Swimming in Shows: Blue Lake hosts more than 100 free performances all summer

Home to nearly 5,500 campers and 700 faculty members studying music, art, theater and dance every summer, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp also hosts an annual Summer Arts Festival that offers evening entertainment in July and August. Cost is no barrier, as nearly every event is free.

If you’re looking for a unique summer date night, such as an open-air show featuring symphonic sounds and big-band style music or an intimate evening of music in a replica Elizabethan theater, look no further.

Professional musicians and college faculty members perform and conduct as part of the Festival Orchestra and Festival Band, along with special guests and solo performances by internationally acclaimed musicians. The schedule includes opera, dance, orchestra, band, student musical performances and art exhibits.

Nestled on 1,600 secluded acres in the Manistee National Forest, it’s a unique experience to visit the camp for a live concert. The campus has several performance venues, including Stewart Shell, Miller Theater, Blodgett Recital Hall and The Rose, resembling Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and one of the few structures of its kind in the country.

“These performances are top-notch,” said Dave Myers, vice president for broadcasting and development at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. “Our faculty comes from all over the United States and we have international faculty as well. They perform as ensembles and soloists; it’s a hidden gem.”

Jazz fans should mark their calendars for July 12, when James Carter, a jazz saxophonist and former Blue Lake camper, returns for a concert in Stewart Shell. Carter came to Blue Lake on a scholarship in the mid-1980s and participated in the international exchange program. He has performed with Dee Dee Bridgewater, the Mingus Big Band and Christian McBride, among others.

“He’s incredible,” Myers said. “He travels all over the world — he’s internationally acclaimed. He came from Detroit on a scholarship from the Kellogg Foundation and he has just grown to be an extraordinary jazz performer.”

Other highlights:

On July 1, 3 and 15, a performance from violinist Walter Verdehr, distinguished professor of violin at Michigan State University, with guest artists and the Rose Chamber Orchestra.

A native of Yugoslavia, Verdehr studied with Ivan Galamian at the Juilliard School and was a Fulbright Scholar. He has many solo recordings and toured internationally as a soloist and with ensembles and orchestras, including his own Verdehr Trio.

On July 30, Verdehr conducts the Blue Lake Festival Orchestra in a show featuring Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in D Major, Op. 6, No. 1, David Diamond’s Rounds for String Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” with Ralph Votapek on piano at Stewart Shell.

Votapek is professor emeritus of piano at Michigan State University College of Music and also internationally recognized as a fine pianist, Myers said.

On June 29, July 13 and 27 and Aug. 10, The Blue Lake Opera Department presents James Niblock’s Ruth and Naomi in Miller Theater. Admission is free, but seating is limited and must be reserved in advance. The late Dr. Niblock composed the opera with his wife, Helen.

Grand Rapids Symphony also visits the camp July 14 for a special show benefiting Blue Lake Public Radio. The 8 p.m. performance, conducted by Marcelo Lehninger in Blodgett Recital Hall, requires advance tickets by calling 800-889-9258.

In August, Blue Lake annually hosts the Leonard Falcone International Tuba and Euphonium Festival and Competition, which combines master classes led by internationally known euphonium/tuba artists with student and artist level competitions. Special performances are planned Aug. 10-13 as part of the festival, allowing the public to enjoy recitals featuring some of the best euphonium and tuba artists around. For more information, visit falconefestival.org.

Closing out the series, Blue Lake Festival Orchestra returns to the Stewart Shell stage Aug. 18 for a show featuring Salvador Brotons’ Prelude, Interlude, and Finale from Reverend Everyman; Franz Liszt’s Les preludes; and Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2. Conductor Dr. Salvador Brotons also serves as music director and conductor of the Barcelona (Spain) Symphonic Band and the Vancouver (Washington) Symphony Orchestra.

The Aug. 18 show is one of several performances broadcast live on Blue Lake Public Radio WBLV 90.3 in Muskegon and WBLU 88.9 in Grand Rapids as well as online at bluelake.org.

Summer Arts Festival
Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp
300 E. Crystal Lake Road, Twin Lake
June 29-Aug. 18,
various evening concerts, free
bluelake.org, (231) 894-1966