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Bucket List: Caramoor Summer Festival 

Ana Vidovic performs at Caramoor's Sunken Garden in 2013  (photo courtesy of Gabe Palacio)
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Bucket List: Caramoor Summer Festival

“This is the nicest theater we’ve ever played in.” ­– Jorma Kaukonen, Hot Tuna

Symphonic Spectacular: Yefim Bronfman, Peter Oundjian, Orchestra of St. Lukeís at CaramoorJorma (and let us add – he was clearly blown away!) was talking about Caramoor’s Venetian Theater. There for six weeks each summer, top performers and up and coming classical, opera, jazz, American Roots and cabaret acts perform. Each year, the Caramoor Summer Festival draws music lovers, day-trippers and picnickers from Manhattan to the Catskills for 29 days and nights of inspired musical programming.

“And we got to get ourselves back to the garden…”

But the beauty of The Venetian’s 1500 seat tented music space (with the backlit stage and the Greek and Roman columns with Venetian arches) is just part of the celebrated ambience of this Katonah treasure. The festival fully integrates the 90-acre estate of Walter and Lucy Rosen, with it’s historic Mediterranean style Rosen House into the whole concert experience.

caramoor_butterflygarden Bucket List: Caramoor Summer FestivalFrom the moment you pass through the amazing Italianate gates you know this is not Yasgur’s Farm. We always recommend starting out on Friends Field with a bottle of chilled summer wine and a picnic dinner. Or you can pick up a glass and an organic and locally sourced nosh from their food and drink tents.

Stroll the grounds for the Butterfly Garden and the Iris and Peony Garden. The Tapestry Hedge, with twin statues of the Greek and Roman gods Zephyr and Flora from the 17th century sculptor Antonio Bonazzi, offers a dynamic backdrop if you want to take a selfie. Best of all is the way they use the house and gardens as musical stages for their performances.

One summer long music fest – five venues

caramoor_spanishcourtyard_concert_2 Bucket List: Caramoor Summer FestivalIn addition to the Venetian Theater, the Spanish Courtyard, that occupies the center of the Rosen House, is used for chamber music recitals and a second stage for their jazz and American Roots series. This partially covered outdoor venue seats 500.

The Sunken Garden, a popular spot for weddings that can accommodate up to 300, is the setting for their Guitar in the Garden concerts and acoustic acts at the American Roots Music Festival.

And they can pack in 2,000 on Friends Field at the Roots Fest, or 800 for their Dancing At Dusk world music series. It’s also where you’ll park your blanket for the fireworks portion of Caramoor’s Pops, Patriots and Fireworks celebration – our pick for the world’s most civilized Independence Day fest.

Get with the classical program

With upwards of 20 classical concerts each summer, Classical music is the core of Caramoor’s programing. It serves as the heart of their founding and the basis for their extensive Mentoring Programs.

caramoor_guitar_garden Bucket List: Caramoor Summer FestivalCaramoor’s resident orchestra, the acclaimed Orchestra of St. Luke’s performs on the Venetian Theater stage with preeminent soloists and influential conductors. Featured artists and conductors in recent years include Joshua Bell, Hélène Grimaud, Pablo Heras-Casado and The Emerson String Quartet.

On weekends, Manhattan opera fans bus up on the Caramoor Coach for their acclaimed Bel Canto Opera program. Up and coming classical artists and chamber ensembles, and members and alumni from Caramoor’s mentoring programs perform at the Spanish Garden.

Jazz, Roots, Cabaret & More

Caramoor also offers a distinguished program of popular music. Each summer they present a series of three American Roots, Jazz and American Songbook concerts.

caramoor_friendsfield Bucket List: Caramoor Summer FestivalTheir all-day American Roots Festival features a dozen folk, blues, bluegrass, country, swing and string bands who perform across multiple stages. Their all-day Jazz Festival that has been headlined by the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner, is presented in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center. Since 1995 Caramoor’s American Songbook series has presented Broadway’s top stars, including Barbara Cook, Andrea Marcovicci, Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald.

Finally, Friends Field is the setting for Dancing at Dusk. These mid-week interactive, kid-friendly, themed evenings of world music and dance are popular family events.

Year Round Caramoor

Caramoor Bucket List: Caramoor Summer FestivalCaramoor’s classical, jazz, roots and cabaret program continues through the fall and spring in the Rosen House Music Room. The room with its Renaissance furniture, Gothic tapestries and stained glass elements provides an intimate setting for up to 170 music lovers.

Past performers include Alisa Weilerstein playing the Complete Bach Cello Suites, jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimee, folk, jazz and world music legend David Amram and Silver City Bound and cabaret duo Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley.

For a cheap date, you can see Caramoor’s Ernst Stiefel String Quarter-in-Residence for just $15 or alumni of Caramoor’s Evnin Rising Stars mentoring program (such as cellist Edward Arron) perform with current members for as little as a ten spot.

Caramoor, Doors of the Rosen House Bucket List: Caramoor Summer FestivalCaramoor also offers house tours, afternoon teas and morning concerts throughout the year. Plus special events for the kids including Spooky Tales for Halloween, Holiday Tea Musicales and a Santa visit complete with an I Spy a Santa or Two scavenger hunt, a 30-minute concert and milk and cookies in the Rosen House.

What we liked

Some of the most memorable concerts we’ve ever seen have been at Caramoor. It’s sheer beauty, and the cool summer breezes blowing through the big tent, seems to bring out the best caramoor_lawn_picnic Bucket List: Caramoor Summer Festivalin the performers. Our Top List includes Bela Flek’s mind-blowing show with his Africa Project; Paquito D’Rivera’s jazz clarinet set followed by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue are at the very top. Also high on our list was the Wynton Marsalis Big Band, Hot Tuna and one very bizarre evening with Lucinda Williams. (Say no more.)

However, our Number One Favorite Caramoor “thing” is quaffing and noshing it up with our BFFs on Friends Field before the show. Put that on your Bucket List.

(Photos courtesy of Gabe Palacio)

(149 Girdle Ridge Road, Katonah; www.caramoor.org)

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