Chelsea Music Festival pleases the palate and stirs the soul

Crowds enjoy the picturesque General Theological Seminary grounds. The longtime CMF venue will once again host festival events. Photo courtesy Chelsea Music Festival.

BY JACKSON CHEN | Get ready for a nine-day exploration of time through multidisciplinary arts, when the Chelsea Music Festival (chelseamusicfestival.org) begins on June 9.

The festival is entering its eighth season of colliding visual and culinary arts with the musical performances that range from classical to contemporary. Pleased with the results from last year’s universal theme of gravity, the founding artistic directors and husband-wife duo, Ken-David Masur and Melinda Lee Masur, settled on “Measuring Time” as this year’s theme.

Married to their work: Melinda Lee and Ken-David Masur chose “Measuring Time” as this year’s festival theme. Photo courtesy Chelsea Music Festival.

“This year, we’re focusing on measuring time because one of the protagonists of the festival is Beethoven,” Ken-David explained, adding that the Classical composer was known for using a metronome to capture the tempo of music.

“But at the center, we’re just focusing on the playfulness of what a metronome is, what time keeping is… how we perceive and experience time,” Ken-David said. “We just want people to have fun taking the time to think about this topic which we’re all exposed to on a daily basis.”

The Chelsea Music Festival will kick off Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s German Lutheran Church (315 W. 22nd St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). The opening gala will feature musical performances from the Masurs, this year’s Composer-in-Residence, Sebastian Currier, cellist Caleb van der Swaagh, and more, all exploring the theme of time.

It’s van der Swaagh’s second year with the festival and he’s happy to be reunited with the crew who have gotten to know each other through the first music fest.

“It’s a really unique place,” van der Swaagh said of the festival. “The things they do with connecting music to art and food is exciting to be a part of.”

Violist Jesus Rodolfo Rodriguez is also spending his second year with the Chelsea Music Festival and participating in four musical performances.

“It was just such a life-bringing experience,” Rodolfo Rodriguez said of his first year. “I feel very honored to carry this very eclectic idea of assembling art in all genres together.”

The range of events includes a family friendly metronome-making event on Sat., June 10, a panel discussion with visual artists on Wed., June 14, and short-film screenings from the year’s Visual Artist-in-Residence, Jonathan Rattner, on Thurs., June 15. As for a culinary experience, Jonathan Pina, Tessa Liebman, and the festival’s Culinary Artist-in-Residence, Allie Wist will tackle the event’s receptions.

And for the first time, the festival will host a Chelsea Gallery Walking Tour in the afternoon (also on June 15) that explores the neighborhood’s many galleries, like Corkbuzz and C24 Gallery, and their art exhibitions that explores ways to measure time.

On Sat., June 17, the Chelsea Music Festival closes with a jazz finale featuring a first-time joint performance from pianists Aaron Diehl and Adam Birnbaum.

Aaron Diehl, pictured, will share the stage with Adam Birnbaum for CMF’s closing concert on June 17. Photo by Matt Harrington.

“We have something really for everybody, for every artist,” Ken-David said. “We start with the youngest with all the family events, but we also have popular pieces like Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ on June 13 that people would recognize.”

The Masurs have been conducting rehearsals since early June and were already in full swing for the weekend’s start of the festival when they spoke with this publication on Tues., June 6.

“It’s pretty packed every day and we have rehearsals with all the other artists,” Melinda Lee said of the preparation work. “Then we have a lot of amazing team meetings because this festival is held up every year by a breathtaking core of 60 to 80 interns and volunteers that come and help.”

But the Masurs and their team of musicians and artists are ready to bring their artistic melody about time to the masses this coming weekend.

“We would just love for people to join us for some of these new venues,” Ken-David said. “Especially if people want to get a full image of measuring time with all the senses, almost every event has a culinary, musical, and visual side to it, so people will have a lot to discover.”

Food, glorious food: The culinary arts get equal billing to the visual and performance variety, giving Chelsea Music Festival its unique identity. Photo courtesy Chelsea Music Festival.