Guitar Duo Newman & Oltman,

founders of the Raritan River Music Festival

Dear Eric,

The 34th annual Raritan River Music Festival has kicked off, with events happening every Saturday this month. Today, join us in the State of the Arts archives for a trip back to the 25th anniversary of this unique celebration of classical music!

The festival was founded by guitar duo Michael Newman and Laura Oltman in 1989—they’re performing tonight with the Bergamot Quartet at Stanton Reformed Church, and on May 27 with Mooke, Hoffman, and Bonfiglio at the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church.

Back in 2014, we enjoyed performances by Chatham Baroque and ETHEL. It was a special year, marking not only the 25th anniversary of the Raritan River Music Festival, but also the 300th anniversary of Hunterdon County, and the 350th anniversary of New Jersey.

First, we met musician Scott Pauley of Chatham Baroque. He sat with us to illustrate how he harmonizes a bass line on his archlute, a strikingly large bass lute with a long neck used in the 17th and 18th centuries. Chatham Baroque then treated their audience to an ethereal performance of Arcangelo Corelli’s Sonata in A minor Op. 4 No. 5 (Rome 1694).

The final concert of the 25th year was performed by ETHEL, a “plugged-in” contemporary string quartet, as a nod to the future during a festival dedicated to history. “Usually when somebody begins thinking about a string quartet, they’ve got a model that probably was refined and codified about 220 years ago… It’s a magnificent body of instruments and work, but it’s still adaptable!” cellist Dorothy Lawson tells us. The Raritan River Music Festival certainly embraced the contemporary—in fact, to finish off the festivities, ETHEL performed a 1999 piece by Dušan Bogdanović… with a guest appearance by festival founders Newman & Oltman! 

See here for this year’s 34th annual Raritan River Music Festival performance schedule and details. 

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