The Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival Returns With A Blockbuster Line-Up For Its 40th Anniversary

In the dramatic and beautiful landscapes of Western North Carolina, this summer the sound of timeless classical music will be drifting on the wind. The Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival takes place from July 5 through Aug. 8, returning after a year on hiatus. Emory University professor and pianist Will Ransom is the artistic director of the festival, which now enters its 40th season after originating in 1982 under the guidance of classical bassist Lucas Drew. Ransom joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to share some highlights coming up at this year’s festival.

“Since it’s our 40th anniversary, we really did pull out all the stops,” said Ransom.  The 2021 festival season boasts a “blockbuster” line-up, with more new musicians than ever on the bill. “Some of the new people who have not performed for us before include Bridget Kibbey, who has been called ‘the Yo-Yo Ma of the harp,’” said Ransom.

Family-oriented concerts will entertain music-lovers of all ages, and one of them will feature a familiar voice for “City Lights” fans. “This year we’re going to be presenting ‘Ferdinand the Bull,’ the wonderful story of Ferdinand with a solo violin and narrator, as well as the all-time favorite, ‘Peter and the Wolf,’” said Ransom. “And our narrator is none other than the voice of classical music in Atlanta, Lois Reitzes.”

The festival’s grand finale gala will close the events, and this year’s special touch is an “Eight Seasons” program of music, with the Festival Chamber Orchestra performing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” to be interspersed with Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” performed by the Eroica Trio. “They are a long-time festival favorite and are called the most sought-after piano trio in the world. And if you’ve ever heard them, you know why,” said Ransom.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of the events last year, but the festival returns this year with a few protocols in place to keep guests safe. Following CDC guidelines, the festival recommends vaccination for attendees, and masks indoors for those without a vaccine. “There’s plenty of space, and we are planning to have a full-on live concert season. We did ask all of our musicians to be vaccinated because we did feel that was important for our guests to feel completely comfortable and safe coming to concerts.”