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The Seal Bay Festival — History

The Seal Bay Festival of American Chamber Music’s (hereafter SBF) mission is to make American chamber music a living experience for concert audiences, conservatory-level music students, and school children, as well as visual artists and art historians, in a geographical and cultural setting (the year-round population of coastal Maine) otherwise little served by exposure to contemporary music. The goal is to bring together leading and emerging composers, passionate interpreters, visual artists, and local audiences with a unique program of engaged community activity and public performance, the result being the fostering of a vital, mutually stimulating relationship among all.

The SBF was founded in 1994 by composers Daniel S. Godfrey and Andrew Waggoner and pianist Arlene Shrut; as co-directors, the three were joined in 1997 by composer/cellist/conductor Paul Brantley. The first festival was held in summer 1995 in Maine. In 2004, the SBF underwent a leadership transition; original co-founder Godfrey remained, and was joined by the distinguished American composers Steven Stucky and the late John Duffy. In all but two festivals since the festival’s inception, the widely acclaimed Cassatt String Quartet has served as the core resident ensemble, complemented by a variety of established performers, both instrumental and vocal. Among these are the late Marc Johnson, cellist of the renowned Vermeer Quartet, pianist Adrienne Kim and clarinetist/composer Derek Bermel.

From 2004-2014, the festival presented unique programs of contemporary American music across Maine, and hosted guest composers on-site with the performers in an intensive creative retreat experience. In 2014, the Cassatt String Quartet and Godfrey invited composer Laura Kaminsky to join the festival’s leadership team as composer/artistic administrator. With Godfrey believing that it was time for the festival to have a fresh vision, this appointment represents a shift in leadership, yet he remains an active participant, providing musical expertise and using his ties with the Maine coastal community to keep the festival deeply engaged locally. Going forward, different distinguished composers are invited to participate each year, selected jointly by the quartet, Kaminsky and Godfrey.

Among the composers who have been in residence at the SBF are many who have been recognized with some of the field’s greatest honors: Pulitzer, Rome, Berlin, Grawemeyer, and Koussevitzky Prizes, Grammy and Academy Awards, and more. But these composers are selected because they are willing participants in a threefold dialogue of composer-performer-audience, and are eager to open themselves, their creative process, and their music, to new audiences through the programs of the SBF. Some of the composers who have been in residence at SBF are John Corigliano, Steve Stucky, Laura Kaminsky, Harold Meltzer, Joan Tower, Pierre Jalbert, Sam Adler, Sebastian Currier, Libby Larsen, Shulamit Ran, Elliott Schwartz, Dan Welcher, and Yehudi Wyner, and, in 2016, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Dan Visconti, Hannah Lash, and Chris Rogerson.

Also in 2016, visual artist Rebecca Allan, who has collaborated in multi-disciplinary projects with Kaminsky, and is a well-regarded museum educator with a thriving studio practice, will join the festival, offering painting and drawing workshops for the participants, as well as pre- and post-concert talks that include the composers and art historian Lauren Lessing of Colby College, offering an enlightening perspective on the art exhibited in the various galleries and museums where Festival concerts are presented. All Festival performances take place in art museums and galleries in multiple Maine locations (among the communities served are Vinalhaven Island, Portland, Belfast, Waterville, Ogunquit, Kennebunk, and Rockland).

The Festival’s Composer Institute was founded in 2015 under the guidance of composer Laura Kaminsky, and invites a select number of emerging composers to Maine. These Fellows participate in master classes and workshops of works they have composed for the Cassatt String Quartet; their original compositions are critiqued by the faculty composers, and the Quartet records the sessions, providing the fellows with a valuable tool for their own professional development and self-promotion. In 2016, these young composers will also enjoy the drawing and painting workshops offered by Allan and benefit from public performances of their works by the Cassatt Quartet.

The Cassatt Quartet and the resident composers have enjoyed guest appearances at the Atlantic Music Festival, based on the campus of Colby Collge in Waterville, Maine, presenting concerts, master classes, coaching sessions, and public lectures.

The Seal Bay Festival has received support from: National Endowment for the Arts, Davis Family Foundation of Maine, Delmas Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Glenmede Trust Company, New England Foundation for the Arts/Meet the Composer program, the Maine Humanities Council, BMI Foundation, Berta Bornstein Residual Trust, the Golden Rule Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, New York Community Foundation, and Virgil Thomson Foundation. The festival also enjoys the support of a variety of private contributors and businesses in the mid-coast region of Maine.


Past Seasons

(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet)
String Quartet "Helix Spiral," (2015) Maine Premiere Augusta Read Thomas
String Quartet "Dreams of Flying," (1994) Maine Premiere Victoria Bond
String Quartet “Portrait for Deedee”, (2017)
Elliot Schwartz
String Quartet "Intermedio", (1986)
Daniel Strong Godfrey
Violin Solo "Prakash ani Saoli", World Premiere
Vineet Shende
Viola Solo "No Sad Songs" (for Elliot) World Premiere
Peter McLaughlin
Composer Institute
String Quartet “Invocation”, World Premiere Cody Forrest
String Quartet "Birds Reincarnate", Maine Premiere
Alison You-Fei Jiang
String Quartet “Transmigration”, Maine Premiere
Alvin Loh-Hei Tam
String Quartet “Train of Thought”, World Premiere
Jordyn Gallinek

