The Lancaster Festival returns for a 9-day event
Every year since 1985, the Lancaster Festival has covered Fairfield County with artistic events and musical concerts – every summer, that is until last summer.
In 2020, the festival was one of countless central Ohio events to be canceled due to the pandemic.
“Of course, we were all very disappointed not to host a festival last summer,” said artistic director Gary Sheldon. “But we have found ways to stay in touch with the community. “
In addition to some virtual programming, festival supporters made financial contributions that helped offset the costs of already booked artists who still had to be paid despite the cancellation.
“The contributions were so appreciated,” said Sheldon.
This year, the Lancaster Festival will make a comeback: over a span of nine days – two days less than usual – the festival will feature many long-time attendees that long-time attendees have come to expect.
In addition to an arts walk through Lancaster town center on Fridays and numerous concerts by local musicians, the Lancaster Festival Orchestra will accompany two renowned guest artists: The Band Perry on Saturday and former Eagles frontman Don Felder on July 31.
Small differences abound: The decision was made to host the overwhelming majority of events outdoors, most of them on the Wendel concert stage at Ohio University-Lancaster. And, while this venue has attracted up to 10,000 attendees in recent years, admission to Wendel shows will be capped at 6,500 (including ticket buyers, performers and the backstage crew). Masks are encouraged for those who are not yet fully vaccinated and are optional otherwise.
Overall, however, the festival promises to be at full throttle.
“Although we have had an international pandemic to deal with for the past year and a half, everyone has worked together, respecting each other’s level of comfort and safety,” said Sheldon.
Highlights include the Byron Stripling Band with pianist Bobby Floyd on July 26; several “Major Arts for Minors” programs which aim to introduce children to different art forms, including book illustration and origami; and concerts by a tribute group to ABBA on July 28 and Honey & Blue on July 30.
“It was back in the saddle for everyone right away,” said Sheldon.
One of the surest signs of the festival’s return is something most attendees probably won’t notice: the ‘host families’ – the local residents who support the festival – will once again welcome members of the Lancaster Festival Orchestra. coming from out of state.
Earlier in the year, the festival began inquiring from participating orchestral members and host families about vaccination status.
“We were very happy to hear that all musicians and host families, except one, will be vaccinated at festival time,” said Executive Director Deb Connell. “Reuniting these families was an easy thing to do. “
Twenty-six families have agreed to host 33 musicians; the orchestra, which normally numbers 65, will perform this year as a smaller and socially distant ensemble – a decision, Sheldon said, made before the pandemic begins to abate.
With such a high vaccination rate among host families and orchestra participants, solo oboist Erin Banholzer of Philadelphia will be returning to the home of Steve and Judy Root, with whom she stayed at previous festivals.
“I’m really happy to see them again,” said Banholzer, 35. “It’s a small town, so I think it’s really special that we don’t just bond with the orchestra, but we also have these really great experiences with members of the community.
For their part, the Roots were happy to provide housing again.
“Erin has already become like family to us,” said Judy Root, 68. “It’s just a chance to do something for the festival, and also to get to know someone closer.”
Given the orchestra’s small size this summer, Sheldon programmed music that worked well with a reduced ensemble, including, on opening night, a patriotic prelude to the act featured, the country crossover band The Band Perry.
Saturday night’s selections include Charles Ives ‘Variations on’ America ‘, John Williams’ ‘The Olympic Spirit’ and an Armed Forces Medley.
Next, Sheldon will lead the orchestra in brand new arrangements of 10 songs to perform with The Band Perry, including “Better Dig Two” and “Stay in the Dark”. (The band will also perform music on their own.)
“This will be their very first performance with (a) symphony orchestra, ”said Sheldon. “It will just be a sound that not only have the audience never heard before, but the band has never heard before. It will be a real surprise and a revelation.
The orchestra will highlight its soloists on July 27 and offer a family concert, “A Musical Zoo,” on July 29 – all with the prospect of accompanying Felder to the final on July 31.
“It’s going to be just another big festival,” Sheldon said. “I am very confident of it.”
In one look
For ticket prices, additional events and more information, call 740-687-4808 or visit www.lancasterfestival.org.