione is an assistant professor and conductor at The Catholic University of America and the music director for the Maryland Classic Youth Symphony Orchestra at Strathmore.
Musica Viva’s inaugural concert was in June of last year. Despite heavy rain, Tartaglione estimates more than 400 people attended. “If we have good weather, I expect maybe twice that,” he said.
Musica Viva Kentlands is sponsored by the Kentlands Community Foundation, which is currently seeking donations to help grow the summer concert series from two to as many as six performances and seasonally hire as many as 50 musicians. “There is a community that already supports the arts. Now we want to add the music,” Tartaglione said. “There are so many people eager to make this happen.”
Musica Viva Kentlands plays on June 23, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. on the lawn of the Kentlands Mansion – 320 Kentlands Square Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. This outdoor concert is free to the public but advance donations are welcome.
For more information, visit the Kentlands Community Foundation Website.