July 26, 2014 Edition

Major Orchestration

Coordinating the Lancaster Festival is no small affair
By Scott Rawdon

LANCASTER– For those wondering if it’s easy to coordinate all the different venues that create the annual Lancaster Fair, said Orchestral Administrator Ann Chess; it’s not. “It’s the volunteers who keep us going,” she said. “It’s their dedication that makes it work.”

More than 600 volunteers donate their time each year for preparations at nearly 30 venues around town during the 10-day festival. From selling tickets to setting up the 2.5-ton stage canopy at Ohio University-Lancaster, the volunteers are an integral part.

While a few members of the Lancaster Festival Orchestra actually reside in Lancaster, the remaining musicians come f rom around the country and as far away as Taiwan. Many performers stay with host families while in Lancaster. Established in 1985, the festival has hosted hundreds of musical acts over the years, including everything from regional bands to legendary global acts.

In 1989, The first official ArtWalk was organized and an orchestra fellowship was established to provide a unique performance opportunity for outstanding young musicians.

Tuesday afternoon, the festival offered a concer t from Dennis Stroughmatt et l'Esprit Creole, a vibrant blend of Celtic, Canadian, and Old Time sounds at the city bandstand. This year’s headliners included crossover singer Amy Grant and balladeer Christopher Cross.

Chess said the festival works because the same volunteers have been coordinating the same venues year after year and, simply put, they know what they’re doing. “The various committees are set and the office gives them the schedule,” she said.

“It is sort of a logistical nightmare,” Chess said, but the festival can’t afford to hire all the people necessary to present the festival each year, and the volunteers are crucial in holding everything together. “Somehow, it all works,” she said.

“People here have a love for this festival,” said Executive Director Lou Ross. He said the local venues have been happy to step up to the plate and sponsor various events. “It makes it go smoother than you might expect,” he said. “There are people who take vacations from work to work for the festival. They take vacation so they can work.”

Ross said there are “still a ton of logistics, but folks are working together.” He said such a festival would be a “tremendous undertaking” for large cities like Columbus and Cleveland, let alone a small city like Lancaster. But, having the venues spread across the city makes the art very accessible to everyone who lives in Lancaster, which was the premise for the festival when it began nearly 30 years ago.

“They wanted to take the art to the people,” Ross said.

Photos ByScott Rawdon Photos ByScott Rawdon
2014-07-26 / Front Page

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