The Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival returns with live and virtual concerts

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News
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The Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival returns this month, offering two sets of concerts, one live and one virtual, for its summer series.

Beginning Sunday through June 20, the festival will host five outdoor concerts at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills. Concerts then go virtual July 10-24 with eight broadcasts. 

“We are thrilled to present live music again and re-establish an intimate connection between musicians and audiences,” said Paul Watkins, artistic director and cellist for GLCMF.

The Ivalas Quartet

This year’s theme is “visions and revisions,” which explores traditional and contemporary pieces with established and rising artists, including violinist Philip Setzer, pianists Alessio Bax and Soyeon Kate Lee, world-renowned soprano Christine Goerke, tenor Nicholas Phan, violinist Tessa Lark, Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, who plays the viola and violin, the Ivalas Quartet and the Viano String Quartet, in addition to Watkins.

Maury Okun, the festival’s president, said the concerts are a rare opportunity to experience joint performances from world-class musicians.

“When we have everybody here, you can mix and match and do all kinds of crazy things that would be ridiculously expensive if they weren’t all here at the same time,” he said. “You can hear a mixture of things you wouldn’t normally hear.”

The festival, celebrating its 28th season this year, is different than years past to accommodate for COVID-19 safety. Prior to 2020, it included 20-25 events over a two-week period, hosted across several venues in southeast Michigan, Okun said. Concerts generally lasted for a couple of hours and included an intermission. Last year’s festival was canceled due to COVID, replaced by a smaller virtual concert last August. 

This year, however, all live concerts will be held at Temple Beth El, which  has a permanent tent to accommodate outdoor concerts. 

“It’s hard to do chamber music outdoors,” Okun said, “but if you have a thing like that, it works out really well.”

Performances will also be shorter than before, with one-hour concerts performed twice each evening and no intermissions. Seating will be limited and spaced to accommodate social distancing. 

The virtual concerts, viewable on YouTube, feature the same performances at the live events plus additional content including interviews, behind-the-scenes videos and three specially-recorded performances by festival artists, presented in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Okun said tickets for the outdoor event are selling fast, and people should take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a live performance again.

“It will be a nice way to come back in and feel safe and excited at the same time,” he said. 

Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival live event

June 13-20 

Temple Bethel El

7400 Telegraph, Bloomfield Hills

Virtual concerts

July 10-24

Find concert details and buy tickets, which must be purchased in advance, at or by calling (248) 559-2097. 

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