This Piano Concert in a Bluebonnet Field May be the Most Magical Texas Thing Ever — Watch the Exclusive Video
Welcome to Wildflower HallBY Catherine D. Anspon // 05.08.20
Round Top Festival Institute's James Dick tickles the ivories in the field.
"A Jewel in the Crown of Texas": The beauty and drama of Festival Concert Hall, hand-crafted by Texas artisans to acoustic perfection. 2020 heralds the coming of Festival Hill's 50th season.
Where the music happens: the iconic Festival Concert Hall at Round Top Festival Institute. The world-acclaimed music institute, located along Jaster Road off Highway 237 in Round Top, is also the biggest employer in the area. For its "The Golden Age of Music" campaign, the treasured Texas performing arts landmark seeks nearly $13 million to ensure the future of its next 50 years.
The vision behind Round Top Festival Institute: founder and artistic director, James Dick. The internationally acclaimed concert pianist's honors include a 2009 Texas Medal of Arts, a 2009 National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces touring artist award, and being named a 2009 Distinguished Alumnus from his alma mater, the University of Texas.
The maestro who founded Round Top Festival Institute, pianist James Dick, serves as its artistic director. Dick's path to renown began when he was a major prize winner in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. He then went on to found the institute in 1971.
At Round Top Festival institute, a Beethoven Celebration program features the composer's Choral Fantasy, performed during the Summer 2016 Music Festival.
Festival Hill in spring time; the 210-acre campus is active year-round, with 50-some performances held in its breathtaking Festival Concert Hall, bordered by beautiful gardens.
The acclaimed McAshan Herb Gardens at Festival Hill. The golden anniversary capital campaign seeks $175,000 to restore the gardens to their splendor after recent cycles of drought and post Harvey's flooding.
On the institute's Festival Hill campus, the charming late-Victorian Menke House serves as communal dining hall.
The Edythe Bates Old Chapel, dating from 1883, and moved to Festival Hill in 1994, is one of three historic buildings that are part of the life of the music institute. $450,000 is needed for facilities repair for this beautiful chapel used for concerts, as well as two other late Victorian-era structures, the Menke House of 1902, and the William Lockhart Clayton House, dating around 1885.
James Dick with (left to right) patrons Ima Hogg and Faith Bybee, Henkel Square, Round Top, 1973. Both women made a tremendous impact in the cultural life of the Round Top area, as well as the trajectory of the young pianist, James Dick, who founded the Round Top Music Institute and its Music Festival, first staged in June 1971.
What does a performing arts organization do when its years-in-the-making plans for a grand destination gala celebrating a half-century of work get derailed by the coronavirus pandemic?
Come up with a new date and — as a gift to supporters and music lovers — craft a glorious concert in a field.
Talk about a Plan B. Cue Round Top Festival Institute, in the hamlet of Round Top, Texas (population ninetysomething), incongruously home to one of the top music festivals in the world.
When it became clear this spring that Festival Hill’s 50th Anniversary Gala: A Golden Jubilee of Music, scheduled to take place under a big tent on the bucolic grounds of Round Top Festival Institute, needed to move from April to a more auspicious date — Saturday, October 24 — the institute’s founder got busy doing what he knows best: tickling the ivories on a concert grand piano.
In an inspired gesture, James Dick (whose piano prowess has graced stages from Carnegie Hall to the Tchaikovsky Competition, where he was a finalist) tapped the owners of a bluebonnet-filled pasture in Fayette County for his venue.
A full-sized concert grand piano was moved — no small feat — from the hall of Festival Hill to this idyllic, blossom-bedecked field. Then film producers Don and Kiki Teague of Round Top were brought in to record the magic.
In a nice synchronicity, the piece James Dick selected to play was from the institute’s first concert series some 50 years ago. (Watch the video of this piano concert in a bluebonnet field in the player above this story.)
While the Round Top Festival Institute will not take place this summer, it will return.
“With, indeed, special thoughts on all this, as it was our 50th summer,” Dick tells PaperCity. “However, we have decided to postpone the studies and performances of this year’s carefully planned repertoire until the beginning of June 2021 — the actual 50th year, our golden anniversary.
“We will resume our cultural and music events on Saturday, August 22, 2020, which begins our August-to-April series.”
Support a Texas Cultural Treasure
For more information on Festival Hill and to donate, go here. You can also check out Festival Hall’s special-edition 50th anniversary book.