(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet)
String Quartet "Voyage," Maine Premiere Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
String Quartet #2, Maine Premiere Chris Rogerson
String Quartet “PULSE-SPACE”, World Premiere
Hannah Lash
String Quartet “Black Bend”, Maine Premiere
Dan Visconti
String Quartet "Rising Tide”, Maine Premiere
Laura Kaminsky
Composer Institute
String Quartet “Sleep”, World Premiere Cat Toren
String Quartet (2014) 1, 2, Maine Premiere Craig Slon
String Quartet “Logic Run Wild”,World Premiere
Niloufar Nourbakhsh
String Quartet “Reconciliation”, World Premiere
Gen Tanaka
String Quartet #4 “With Energy”, World Premiere
Lowell Hohstadt

(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet)

String Quartet #1 John Corigliano

String Quartet "Incandescent" Joan Tower

String Quartet "American Dreams"
Peter Schickele


Composer Institute

String Quartet "Whispering Through a Crystal Lens", World Premiere Sequoia Sellinger

String Quartet  " Twenty Two Pages", World Premiere Andrew Yoon

String Quartet #1World Premiere Tevi Eber

String Quartet #1 World premiere Barney Johnson
(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet)
String Quartet "Mary Cassatt: Scenes from Her Life",
Maine Premiere
Bruce Adolphe
String Quartet "Lullaby" George Gershwin
String Quartet "Romanza"
Daniel Strong Godfrey
String Quartet No.4 " The Infinite Sphere" 2012, Maine Premiere Lawrence Dillon
(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet, Marc Johnson, cello, and Adrienne Kim, piano)
Piano Quartet " Secret Alchemy " Pierre Jalbert
String Quintet "To Mourn, to Dance", Maine Premiere Daniel Strong Godfrey
Amplified quartet and interactive computer "Quadrifoglio",
Maine Premiere
For violin, cello and piano
Mari Kimura
Violin and Piano "Kreisleriana" Harold Meltzer
(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet and Adrienne Kim, piano)
String Quartet No. 3 Gabriela Lena Frank
New work for string quartet Laura Kaminsky
Lift High, Reckon; Fly Low, Come Close
For violin, cello and piano
Anna Weesner
New work for string quartet and piano Samuel Zyman
(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet and Adrienne Kim, piano)
Quiet Time, for string quartet (first public performances) Sebastian Currier
Quartet: She Wrote* Libby Larsen
Subito, for piano trio Sally Lamb
Three Miniatures, for solo piano Kay Kyurim Rhie
(*World Premiere)
(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet, Adrienne Kim, piano,
and Derek Bermel, clarinet)
Thracian Sketches for solo clarinet Derek Bermel
Ricordanza-Speranza for string quartet and piano Daniel S. Godfrey
Elijah’s Chariot for string quartet and electronic playback Judith Shatin
Shimmer for string quartet and piano Nicolas Scherzinger
Piano Quartet for string trio and piano Steven Stucky
Array for string quartet Donald Crockett
Soliloquy for violin, cello and piano Shulamit Ran
Inscriptions for solo violin
Shulamit Ran
Dream Music with Variations for violin, viola, cello and piano Elliott Schwartz
Sonata for violin and piano* Vineet Shende
(*World Premiere)
Cello Sonata for cello and piano Fred Cohen
The Delight of Angels for string quartet Tina Davidson
Departing Flights for violin, cello and piano
Don Freund
Nell’ombra, nella luce for string quartet Steven Stucky
Langue et parole for violin and piano (World Premiere) Andrew Waggoner
(*World Premiere)
Aeolus, God of the Winds, for clarinet, violin, cello and piano Samuel Adler
Impromptu for clarinet, cello and piano Daniel S. Godfrey
Trio for violin, cello and piano
David Liptak
Two improvisations for violin and cello Mandala Ensemble
Trio for violin, cello and piano three hands* Carolyn Yarnell
(*World Premiere)
Rilke Lieder for soprano and piano* Paul Brantley
Scenes from Blackwater (libretto by Joyce Carol Oates) for soprano, baritone and piano John Duffy
Legacy for string quartet
Andrew Waggoner
Sudden, Unbidden for string quartet* Anna Weesner
Dances of Atonement for violin and piano Yehudi Wyner
(*World Premiere)
(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet and Emma Tahmiziàn, piano)
Suite for Piano Gia Camolli
It is my Heart Singing for string quartet and piano* Tina Davidson
String Quartet No. 2
Daniel S. Godfrey
Night Fields for string quartet Joan Tower
(*World Premiere)

(Performed by the Cassatt String Quartet and Arlene Shrut, piano)

The Eternal Return for string quartet and piano* Paul Brantley
Lemniscates for string quartet Eleanor Hovda
Story Sonata for viola and piano
Andrew Waggoner
Harbor Music for string quartet Dan Welcher
(*World Premiere)
(Performed by Deborah Chodacki, clarinet, Anna Cholakian, cello, and Arlene Shrut, piano)
Arietta for cello and piano
Daniel S. Godfrey
Four Maine Haiku for piano solo
Elliott Schwartz
Souvenirs for clarinet and piano
Elliott Schwartz
Très lent for cello and piano
Joan Tower
Wings for clarinet solo
Joan Tower:
Calling In... for violin and piano*
Andrew Waggoner
The Big White Medicine Wheel for clarinet, cello and piano*
Andrew Waggoner
(*World Premiere)


The Seal Bay Festival—P.O. Box 824, Vinalhaven, Maine 04863