WATERVILLE — A month of free performances by classical musicians from across the world is starting as the 11th annual Atlantic Music Festival at Colby College also eyes expanding its reach.

Trio Fibonacci will start things off with a performance Friday at 7 p.m. in the Lorimer Chapel at Colby.

More notable than any new elements this year, founder and artistic director Solbong Kim said, is that this is the last time concertgoers will experience the festival as it has been for the past decade: capped at about 200 musicians and faculty members and kept within the bounds of Colby’s campus.

“We are hoping to grow even more and also grow into downtown,” Kim said. “But we pledge not to change who we are, even in the growth.”

Kim estimated that there will be 100 additional artists involved in the festival in 2020. It already includes a handful of institutes ranging from vocal performance to composition to what is called the “Future Music Lab.”

These institutes are very competitive, according to the festival program coordinator Barbara Browne. For example, they’ve received 90 applications for two flutist slots this year, Browne said.

The Future Music Lab, led by award-winning violinist and composer Mari Kimura, is one of only three of its kind in the world, said Browne.

Pianist Magnus Villanueva performs with a quintet a new piece titled ‘Parallel Lines’ composed by Xiangyu Zhou at the Atlantic Music Festival at Lorimer Chapel on July 7, 2018. This year’s festival starts performances Friday and runs through July 28. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

“It’s a unique part of the festival,” Kim noted. “It asks the question of: looking into the next 500 or 1,000 years, how will music evolve? I posit this idea to the musicians playing 1,000-year-old instruments like the trumpet or timpani — or the harp, which is, you know, biblical, though it’s been modernized.”

The artists participating in this program wear a sensor as they play so that they can “interact with the music in a different way,” Browne explained. “It responds to their physiology.”

Kimura developed the sensor in 2008 at Ircam, a Parisian research institute and has tweaked it over the past decade. It has the ability to “extract human expression from the movement of performers,” according to the festival’s website.

“It’s a form of augmented reality as opposed to virtual reality, so it augments what’s already there as opposed to creating a completely new form,” Kim added. The Future Music Lab will perform July 23 at 9 p.m. in the Diamond Auditorium.

Kim said that the composer program, which has an enrollment of about 40, also touches on futuristic themes through the debuts of never-before-performed pieces.

“It gives audiences a chance to experience a groundbreaking performance,” he said. “The audience of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony didn’t know what they were witnessing until a few years after the first performance. People who attend (the Atlantic Music Festival) might realize they’re in that moment.”

New works premiere every week, according to Browne. The festival no longer prints paper programs for each show in order, which provides flexibility for the artists. While the dates, times and locations of each performance is set in stone and can be found on the festival’s website, the actual compositions that are performed during each of those shows can change up until the last minute. Kim said that he wants the programs to develop naturally from rehearsals based on what goes well for the artists.

This thinking aligns with his rationale for making the concerts free for all to attend.

“It was very important for me when I was starting the festival to create an environment for classical musicians to have a safe place to perform together and not be bound by the idea of making money off concert-goers,” he explained.

Members of the Atlantic Music Festival perform at Lorimer Chapel at Colby College in Waterville on July 8, 2017. This year’s festival starts performances Friday and runs through July 28. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

Audiences can hear a piece Kim himself composed at the age of 23 during the final performance of the month, the Atlantic Music Festival Orchestra show, which takes place July 27 at 7 p.m. in Lorimer Chapel. Browne said that this concert and the first performance of this orchestra, on July 13, typically draw the biggest crowds and are the month’s “seminal events.” The July 13 performance will include a performance of “The Firebird Suite,” from Disney’s “Fantasia.” So Jin Kim, a concertmaster with Germany’s Munich Radio Orchestra, will be among the violinists in the festival’s orchestra, led by renowned conductor Dean Whiteside, who is also a fellow with the New World Symphony.

Most of the students are in their 20s and 30s, Kim said, and are preparing to launch careers as classical musicians and composers — or as organizers of future musical events and institutes.

A full schedule of the July events can be found on the Atlantic Music Festival’s website.

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