Symphony in the Barn featuring classical music on a working farm

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Symphony in the Barn, where most fans of urban classical music practically mingle with cows, pigs and chickens, is back from Friday.

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Beethoven’s five piano concertos and other music will be performed in front of an in-person audience in the open air, from a purpose-built barn-shaped stage during this three-day event to be held at Glencolton Farm , near Durham.

Capacity is limited to 75% under COVID-19 restrictions worked out with the Gray Bruce Health Unit, festival founder Michael Schmidt said in an interview on Saturday. He anticipates that 700 people in all will attend the various concerts.

“It’s like going to a concert hall except it’s outside.” Opportunities to experience the five concertos are rare, he added. Distancing will be required outside of personal bubbles and people will be invited to wear a mask.

Schmidt chairs the board of directors of Symphony in the Barn, a charity, and runs a bit of the festival he founded 26 years ago.

Last year’s event had a much smaller schedule and was broadcast live. As rally limits and blockages have loosened somewhat, musicians and audiences alike crave the live experience the festival offers, he said.

“We’re back in business,” said Schmidt of Glencolton Farms, where he lives with his family.

“It’s a fully functioning farm, basically where you have the chickens running around and the cows are there and the horses are there. So I think that makes this festival unique because it’s a working farm, ”Schmidt said.

“People really, really appreciate this,” he said. “There are a lot of people commenting on it who come from town to see the concerts and they say it’s just remarkable.”

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Last year was the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth and this year’s program, without the COVID-19 pandemic, would have been presented in 2020.

“Beethoven is a musical reflection of the times we live in,” Schmidt said, “with so much controversy everywhere and people struggling. “

Beethoven struggled to cope with the misunderstanding of critics of the time because he explored new frontiers with symphonies and concertos, Schmidt said.

“We have been locked up for so long. And now comes the liberating experience of returning to normal. And the expression of this is constantly found in the music of Beethoven, the symphonies of Beethoven but also the concertos for piano.

Schmidt is also experiencing controversy, having spent decades at odds with government regulators over the production and sales of raw milk. But those days are behind him, he said.

“It ended with the injunction, where after 25 years of trying to do it in the open, everything is done now with the injunction and the courts,” he said. “I mean we’ve spent so much time in court and we have given up on that and (we’re focusing) now mostly on the cultural side.”

A judge imposed a permanent injunction in 2018 that partially bars anyone with knowledge of his order from operating a milk processing plant without a license, a court order sought by the province and others.

Now Schmidt runs a mixed farm, with heritage horses, beef cattle, pigs and chickens, and specialty grains, he said. Others live and work on the farm, which he says is a cooperative.

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Part of the festival experience for many is camping on the farm for the weekend. Yet they always come out of their tents well dressed for concerts, Schmidt said. Others stay with B & B operators in the area, use Airbnb and private accommodation.

The party now has two artistic directors: Kati Gleiser, who grew up on a farm in the Owen Sound area and is an internationally renowned pianist, and accomplished violinist and conductor Kevin Mallon.

There are five soloists, including Gleiser, and a full orchestra of 16 on stage. The concerts take place from Friday at 8 p.m. to Sunday at 11 p.m., with Mozart, Bach and jazz as well. A concert on Sunday at 2 pm will offer “surprise collaborations between the festival artists”, performed in symphony in the new performance space of the barn, the former Baptist church in Hanover, today the Académie Saugeen.

Tickets are $ 240 for weekend passes, and prices for individual concerts vary. For more details and ticket information, see www.symphonyinthebarn.com.

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