Wolf Trap's Filene season over, but The Barns have just begun

Top classical, jazz, acoustic artists take center stage in suburban Virginia. Photo: Wolf Trap

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2013 – Wolf Trap’s summer entertainment season has come to an end, as the Filene Center goes dark, more or less, for its traditional long winter’s nap. But that doesn’t mean that the music has stopped. On the other side of the Dulles Toll Road, Wolf Trap’s more intimate performance space, The Barns, will pick up the baton in October, offering its usual eclectic mix of classical and chamber soloists, folk and Celtic acoustic performers, popular solo performers and occasional comic and novelty acts.

Although we no longer quite remember all the details, back in the day, Wolf Trap’s founding mother, Catherine Shouse came up with the bright idea of creating a smaller performance space at Wolf Trap by first disassembling a pair of historic barns located in upper New York state; numbering the pieces; transporting them down to Wolf Trap’s parkland; and finally, reassembling them together in a way that created both a rustic entertainment venue and adjacent social space.

Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. (PR photo by Christian Steinberg)

The result: a surprisingly friendly and intimate performing arts venue whose exposed-beam wooden interior boasts amazingly good acoustics and surprising amenities including a full beverage and snack bar whose quality and variety has vastly improved over the years.

The environment in the performance space is informal, in keeping with Wolf Trap’s casual classical theme. You can even bring your favorite beverage into the space to enjoy during the performance, something that would cause the Kennedy Center staff to call in the gendarmes.

Drawbacks to The Barns? Minimal restroom facilities with resulting long lines during intermissions. (Take your time consuming those beverages.) And a flat rather than a raked floor in the main orchestra seating area, that sometimes puts short audience members at a disadvantage—although the tiny balcony area to the rear can help in this regard.

SEE RELATED: New York City Opera: Finally RIP?

Some performances as well can require a bit of ingenuity. There is an orchestra pit, but it’s tiny, limiting the kinds of performances that the resident Wolf Trap Opera company can stage. Ditto for the limited backstage space.

That said, the overall cozy intimacy of this venue, as we’ve noted, makes it almost as if you’re hosting some of the performing artists in your own living room. It’s up-close-and-personal at its best.

Located in the Vienna, Virginia zip code area, Wolf Trap’s Barns, like the Filene Center, is located on the Wolf Trap campus just a short jump from Tyson’s Corner and only a few miles from Reston, Herndon, and Great Falls, making it a tremendously convenient place to catch first-class performances without having to brave Beltway or I-66 nightmares if you happen to be close by.

It’s too bad Metro’s new Silver Line won’t have a Wolf Trap stop. That’s not in current plans. But there’s plenty of parking adjacent to The Barns and it’s free, which is certainly a welcome consolation prize.

SEE RELATED: Washington National Opera opens season with ‘Tristan and Isolde’

Since we primarily focus on classical music with occasional forays into jazz and Broadway in this column, here’s our list of your best options for the Fall stanza of the upcoming 2013-2014 Barns classical season:

Classical, Broadway, Jazz, Fusion, and Crossover

October 18: Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin, and Anne-Marie McDermott, piano. Kicking off this season’s popular classical “Discovery Series,” the renowned violinist and her equally-talented accompanist will present a first-class evening of recital selections.

Van Cliburn competition medalist Beatrice Rana. (PR photo by Julien Faugère)

November 1: Young Italian pianist and Van Cliburn Competition Silver Medalist Beatrice Rana makes her Barnes and DC-area debut in recital.

November 8: Edgar Meyer and Mike Marshall. This double-bass, mandolin and/or guitar duo will present an eclectic evening of crossover music.

November 9: Melissa Errico, “A Passion for Broadway.” This popular Broadway star will present a memorable evening with a focus on America’s favorite musical theater classics.

November 30: Pianist/vocalist/musical raconteur John Eaton will present his first of two programs this season, with this one focused on “The Roaring Twenties: A Salute to the Jazz Age.” As is generally the case with Mr. Eaton, he’ll be exploring classics from the American Songbook that were popular during the crazy decade preceding our first Great Depression.

December 5: Pianist John Medeski continues with the jazzy motif with a variety of piano jazz moods in a generally quieter idiom.

December 6: Bill Frisell’s Big Sur Quintet. Another jazz twist, this time heading into crossover territory and the blues. The program promises “Avant-garde guitar, orchestral jams, and jazz fusion.”

Folk and Celtic

Back in his far-distant community newspaper days, this writer made occasional forays into folk and traditional music, still very much a part of the Northern Virginia music scene. Some of our readers might find the following additional performances of interest, particularly if they also happen to be fans of acoustic music:

October 4: Battlefield Band. This lively quartet blends vintage and modern instruments into a lively mix of Scottish songs and ballads and rowdy musical pub fare.

October 5: The acoustic duo of Kris Delmhorst and Jeffrey Foucault will present an evening of folk music and Americana.

Magpie’s Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino. (PR photo by Tom Radcliffe)

October 10: Folk and bluegrass instrumentalists Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott continue October’s folk-centric motif with a blend of bluegrass and country music as these two areas continue to fuse.

October 16: Celtic Fiddle Festival. The Barns tends to be a happy home for Celtic and Celtic-style musicians each season, and this one is no exception. This festival launches this season’s Celtic sounds with fiddlers and musicians including Kevin Burke, Christian Lemaître, André Brunet and Nicolas Quemener.

October 26: Magpie. This popular and excellent vintage folk duo is celebrating their 40th year on the road delivering their own passionate and moving takes on what were known in the 1960s and 1970s as counterculture classics. If you’re part of America’s 99%, you’ll find Magpie’s working-class-centric repertoire astoundingly appropriate once again in 2013.

Tickets, Info, and Getting There

Northern Virginians already familiar with The Barns already know where it is. If you need directions, type “http://www.wolftrap.org/Plan_Your_Visit/Directions_and_Map.aspx” into your web browser.

For Wolf Trap information, call 703-255-1868.

For tickets—which tend to be a bargain compared to DC prices—either call 1-877-WOLFTRAP or visit “wolftrap.org/ticketinfo”. To avoid today’s usual service charge, you can also drop by The Barns Box Office to buy your tickets between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. M-F; noon to 5 p.m. Sat-Sun-holidays; or until 9 p.m. on performance nights.

Those interested in a package of classical Discovery Series concerts can “pick four” and save $15 or purchase the entire eight-concert series and save a total of $40.

Some “standby” discounts for seniors, students and military are available at The Barns’ box office half an hour prior to the curtain time of each performance. No guarantees, but a good bet if you live nearby and need to stick to a budget. Visit “wolftrap.org/save” for details.


Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business

Follow Terry on Twitter @terryp17


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Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, movies and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was formerly the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2009) before moving online with Communities in 2010.  



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