Voices and strings rule the 2022 Ventura Music Festival

by Richard Newsham, VMF consultant

The Ventura Music Festival’s “Onward” 27th season will toast the communing of music’s two kissing cousins—voices and strings—in seven acts over two weekends from July 27 to August 7.

Three groups—the septet Adaawe , chanteuse Veronica Swift and choir The Crossing—explore Nina Simone’s declaration that “the human voice is the only pure instrument.” And three ensembles—We Banjo 3, Django Festival Allstars and The Moanin’ Frogs—plus pianist Sean Chen salute strings and instruments “that sing,” including the saxophone that Stan Getz claims is the instrument kingdom’s closest relative to the human voice.

The VMF Free Concert in the Park season opener—the all-female band Adaawe— springs from West African roots and brings gospel harmonies and American funk to their world-fusion mix on Wednesday, July 27, at 5:30 pm at Mission Park in downtown Ventura.

“The hottest group in Irish music”—We Banjo 3—will “open the road” to weekend one on Friday, July 29, at 7:30 pm, with their self-described Billboard chart topping “Celtgrass” blend of traditional Irish, old time Americana and wide blue(grass) yonder music. Two sets of Galway brothers vocalize with “musical intimacy” and play banjos, mandolins, (tenor) guitars, a fiddle and the goat-skinned bodhrán drum with a “freshness and finesse bordering on the magical,” says The Wall Street Journal, citing their Washington, DC, performance for President Obama.

Why hunt Paris’ Clignancourt flea market for his cabaret bar La Chope de Puce when the Django Festival Allstars will bring the music of the legendary 1930-40’s gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt to Ventura and fully into the 21st century on Saturday, July 30, at 7:30 pm? A quintet of jazz virtuosos—button-accordionist Ludovic Beier, violinist Pierre Blanchard, lead guitarist Samson Schmitt, rhythm guitarist DouDou Cuillerier and bassist Antonio Lucusati—capture the fierce, soulful and swirling intensity of Reinhardt’s “le jazz hot” style.

Globetrotting pianist, composer, arranger and in-demand master-class teacher Sean Chen is a Steinway Artist, Juilliard and Yale School of Music alumnus and pupil of beloved leader of Ventura County’s classical music community Edward Francis. He returns to Ventura on Sunday, July 31, at 3 pm for a program of piano power and magic featuring what the Republic calls “alluring, colorfully shaded renditions” of Mozart (Marriage of Figaro), Debussy (Images) , Liszt (Deux légendes), Chopin (Barcarolle), Rachmaninoff (Symphony No 2 Adagio) and Mendelssohn (Octet).

“Music festivals are a place for freedom, discovery and excitement,” says VMF Executive Director Susan Scott. “Find yours this summer at the Ventura Music Festival.”

Ventura College Performing Arts Center, 4700 Loma Vista Road, is the festival concert venue for all indoor performances.

Featured in the next Breeze issue: Sax septet The Moanin’ Frogs (Fri, 8/5), singer Veronica Swift (Sat, 8/6) and Grammy® Best Choral Group winner, The Crossing (Sun, 8/7).

Tickets: $15-65 at www.venturamusicfestival.org and 805.648.3146.

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