Fifth annual Stillwater Music Festival begins later this month

Brooklyn Rider
Stillwater Gazette

The Stillwater Music Festival will celebrate its fifth anniversary with an expanded season and new venues for its trademark mix of eclectic performers.

Organized by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, this year's festival will include four performances from Aug. 24-31.

"The Stillwater community has been a valuable musical home for us the past five years," said Brooklyn Rider violist Nicholas Cords. "The audience support has allowed us to create more than we ever thought was possible. For this special fifth anniversary season, we are really excited to introduce 2 Foot Yard, Kojiro Umezaki, Maile Okamura, and The Knights to St. Croix Valley audiences!"

Despite having Stillwater in the festival's title, the performance schedule kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24, at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. Brooklyn Rider, 2 Foot Yard, and Kojiro Umezaki will take the stage. Tickets for this show are only available through the Southern Theater website,, or by calling 612-340-1725.

Up next is a concert at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 27 at the Washington County Historic Courthouse, 101 W. Pine St., in Stillwater. This show will feature Brooklyn Rider and Kojiro Umezaki, shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) and electronics. General admission tickets cost $25; $10 for students.

A free, one-hour family concert is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 30 at the Stillwater Public Library, 223 N. Fourth St., in Stillwater. The Knights, with special guest choreographer Maile Okamura (appearing courtesy of the Mark Morris Dance Company), will be the featured performers.

The Stillwater Music Festival finale will be held at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 31, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 115 N. Fourth St., in Stillwater. The concert will feature The Knights with guest violin soloist Steven Copes, concertmaster of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and conductor Eric Jacobsen. The program is titled "Music of the Americas," with works by Aaron Copland, Osvaldo Golijov, John Adams, Astor Piazzolla, and Gabriela Lena Frank.

The Stillwater Music Festival was founded five years ago by Brooklyn Rider, whose members include violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords, and cellist Eric Jacobsen - all veterans of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project.

Brothers Eric and Colin Jacobsen are deeply rooted in Minnesota. Their father, Edmund Jacobsen, is a former violinist with the Minneapolis Symphony (as the Minnesota Orchestra was formerly known) and a native of the Twin Cities. Now based in New York, the Jacobsen family returns every summer to visit the family cottage on Square Lake in Washington County. Violist Nicholas Cords grew up in White Bear Lake, and studied at the MacPhail Center for Music as well as with the late Alice Preves of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Over the past five years, Brooklyn Rider has used the festival to showcase new collaborations and premiere repertoire, often programming these with signature interpretations of the core string quartet canon. Past collaborators include singer-songwriter Christina Courtin, Syrian-Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad, Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, and the renowned Irish fiddler Martin Hayes. They have premiered original works and arrangements by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, Ljova, and the quartet's very own Colin Jacobsen, to name a few.

This past season, Brooklyn Rider wowed critics and audiences in clubs and concert halls across the country.

"The dazzling fingers-in-every-pie versatility that Brooklyn Rider exhibits is one of the wonders of contemporary music," wrote Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times.

Said the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns of a recent performance: "My reaction on Saturday wasn't 'Isn't this interesting?' but "Isn't this fun?"

The Knights, is a dynamic chamber ensemble based in New York City that incorporates the members of Brooklyn Rider. The Stillwater Music Festival marks the Knights' Minnesota debut, just days before they will appear at the Ravinia Festival.