Danny Driver and his family live in London, England. An accomplished classical pianist with an enormous reputation throughout Europe, he could (and does) perform anywhere in the world. But he loves to play in New Orleans, a city that he and his American wife, Rebecca Miller, lived in for almost two years when she held the role of Assistant Conductor in the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, this country’s only musician-owned and collaborative managed symphony orchestra.
After two years away, Danny’s back to perform in a new kind of collaborative music effort. He is one of three guest artists invited to participate in the new Birdfoot Chamber Music Festival, a first-ever three-day summer chamber music event for New Orleans named for the branching footprint of the Mississippi River delta.
Beginning on Wednesday and continuing through Saturday, locals and visitors will have an opportunity to participate in either a free open rehearsal at the Jewish Community Center; or an evening performance at the Old U.S Mint in the French Quarter; or a twilight cocktail party in Piazza d’Italia with libations from Loew’s Hotel; or a gala celebration at Tulane University’s Dixon Hall.
Or, of course, we could all participate in all four of them.
“A young musician, Jenna Sherry, a New Orleanian who has been working in England, had the idea of starting a chamber music festival based on the kind of collaborative model like the ones in Cornwall (England) and the Marlboro Music Festival (Vermont),” Danny explains. “When a musician hears something like that and is invited, one always says yes.”
The fact that Jenna wanted to do it in her hometown made the idea even more appealing. And, says Danny, preparing for it in a three-day intensive collaborative rehearsal period in a wonderful setting – Madewood Plantation – well, that made it irresistible.
One of three artist faculty members, Danny stresses that his presence is not to teach the dozen or so other musicians in any traditional way but “to exchange ideas in a deeper, more holistic way. In most music festivals the best you can expect is to arrive, have a couple of rehearsals and then perform,” he explains. “So the depth to which you can go musically is limited. Here we can really focus.”
And focus he will on his and his colleague’s performances of Gabriel Faure’s Piano Quartet, Johannes Brahms Piano Quintet (both on Thursday), a Beethoven Piano Trio and Schumann Piano Quartet (on Saturday).
Then it’s back to perform a recital in the U.K. in June before returning to play out the summer in Minneapolis followed by an appearance at the Bard Festival in Upstate New York.
For more information on performance locations and times of New Orleans’ inaugural Birdfoot Festival, go to www.birdfootcmf.org.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie.