Meadow Brook Music Festival celebrates 50 years

The Meadow Brook Music Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary with a performance by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and special guest Joshua Bell on Thursday, July 24.

The first thing that guests received when they arrived were booklets that shared the same cover as the first ever Meadow Brook Music Festival concert’s booklet. Listed within were the classical pieces the DSO performed that evening, including Igor Starvinsky’s Suite from “The Firebird,” and Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26.

The tradition of the DSO playing at Meadow Brook started July 23, 1964, after D.B. “Woody” Wilson developed the idea of a cultural center for the surrounding community.

“Woody Varner had the idea of building something that would house a cultural gem like the DSO, and this became [their] home,” James Lentini, Oakland University’s senior vice president and provost, said.

Having the DSO return for the 50th anniversary was truly a historic moment. The seats in the pavilion and on the lawn were filled with attendees, some of which had been at the Festival’s opening performance.

Adam Schneider, senior vice president of Events and Booking, had many wonderful things to say about the anniversary. During his opening speech, he explained how important it was for the DSO to play at Meadow Brook.

“We started to think about what kinds of things we could do to put culture back into the center of Oakland University,” he said. “Bringing the DSO back was at the top of our list.”

Bell, the guest violinist, is considered one of the most distinguished violinists of this era, according to his website. He was four years old when he received his first violin as a gift from his parents. By 18, he had recorded his first LP, and since then has recorded 40 albums.

Lentini praised Bell during the opening ceremony, saying he is a “wonderful, fantastic, world-class violinist.” Guests to the performance seemed to agree, giving him and the DSO a standing ovation for five minutes.

Another special moment was given by the DSO’s president and CEO, Anne Parsons. Before the show began, she followed the old tradition of honoring retiring musicians at Meadow Brook.

“It’s so exciting that we are able to do this with two very special people,” she said as she announced Catherine Compton on viola, and Donald Baker on the oboe. Both performed with the DSO for 41 years.

This was the DSO’s last performance of the summer. As Parsons described it: “You’re in for a real treat.”