WINCHENDON – Area music lovers can satisfy themselves on a variety of genres this month at the Winchendon Music Festival.
The series kicks off on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. with lutenists Hideki Yamaya and William Simms, who will perform 16th-century lute duets. The concert will be held at the Winchendon History & Cultural Center, located in the historic Murdock-Whitney House, 151 Front St.
This is Yamaya’s first season with the festival. He said the show will offer an evening of Elizabethan lute duets from the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
Born in Tokyo, Japan, Yamaya earned a B.A. in music and an M.A. in ethnomusicology from UC/Santa Cruz, as well as earning an M.F.A. in guitar and lute performance from UC/Irvine. Yamaya’s emphasis was on guitar when he entered university, but after being exposed to the lute, he was hooked.
“I teach privately,” he said, “but performing is how I pay my bills – for the most part. I’ve been doing it, I’d say, for about 30 years now.”
While Yamaya has performed at large theaters and concert halls around the country, he told the Athol Daily News, “If given a choice, I really prefer smaller venues like house concerts and intimate venues. I don’t mind people being seated really up close, especially with this kind of music (Billy and I are) going to perform. I think it’s way better to have a small, intimate setting.”
Though currently immersed in classical music forms, Yamaya said his interest in the guitar came from a love for rock.
“In fact, I’m playing my electric guitar at the concert on the 18th; it’s a contemporary music program,” he said.
Simms received his Bachelor of Music from the College of Wooster in Ohio, and his masters from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and his journey to the lute mimics Yamaya’s.
“I’ve been playing lute now for over 30 years,” he said. “I think like a lot of us, I came to it through the guitar. I discovered it in music school, when I was a grad student at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Early on, I was kind of a rock player – blues and rock and jazz.”
Like Yamaya, Simms has a fondness for intimate performance settings.
“For a lute duo concert (Murdock-Whitney House) is among the best settings,” he said. “For two Renaissance lutes, you definitely want an intimate setting for that kind of conert.”
Upcoming Winchendon Music Festival concerts include:
■Andrew Arceci & WMF Artists, Friday, Aug. 18, 6 p.m. at the Winchendon Amphitheater, 85 Ingleside Dr., Winchendon. This program features various contemporary classical pieces.
■Arcadia Players, Sunday, Aug. 20, 7 p.m. at Beals Memorial Library, 50 Pleasant St., featuring Italianate vocal and instrumental renditions of British folk tunes, performed by soprano Hailey Fuqua and a string ensemble.
■John Arcaro & Band, Monday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m. at the Beals Memorial Library. Berklee College of Music Professor John Arcaro leads a program of works from the “Great American Songbook.”
■George Lykogiannis, piano, Friday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m. at the Murdock-Whitney House. A noted Greek-American pianist and accordionist, Lykogiannis will perform works by 20th-century Catalan composer Manos Hatzidakis and Spanish composer/pianist Isaac Albéniz.
■Floyds Row, Saturday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m. at the Murdock-Whitney House. The folk collective explores the connections among early, classical, folk, newgrass and world genres.
■Worcester Jazz Orchestra, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2 p.m. at the Winchendon Amphitheater. The band plays works by Glenn Miller, Buddy Rich and others.
Greg Vine can be reached at email@example.com.