A supernova feast of saxes, strings and songs sweep the Ventura Music Festival

by Richard Newsham, VMF consultant

The Ventura Music Festival’s “Onward!” 27th season opens tonight with a Free Concert in the Park featuring the gospel, West African and American funk world-fusion mix of the all-female band Adaawe at downtown Ventura’s Mission Park on Wednesday, July 27, at 5:30 pm.

The festival venue then moves to the intimate 400-seat Ventura College Performing Arts Center, 4700 Loma Vista Road, for two weekends of concerts beginning with sensational Irish band We Banjo 3 and its Celtgrass vocal and string blend of “bluegrass and beyond” on Friday, July 29, at 7:30 pm. Direct from Paris the Django Festival Allstars quintet brings us “le jazz hot” style of legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt on Saturday, July 30, at 7:30 pm. And weekend one concludes with local piano virtuoso gone globally famous Sean Chen alluring us with romantic pearls by Mozart, Debussy, Liszt, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Mendelssohn on Sunday, July 31, at 3 pm.

Weekend two opens on Friday, August 5, at 7:30 pm, with a unique sextet of a soprano, alto, baritone, bass and two tenor saxophones called The Moanin’ Frogs—the moniker is an unlikely contraction of two 1910’s saxophone hit tunes, The Bullfrog Blues and That Moanin’ Saxophone Rag. But the ensemble name aptly fits a repertoire that “electrifies and delights” audiences nationwide—defying genres with every jump from primo orchestral, concerto and chamber arrangements to treasured jazz, burlesque and vaudeville improvisations.

On Saturday, August 6, at 7:30 pm, Veronica Swift—a young chanteuse with deep jazz roots but now branching out with classical, rock, soul, folk and funk selections—is determined as an artist to bring a post-COVID rebirth of hope to audiences everywhere as she breaks down genre barriers, uniting them under an anthem called “Sing”—an uplifting tribute to the positive change that music brings to the world. “There is this thing that’s like touching, except you don’t touch, you sing, just sing,” claims the artist. “The act of singing is a kind of secular prayer, in the spirit of John Lennon’s Imagine.”

The VMF festival concludes on Sunday, August 7, at 3 pm, with what the New York Times calls “America’s most astonishing choir,” The Crossing led by conductor Donald Nally and embracing new music with “a social conscience and fearless technique” created by the world’s most prestigious living composers and performed at marquee venues with the nation’s most adventuresome orchestras and ensembles. Find out why radio host Brian Lauritzen champions this 24-voice winner of two Grammy® awards for Best Choral Performance and 7 more nominations on his weekly “A Joyful Noise” KUSC broadcast of choral music almost every Sunday morning.

Year after year, the Ventura Music Festival is renowned for showcasing a breathtaking multiverse of musical styles from classical to contemporary. Connect with the artists and with fellow listeners in our community who love to discover the joy and excitement of familiar and brave new worlds of sound by attending VMF concerts this weekend and next.

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

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