Popular Winchendon Music Festival postponed for another year

  • Back row (l-r): Michael Barrett, tenor; Margaret Lias, alto. Front row (l-r): Asako Takeuchi, baroque violin; Andrew Arceci, viola da gamba, during a past performance at Winchendon's Old Centre Church during the Winchendon Music Festival.

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 6/9/2021 1:44:06 PM
Modified: 6/9/2021 1:44:09 PM

WINCHENDON — Winchendon may not be the first place most people think of when it comes to live concerts featuring top musicians from around the region, the nation, and the globe — performances covering the gamut from classical and baroque, modern jazz, opera, folk and world music. However, for several years, the Toy Town has been home to the Winchendon Music Festival, an annual event offering a wide variety of musical genres over several weekends in June and attracting visitors from all over New England and beyond.

But 2021 will again be a year without the sound of music emanating from Old Centre Church or the more intimate parlor at the former Whitney homestead, home to Winchendon History and Cultural Center (WHCC).

“Postponing WMF for another year was a difficult decision,” said WMF founder and director Andrew Arceci, “but we plan to offer several virtual programs over the next several months. WMF will return with live music once we can guarantee a safe return.”

While the lifting of restrictions enacted as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic is good news, Arceci told the Athol Daily News, the easing of safety measures came a bit too late for the 2021 season.

“It usually takes months,” he said. “We’re looking at six to 12 months to plan the festival. The initial ideas usually come about a year before, and then we coordinate dates with the venues. Then I coordinate dates with the artists, coordinate my own schedule. So, the logistics take time to plan. Planning really does take place on and off for about a year.

“Of course, we also have to coordinate press, coordinate a variety of programs and, of course, if anyone’s traveling, coordinate travel logistics and hotel rooms for out-of-town artists.”

Most of Arceci’s colleagues taking part in the festival, he said, come from Boston, Cambridge and New York.

“We either need to book hotel rooms or put them with patrons,” he continued. “So, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes planning, rather than just opening the doors like many businesses are able to do now.

“So, the board and I had conversations throughout the spring, and we were back and forth, and we were exploring some outdoor venues. But I think that trying to coordinate the logistics in such a short period of time would be too difficult, and we’d rather err on the side of safety.”

A scholar, multi-instrumentalist and composer, Arceci founded the festival in 2016 in honor of his father, Robert, a pediatric oncologist and patron of the arts who passed away in 2015. In addition to running the festival, he is director of the Collegium Musicum at Wellesley College, and a Fellow at Harvard University.

“As soon as we can produce live programs,” said Arceci, “we’ll return with that. Our plan now is to offer some virtual programs and basically to look back at that first year. We did street programs that first year.

“I led a program, and then we had folk ensemble Floyd’s Row, and then (jazz artist and board member) John Acaro. So, we’re planning to feature those three acts with various virtual programs until we can get back to doing live programs.”

The Winchendon Music Festival is free to the public. It is funded through grants from the Mass. Cultural Council, several local cultural councils, the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation, several other organizations and private contributions.

Anyone interested in accessing the virtual programs being offered can find more information at www.facebook.com/Winchendon-Music-Festival.

“We’re still hoping we could present some live programs in the fall,” said Arceci, “maybe late summer, early fall. But there’s just no way we could coordinate for June.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com

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