The piano player pulled up the sheet music on his computer. The cello player settled onto the piano bench. And to an audience of dozens of locals, the Oxford Enlightenment Festival kicked off.
The festival is the brainchild of professor Bruce Murray, chair of the Miami University Music Department. It’s the third summer music series. The month-long festival has 10 concerts in two locations and will feature a number of guest musicians and classical pieces.
The roots of the festival were in Murray’s home in Oxford.
“I have a phenomenal Steinway concert piano in my house,” Murray said.
He would use that to play Mozart and other piano pieces for professors and other friends. In 2015, a few people suggested he should share these concerts with the rest of the city.
Murray was reluctant to hold the concert at the university. “A lot of people won’t come to the campus for a concert,” he said. There was not enough parking in the area and not many options for a soloist to stand out. But when the Oxford Community Arts Center offered up their ballroom, the first series was underway.
The free classical concerts found an audience almost immediately.
“I was stunningly surprised,” Murray said.
By the end of the series, more than 200 people were packed into the audience.
This is the third year of Murray’s performances but the first time under the name Oxford Enlightenment Festival.
This year, Murray said, the series will have a much more diverse range of pieces and performances. One of the last concerts of the year will be jazz standards from two Cincinnati performers, the first non-classical performance in the series. There will also be an international performance from renowned French pianist Michele Renoul.
The venues for the shows have also expanded. The Enlightenment Festival alternates between concerts at the Oxford Community Arts Center and a new location, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
Murray also takes pride in promoting some of the lesser-known pieces in the repertoire. The audience on Monday applauded after the first movement of the Cassado sonata. Next Monday’s concert is called “Invisible” and features piano solos from two classical female composers that haven’t received much attention from the general public. Some of these concerts will be recorded or streamed live so that more people can experience the more obscure music.
“We’re really lucky to have it,” said Oxford resident Sandy Buchanan. “They’re always choosing wonderful pieces.”
The festival runs until July 30. Concerts will be held at 6 p.m. Mondays at the Oxford Community Arts Center and at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
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